The True Vine, The Vinedresser and the Branches
True Vine vs False Vine (v1)
Have you wondered why Jesus talks of himself as the “True Vine”? The answer is in the statement he is not a false vine. In the times of Jesus, there had been several people that claimed to be the messiah. People were skeptical of teachers and prophets. The lack of freedom and the occupation of a foreign army created a hunger for freedom. There have been other men claiming to be sent by God, but they had failed to deliver on their promises. Jesus had twelve men that followed him and while they had seen him do many great signs, they still had some doubt on the identity of Jesus. Thomas’ question to Jesus in John 14:5, “Lord we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?” reveals the confusion in the hearts of the disciples. In verse 8 of the same chapter Phillip asks, “Lord Show us the Father, and that is enough for us.” Jesus had been speaking about the need for him to die, paid the price that would allow his followers to enter in the presence of God for eternity, but they did not get it. Can we blame them? All they had learned from the religious leaders were to follow a spiritual code that was a mile long and from the Romans that peace cost them their freedom. Who could they trust to change their situation? Jesus said, “trust me, I am the way and the truth and the life.” Then he said it another way, “I am the true vine.” There are many false vines, the vine of religious discipline, the vine of military power, the vine of wealth, just to name a few. There are many ways systems that promise to produce fruit, but only one that produces the true fruit of reconciliation with God, and that vine is Jesus.
The Vine and the Vinedresser (vv1-2)
In this imagery of Jesus’ purpose and nature of ministry, Jesus introduces the Father as the Vinedresser. I believe that this to drive home his earlier response to Phillip when he said in chapter 14 verses 9 and 10, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. The words that I say to you I do not speak of my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his work.” What Jesus is making clear is that there is an intimate, inseparable relationship between Jesus, the Father and the work being done through Jesus’ ministry. The hand of God the Father is actively involved in the everyday operation of the Son. The Father is continually removing useless branches and pruning fruit-bearing branches to carry even more. Jesus was not doing his own thing while on earth, but he declared to be under the authority of the Father and doing his will. As the Vine, Jesus is the vehicle through which God is doing his purpose and guiding it with his hand.
Cleaned by the Word (v3)
In verse 3 Jesus takes a brief break from the Vine and fruit to set up a basic truth of the believer that will make it easy to understand our role in the picture of the True Vine. He tells his disciples you are already clean. Why does he say that? Well, this is not the first time Jesus calls his disciples clean. Earlier in the book, in chapter 13, Jesus washes his disciple’s feet. Simon Peter, being the impulsive person, he seems to be, refuses to have his feet washed by the teacher. Why? Because Jesus was supposed to be the Messiah, the delivered, not the feet-washing-servant. Simon said, “You shall never wash my feet.” In Simon’s mind, Jesus did not understand who he was supposed to be. He basically was saying, “get it together man. You are our savior, start acting like one!” Jesus’ response was, “you don’t get it if I don’t wash your feet you have nothing to do with me.” So, Simon said, “then give me a bath!” To which Jesus responded by saying, “You are already clean.” Chapter 15 verse 3 clarifies this truth by saying “already you are clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” In other words, you have been forgiven from your sin because I have preached to you the word of my Father and you have believed. An interesting thing on the words that Jesus used in this imagery is that prune and clean are from the same root. Like in chapter 13 where Jesus was saying I just need to wash your feet and not all of you because you are already clean. Here he is saying you need to be prune because you are already clean and now you are a fruit-bearing branch.
The Vine and the Branches (vv4-6)
“Abide in me and I in you.” We don’t use the word abide in English very much. I have only used it in church. If I were to use this word in a modern context I would say, “let my phone abide in the wifi so that I may be able to watch the Bears lose live.” The idea is that only if I have an uninterrupted signal can I see what is going on in Soldier Field. Jesus is saying you need to be continuously connected with me and I with you. Then he inserts us into the imagery of the Vine, “As the branch can not bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” And there it is, a picture of who we are in God’s plan. We are the weakest part of the vine, yet the one that shows the nature of the vine. We are the branches that get to bear the fruit of the vine.
Verses 5 and 6 repeat the same idea for the purpose of clarity and reinforcing the message. So, what is the message? Jesus is saying, “Keep this straight. I am the source of life for the branches. Without me, you can do nothing. Just because you carry the glory of the fruit, don’t forget who made it possible for you the have fruit. The moment you decide to strike on your own, there will be some cutting going on.”
The Word, the Branches and the Father (vv7-8)
“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you…” How do we abide in Jesus? Making him Lord in our lives every day. We need to seek him and his direction. We abide in him when his word abides in us. We are called here to not only trust in Jesus but to know and obey his word. We need to be students and practitioners of the word of God. Every believe needs to be a student of the bible. Show me a believer that does not study his bible and I will show you a branch with no fruit and in danger of being cut-off. By this, I mean that the only way we can bear fruit is if we are constantly being feed on scripture. How else are we to know the will and heart of God? The believers that don’t carry fruit may not lose their salvation, but when they come before their Lord and pass through the fire, not much will be left. On hand those who submit the Lord and his word transform their mind, enter a place of grace where the Lord listens and answers their prayers. The branches become the glory of the Father because their fruit is evidence that they are disciples of the Son.