Summary: Jesus teaches his disciples that they will produce good fruit because of their union with him.
We’re studying through the Gospel of John and we’ve come to the fifteenth chapter. Of all the chapters in John, this one is definitely in my top three favorites. It’s here that we find out so much about the source of spiritual life and obedience. The world and false doctrines tell us that nothing is free and God is only happy if we’re living up to his standards. They lay heavy burdens like yokes across their necks and tell them to climb an impossible mountain. I love this chapter because it shows us that those who are in Christ have already made God happy, and that Christ has already put us at the top of the mountain. John fifteen is one of the best answers to legalism and self-effort because it’s all about Jesus:
I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
To start off, we have a metaphor: Christ is the vine, and the Father is the husbandman, which just means he’s the farmer. So on one hand you’ve got the vine which is rooted firmly into the ground. It’s the main part of the plant, and everything else gets its sustenance from it. Be sure to note that he calls himself the “true” vine. See, the context of this passage is all about bearing fruit and pleasing God. He is the true vine, which means there are other vines that are fake. Notice that he doesn’t say he’s “a” true vine, but he’s “the” true one. If we’re ever going to please God and do the things we’re supposed to do, we must first acknowledge that it’s only done through Christ.
We don’t have a problem with that if we’re comparing Christ to Buddhism or Islam or Mormonism, but these aren’t the things John had in mind when he wrote this. During that time the Jews taught that salvation came by Moses and circumcision; there’s a list of laws that we have to keep and lots of things that we have to do if God will commune with us, but Jesus shows that he alone is the way to the Father.
In our day there are so many inventions, false vines if you will, that take us away from Christ. Men have developed what they call “spiritual disciplines” so they can subject their flesh to spiritual things and be reformed enough to walk like God. They sign covenants with themselves stating how they’re going to stick with it and finally do all the things they’ve planned to do. It comes off as a spiritualized New Year’s resolution. What they’re missing in all this is the finished work of Christ on our behalf. They don’t rest in him and cling to him alone, so they end up feeling frustrated and guilty when they fail.
It’s so much more freeing to just acknowledge that Christ is the true vine, and we get everything we need from him without working for it, and that the Father is the farmer, and everything we don’t need is taken away without any striving on our part.
Christ is the true vine, and his Father is the husbandman.
2Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
There tends to be a little confusion about these two groups because he says “every branch in me.” But this is a metaphor, and in this case, being “in” him doesn’t mean having life in him. It’s similar to the earlier statement, “he came unto his own” in the first chapter (v. 11). They were connected to him, but they were not his children, and they never would be, so they rejected him. These metaphorical branches are in the vine, but they receive no nourishment from it, and therefore do not bear fruit. As a result they are “taken away.”
The Greek here literally means to raise up, and it’s used in several other places in the Bible. One instance is in Matthew 25: Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: 25And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. 26His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: 27Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. 28Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. 29For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. 30And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth (v. 24-30).