*JOHN 15:1-11 *
The context is the farewell discourse given by the Lord as he is about to be arrested, tried, and crucified: “/Jesus knew that his hour was come/…” [31:1].
His announced departure brought sorrow to the disciples: “/let not your heart be troubled/…” [14:1].
Jesus addresses them for their /consolation/ and for the purpose of /instructing/ them as to how they should live in his absence.
The discourse harks back directly to the introduction to the Last Supper in 13:1-30; the imagery of the vine and its branches not unnaturally recalls the words of the Institution regarding the “fruit of the vine” [Mar.14:25] which Jesus gave his disciples but which he would not drink again; the thought of sharing in the body and blood of Christ inevitably entails the concept of unity with the Christ in his dying and rising [see Paul in 1Cor.10:16-17], a theme which lies at the heart of the vine parable.
This first section, like the corresponding section in the first group, contains the thought which is pursued in detail in the following sections, the thought of corporate, living, fruitful union between believers and Christ, which is developed afterwards in its manifold issues of joy and sorrow.
The succession of ideas appears to be this.
The life in union is begun but not perfected (/vv./ 1, 2); and the vital relation must be “freely” maintained (/vv./ 3, 4) in view of the consequences which follow from its preservation and loss (/vv./ 5, 6).
Such being the circumstances of union, the blessings of union (/vv./ 7, 8) and the absolute type of union (/vv./ 9, 10) are set forth more fully.
*THE CONTEXT *
*1. **Jesus Departure *
The physical presence of Jesus is to be lost to the disciples: “/yet a little while I am with you/…” [13:33].
§ The distress: “/Let not your heart be troubled/…” [14:1].
§ The confusion: “/Lord, we know not where you are going/…” [14:5].
*2. **Consolation *
The farewell discourse is for their consolation:
§ The short-term consolation: “/I will not leave you comfortless/…” [14:18].
§ The long term consolation: “/I will come again and receive you to myself/…” [14:3].
*3. **Instruction *
The farewell discourse is for their instruction:
§ The example: “/for I have given you an example that you should do/…” [13:15].
§ The life of discipleship: “/if you love me, keep my commandments/” [14:15].
*THE LIVING CHURCH *
*1. **The Proclamation *
The parable announced: “/I am the true vine/…” [15:1].
§ Ἐγώ εἰμι - “/I am/” [15:1],
§ ἡ ἄμπελος - “/vine/” [15:1], ‘grapevine’;
*a. **The OT Church *
In the Old Testament the “vine” is a common symbol for Israel, the covenant people of God: “/the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel/…” [Isa.5:7].
§ The salvation of God: “/thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt…the hills were covered with the shadow of it/…” [Psa.80:8-11].
§ The preparation of God: “/My beloved has a vineyard in a very fruitful hill…what could have been done more to my vineyard/…” [Isa.5:1-7.
§ The planting of God: “/Yet I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed/…” [Jer.2:21];
“/i//t was planted in a good soil by great waters, that it might bring forth branches, and that it might bear fruit, that it might be a goodly vine/” [Eze.17:8].
*i. **The Failure *
Israel failed to bring forth fruit unto God: “/Israel// is an empty vine, he brings forth fruit unto himself/…” [Hos.10:1].
§ Failure to produce good fruit: “/And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it/…” [Isa.5:2].
§ Israel became a degenerate vine: “/how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me/” [Jer.2:21].
**The Judgment *
As a result of Israel’s failure, the vine becomes a symbol of judgement:
§ The judgement of God: “/Therefore thus says the Lord GOD; As the vine tree among the trees of the forest, which I have given to the fire for fuel, so will I give the inhabitants of Jerusalem/” [Eze.15:6].
§ The enemies: “/He hath laid my vine waste, and barked my fig tree: he hath made it clean bare, and cast it away; the branches thereof are made white/…” [Joel 1:7].
§ Judgement causes the vine to be fruitless: “/And I will destroy her vines and her fig trees, whereof she hath said, These are my rewards that my lovers have given me/…” [Hos.2:12];
“/Israel// is an empty vine/…” [Hos.10:1].
*b. **The True Vine *
Jesus does not say that he is ‘like’ a vine; He says: “/I am the true vine/…” [15:1].
§ ἡ ἀληθινὴ - “/true/” [15:1], ‘genuine’; ‘sincere, upright’; ‘true, correct’;
§ Jesus is the fulfilment of all the symbolism of the Old Testament: “/that was the true light/…” [1:9]; “/my Father gives you the true bread from heaven/…” [6:32].
§ Jesus here supersedes Israel as the very locus of the people of God.
*i. **The Prophecy *
The Lord is viewed in his representative capacity, the Son of God – Son of man, who dies and rises that in union with him a renewed people of God might come into being and bring forth fruit to God.
There may be a precedent for this in Psalm 80:14-18:
§ The prayer for the vine: “/Return, we beseech thee, O God of hosts: look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this vine/” [Psa.80:14].
§ The prayer for the man: “/the man at your right hand, the son of man whom you have raised up for yourself/” [Psa.80:14-18].
*2. **The Living Union *
The passage is the Johannine counterpart of the Pauline view of the church as the body of Christ and of believers as “in Christ”.
§ The living, spreading, fruit-bearing vine is the emblem of my church: “/thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt…the hills were covered with the shadow of it/…” [Psa.80:8-11].
§ Jesus death did not dissolve the union; death was the means by which the union had life.
§ Death means the end of the natural union: “/if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband/” [Rom.7:2].
§ Jesus will be physical absent but yet powerfully present with his disciples: “/The Spirit of truth…he dwells with you and shall be in you/” [14:17].
§ So understood, it is remarkably similar to the figure of Christ as the Body that includes the Church [1Cor.12:12-27].
In the old dispensation union with Israel was the condition of life; in the new, union with Christ.
*THE DIVINE GARDENER *
*1. **The Husbandman *
*a. **The Proclamation *
The proclamation: “/my Father is the husbandman/” [15:1].
§ ὁ πατήρ μου - “/my Father/” [15:1],
§ ὁ γεωργός - “/husbandman/” [15:1], ‘one who tills the soil’; ‘share-cropper’; ‘vine-dresser’; ‘one who cultivates vines’;
§ The function of the husbandman: “/Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord.
Behold, the husbandman waits for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain/” [Jam.5:7].
*b. **The Relation to the Son *
It is hard not to see in the relation between the “/vine/” [15:1] and this “/gardener/” [15:1] a reflection of the kind of subordination the Son displays towards the Father.
§ The Old Testament provision of God: “/thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt/…” [Psa.80:8].
*i. **The Planting of the Vine *
The Son is the Father’s provision: “/the Father who has sent me/…” [14:24].
§ The incarnation: “/the Word became flesh and dwelt among us/…” [1:14].
§ The justice of God and substitutionary sacrifice: “/God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son/…” [3:16].
§ The resurrection: “/the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead/…” [Rom.8:11].
The “/husbandman/” [15:1] has put the “/vine/” [15:1] in place; he has shaped it and formed it;
**The Relation to the Disciples *
The life of the disciples is in their union with Christ in the “true vine” [15:1].
Their life “in Christ”, although real and abiding, is not yet perfect; there is the need to progress and develop.
**The Judgement *
*i. **The Fruit *
The fruit of the vine: “/bears fruit/…” [15:2].
§ καρπὸν - “/fruit/” [15:2], ‘produce from crop-bearing plants or trees’;
§ The nature of the fruit is according to the essential nature of the tree: “/by their fruits you shall know them/” [Mat.7:20];
“/do men gather grapes of thorns…every good tree brings forth good fruit/” [Mat.7:16-17].
§ The fruit-bearing in the context is that of Christian character: “/he that has my commandment and keeps them, he it is that loves me/…” [14:21]; “/keep my commandments/…” [15:10]; “/love one another/…” [15:12].
**No Fruit *
The fruitless branches: “/every branch in me that bears not/…” [15:2].
§ πᾶν - “/every/” [15:2], ‘each individual in a class’;
§ κλῆμα - “/branch/” [15:2], ‘shoot,’ ‘young twig,’ which is broken off to be replanted’;
§ μὴ φέρον - “/bears/ /not/” [15:2], present active participle, ‘to carry, bring forth, lead’;
**The Identity *