“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
- JOHN 15:5
One of the primary crops grown in both ancient and modern Israel is grapes. A good portion of Israel is dominated by hills, and grapevines thrive on this rocky terrain in ways that other crops cannot. Because grapevines are so abundant in this region, these crops were often used as metaphors in the Bible to describe abstract, spiritual matters. Ancient Israel was frequently described as a vineyard or vine that God had prepared and planted. Unfortunately, the image did not always cast Israel in the most favorable light. Ancient Israel was often depicted as a vine which failed to bear fruit (e.g., Isaiah 5:1-7; Jeremiah 2:21). This conveyed that they failed to live out their God-given calling.
In John 15, Jesus picks up this familiar metaphor and instructs His disciples to bear fruit, just as God had instructed ancient Israel to bear fruit. But Jesus adapts the metaphor slightly. Ancient Israel repeatedly demonstrated through their shortcomings that people cannot “bear fruit” (i.e., fulfill their God-given callings) by their own power; we need the power of God in our lives. So Jesus says in verses 1 and 5, “I am the true vine . . . ; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.” Here Jesus identifies Himself as both the “I AM” and the “true vine.” He is God in the flesh and the fulfillment of everything ancient Israel was supposed to be. He is the true vine which is able to bear fruit. He also adds that we can be part of this fruit-bearing vine as branches. We can live out our God-given calling, but we can’t do it on our own. We have to remain connected to Him, just as fruitful branches must remain connected to their vine.
This metaphor served as a challenge for the disciples who would soon lose their firsthand access to Jesus. Only by staying connected to Him through avenues like prayer, the Holy Spirit, Scripture, and community could they thrive in their lives and ministry. The same goes for us. If we want to grow into the people God has called us to be, it requires more than a one-time decision to believe. We must remain intimately connected to Him.
JESUS PROMISES THE HOLY SPIRIT
15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”
22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”
23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
28 “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. 30 I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, 31 but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me.
“Come now; let us leave.
15 THE VINE AND THE BRANCHES
1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.