Biblical Studies/New Testament Commentaries/The Gospel of John/Chapter 15
The Allegory of the Vine (15:1-17)
The idea of the vine stalk, the branches, the grapes and the Father is the perfect metaphor and clearly shows us our relationship to the Father. The farmer is the superior being. The stalk, the branches and the grapes are not in the same league with the farmer. He is a human and they are plants and fruit. No one considers the plants to be equal to the farmer.
The father is God and the stalk and branches are only humans. The branches are inferior to the stalk and deprive their life by being united to the stalk.If we detach from Jesus we are going to wither and go into the fire.
The Father tends the vine with loving care, making it as fruitful as possible. He removes the unfruitful branches and prunes the fruitful ones so that they may be even more fruitful. However, this pruning is a painful process. Jesus uses this metaphor to relate back to God as well. "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower," (15:2).
Life comes to the branches from the vine. Life comes to believers through the words of Jesus. He said my words are spirit and life. My words are truth. I fear that Christians have been misled to think that life and truth comes from the whole Bible. Each writer of the Bible is a vine, but only the vine of Jesus gives life. It is fine to read the whole Bible but we must only build are theology on the one vine. We must not try to draw sustenance from 66 vines. Jesus says that as a part of that vine, all will bear fruit. It is a very cyclical metaphor through the reader to Jesus and always coming back to the Father. The best example of this is Verse 8, "My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples." Likewise, Jesus connects the metaphor to the theme of love. "As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love," (15:9). "Love" is a very crucial concept in Jesus' metaphor of the vine. A "vine-grower" in any self-respecting vineyard must take very good care of the vine and its branches. Time, energy, and investment of will are factors that can be associated with any tender of vines. This is also implied by the allegory of the vine. The Father, otherwise known as "the vine-grower", will love and keep his vine and its branches.
An interesting point to note is the language of Jesus being the "true" vine. This language could merely be a reference to the spiritual metaphor being relayed - that the spiritual vine is more true than the physical vine - but it may also be a reference to the existence of a false vine, perhaps the equivalent of a false prophet.
There are some similarities between the vine in John and other sections in the Synoptics. First of all, in Matt 26, Mark 14, and Luke 22, Jesus discusses "drinking of the fruit of the vine at the Last Supper" (Smith 280). Jesus also has a parable about a vineyard in Matt 21, Mark 12, and Luke 20. While these parallels are quite obvious because of the similarity in language (both use "vine" and vineyard"), the Sermon on the Mount/Plain in Matt 7 and Luke 6 are probably most similar to the Allegory of the Vine in John 15. In these Synoptic stories, the word "tree" is used, with a similar emphasis on the fruit of the tree as John emphasizes the fruit of the vine. The Gospel of Matt speaks of "cutting down and burning the tree that does not bear good fruit" (Smith 281), which is similar to John 15: 6, which states, "Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned." The synoptics seem to imply that "'fruit' stands for good deeds accomplished through obedience to God or...to the words of Jesus" (Smith 281). It is possible to read John 15's vine story in a similar fashion. (Smith)
John 15:7-17 - Results of Abiding in Christ
Abiding in Christ has many results in verses 7-17. First, abiding means that we can request what we will and God will do it for us. If one really abides in Christ and Christ abides in him/her, the requesting will not be different to the will of Christ. Verse 8 states that God the Father is glorified by the mutual abiding. As disciples fulfill His will and continue the work of Christ, God attains the greatest glory. That mutual abiding causes the disciples to bear fruit - it is the fruit of Christ-likeness. If a disciple becomes Christ-like he/she will love the other disciples. Thus the idea of becoming true disciples in the last part of verse 8 leads into discussion of the mutual love between Father, Son, and disciples in verse 9. Another result of mutual abiding is joy. Jesus finds joy with his union with the Father. The love and obedience that Jesus calls his disciples to and their union with him will be the source of their joy. The plan of discipleship is the will of God revealed in Christ (R. Hahn, 2007).
Verse 16-It Was Not You Who Chose Me....
This first part of verse 16 is an interesting one because it seems to have that air of predestination to it in that Jesus has chosen us to follow him from the beginning, and we had no say in it at all. Or rather, does he mean that overall we were chosen to follow him, but we think it was our free will that led us there? As in it is a bit of both worlds. For instance, our free will could lead us to our pred destined choice of being with Jesus. This would essentially explain the first part of the verse that says that it was Jesus who chose us rather than vice versa. Does that makes sense?
Verse 24 'THEY HATED ME WITHOUT A CAUSE.'
This verse states, "If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin." This verse has a very similar message to John 9:41, when Jesus says, "...If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, 'We see,' your sin remains." The kind of "sin" Jesus is talking about in 15:24 and 9:41 is potentially confusing. However, in 15:20 Jesus references those who persecute Him and His servants. Then, in 15:25, Jesus references those who "hate [Him] without a cause." Considering the context of 15:24, Jesus is most likely saying that those who have seen His words and signs don't have an excuse for not believing in Him. Jesus is probably also saying that no one has an excuse for persecuting those who follow Him. Jesus also is suggesting that people do not want to leave their lives of sin behind. The people have seen the works of Jesus, but are too afraid to live righteous lives. Because of this, Jesus says the people show their hatred not only of him, but also of his Father.
The idea that this verse was pertaining to a specific sin- Hating Jesus with out a cause, and not to sin in general can be supported with other verses around the bible. However, first we should look back in John 16:24 to begin to understand the verse which says: "If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well." (NAS) This verse can have different interpretations, naturally. Some believe that the significance of this verse is not that these people who have sinned have seen the laws and have no excuse for not believing in Him, but more importantly that the people were used "...in order that the word may be fulfilled that is written in their Law, 'They Hated Me without a Cause.' (NAS) It wasn't that His people didn't believe in Him, because in verse 27 it says; "and you will bear witness also, because you have been with Me from the beginning." (NAS) It was more the fact that the people, even after knowing Jesus, and seeing His works, were Hating Him without a Cause in order for the word to be fulfilled. The word that was to be fulfilled was naturally Jesus’ upcoming death and resurrection. This belief is supported in several other books in the bible. For example, Matt 26:24 :54-56 16:21; Luke 9:22&44 18:31-34 24:25-27 & 44-46 all of these refer to this law that was to be fulfilled, not for the sole purpose of exclaiming that these people had no excuse for believing in Him.
Christ without Chastisement
Throughout the Gospel of John, Christ dispenses wisdom along with subtle admonishments (such as "Go and sin no more," with regard to the woman at the well. In Chapter 15, however, He gives an otherworldly kind of pep-talk that is bereft of any of His usual requests/rebukes: "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world" (verses 18-9). He is preparing his disciples for the rush of confusion, anger, doubt, and persecution that is to follow in the wake of His death. His greatest commandment, in verse 17, is another such attempt to bind the disciples together, for only love is strong enough to survive the seeds of division that had already been planted.