John 15:1-11 – Yeshua is the True Vine

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POSTED 06 NOVEMBER, 2017

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”

reproduced from Salvation on the Line, Volume I

Readers of John 15:1-11, in Yeshua’s teaching about how He is the Vine and His Father is the Vinedresser or Gardener, should be able to easily pick up how there is a mutual relationship between the Son, the Father, and disciples of the Messiah. Without a born again Believer abiding in the sphere of the Messiah, then there will not only be no abundance of love or peace, but eternal punishment likely awaits (John 15:4-11). When we see Yeshua’s statements, “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for apart from Me, you can do nothing…If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:4, 6, TLV), we should realize that unless we are fully integrated into a life centered around the Messiah Yeshua, that we will not have any true blessings.

That Yeshua the Son and God the Father are involved together, in a relationship of Yeshua being the Vine and the Father the Vinedresser, does indicate how the Son serves as the Father’s agent in some significant capacity. The Son is hardly some independent actor, all alone and on His own, in the salvation process and experience of His followers. However, when some of the statements made are evaluated a bit more closely, that Yeshua is integrated into the Divine Identity is quite clear.

Yeshua declares to His Disciples, “I am the real vine, and my Father is the gardener” (John 15:1, CJB/CJSB). As seen throughout the Tanach, the vine is a frequent symbol for Israel (Psalm 80:8-19; Isaiah 5:1-7; 27:2-3; Jeremiah 2:21; Ezekiel 15:1-8; 17:1-21; 19:10-14; Hosea 10:1). Some commentators have used Yeshua the Messiah being “the true vine,” and hence the “true Israel,” as a means to promote supersessionism or replacement theology.[1] This is not only unacceptable, but it goes beyond the scope of what the Messiah being “the true vine” would represent. The Messiah in His person, very much represents the hopes and aspirations of Israel, something quantitatively seen in the quotation of Hosea 11:1 in Matthew 2:15. No differently, the Messiah being “the true vine” in John 15:1 serves to represent such hopes as well. As Kruse indicates, “He used it on this occasion to indicate that, as the true vine, he produced what the nation Israel failed to produce: fruit for which the gardener (the Father) was looking.”[2] Among the different Tanach passages to consider, Psalm 80:8, 17 is one which bears some importance:

“You removed a vine from Egypt; You drove out the nations and planted it…Let Your hand be upon the man of Your right hand, upon the son of man [al-ben-adam] whom You made strong for Yourself.”

Milne applies this word to Yeshua of Nazareth, identifying Him as “the one who stands in the midst of Israel, and among the disciples…He is the obedient Son through whose sacrifice and consequent mission the age-old purpose of Israel would find fulfillment {quoting Genesis 12:2}.”[3] The annotation provided in the 2016 Complete Jewish Study Bible also usefully indicates, “Isra’el is also God’s vine or vineyard. The fact that ‘vine’ describes both the Jewish people and its Messiah reinforces the close identification of Yeshua with the people and Isra’el.”[4] Yeshua saying that He is “the true vine,” is hardly some representation of the Messiah replacing Israel; it is correctly taken as an indication that the Messiah is the culmination of the hopes for Israel’s redemption.

The source text of John 15:1 communicates something even more specific, than Yeshua the Messiah simply being “the true vine” and embodying all of the hopes of Israel: Egō eimi hē ampelos hē alēthinē. As Kruse notes, “This is the last of the seven different ‘I am sayings’ with predicates in the Fourth Gospel (6:35, 48, 51; 8:12; 10:7, 9; 10:11, 14; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1, 5).”[5] Gramatically, the author could have simply said Egō hē ampelos hē alēthinē to convey the point that Yeshua is the true vine, but the employment of the egō eimi or “I am” formula from the Exodus 3:14 burning bush theophany, is intended to go beyond Yeshua’s Messianic importance. A version like the Phillips New Testament makes a point to highlight this: “I AM the real vine, my Father is the vinedresser.”

Any created being saying “I am the true vine,” without any direct connection intended with previous manifestations of God in the Tanach, would be viewed with extreme suspicion and skepticism. In John 15:1, readers are asked to not only view Yeshua as the nexus in which all of Israel’s Kingdom hopes are to be realized, but that such hopes can only be realized via His integration into the Divine Identity, and His close association with the Heavenly Father. So important is this, that John 15:5a repeats: egō eimi hē ampelos, humeis ta klēmata, “I AM the vine, you are the branches” (PME). Only by being directly dependent on the One who identifies as “I am,” can Believers experience all of the blessings and peace intended for the redeemed.


NOTES

[1] Cf. Carson, John, pp 511-512.

[2] Kruse, John, 316.

[3] Milne, 219.

[4] Complete Jewish Study Bible, 1546.

[5] Kruse, John, 316.

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