“I am the vine, you are the branches” (v. 5)

John 15:1-8 Sunday 3 May 2015

Psalm : Psalm 150


Jesus shares his final 'I am' saying with hisdisciples between leaving the upper room (John14:31) and entering the garden known as Gethsemane (John18:1). We can imagine as they made this journey across the citythat they would have walked by a number of vines and vineyards.This gave Jesus the chance to remind the disciples the truth aboutwho he was. This truth would keep their faith rooted in the weeks,months and years to come as they shared the good news.

This passage has origins in the words and imagesof Isaiah 5:1-7 in which God is described as thegardener and Israel the vine that God tends. There is also aconnectionwith the Greek god of wine and grapevines, Dionysus, whowould have been well known to many of John's Greek readers at thattime. In John 15 Jesus declares that he is the "true vine" (v. 1)to show the Jews and the Greeks that in him new life and a newcovenant can be found.

We are told that vines will be removed (verse 2)if they bear no fruit. The word translated here as to cut or removecan also be translated as to lift up.Ancient vineyards grew low tothe ground and so branches were lifted up to keep the fruit fromsitting on the soil and rotting, and also to encourage growth onthe low-lying vines. We can't say for sure which meaning Jesus hadin mind but it may be that we should hold the tension between theremoval of unfruitful branches and the lifting up of others toencourage growth.

Another word that has a dual meaning is theone used for the word translated pruned (verse 2) and cleansed(verse 3). Both words in the Greek have the same root and can beunderstood as pruning or cleansing. In the instance of verse 3where Jesus says you have been cleansed by my word we can also readit to say you have already been pruned. This could be anencouragement to the disciples that they have already been fruitfuland pruned so that they can produce more fruit.

Jesus' word's encourage his disciples to abide, orlive, in him as he lives in us. This is where the fruit of lifecomes from and it is this that acts as witness to our faith inJesus. Where someone does not abide in the true vine the branchbegins to wither and eventually dies, is broken off and tossed inthe fire.

To Ponder

  • Think of your journey of faith. When can you see the timeswhere you have been lifted up, pruned or cleansed?
  • We are called to be branches that bear fruit. What does bearingfruit look like for you?
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