John's Gospel, A New Look, Number 17: Chapter 15 "The Vine"
John's Gospel number 17. Chapter 15 - The Lord's Vineyard.
After introducing the disciples to more information about the Holy Spirit, Jesus now deals with the relationship between them and the Father; between them and himself, and between them and each other.
1. God the gardener. Drawing on things that the disciples knew very well, Jesus uses the illustration of a vineyard to illustrate the relationship they can have with the heavenly Father. Although they were not farmers they knew all about vineyards as this was an integral part of life in Palestine. They could also draw on the Old Testament Prophets who at times referred to God as a wine farmer as He dealt with his people. Isaiah 5:1-7 pictures Israel as God's vineyard and paints a bleak picture of how that nation had failed to produce the grapes that God had planned to produce through them.
1.1 Five points are given in the example Jesus gives to illustrate what one needs to produce a good crop: 1. The right Stock (vs.1); 2. The right Expert (vs. 1); 3. The right Culture (vs.2); 4. The right Contact (vs.4) and finally, 5. The right Fruit (vs. 5). Evidence of performance is measured by what the crop produces.
1.2. While the nature of the fruit that they have to produce is not mentioned specifically, as Jesus continues it becomes apparent that the good fruit includes a successful prayer life (vs.7). In Galatians 5:22, Paul lists the fruit of the spirit-filled life as "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness and self-control". The fruit that Jesus required of his disciples is stated in Matthew 28:19,20; "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age". (NIV translation)
1.3. Contact with the vine is vital and without that nothing can be done as this is where the life giving power comes from. Jesus then continues to emphasise the relationship between the believers. (15:12-17) At this stage they were battling with each other for positions and also with their own demons. In order to fulfil the task that he will give them after the resurrection, they have to be unified in mind and spirit. So Jesus sets the standard for that unity when he says simply, as recorded in vs. 12 "..as I have loved you". The same standard that Paul sets for the marital relationship as recorded in Ephesians 5:25, a very high standard indeed.
2. There are four elements of this kind of love: 1. sacrifice (vs.13); 2. intimacy (vs.15); 3. initiative (vs.16) and finally 4. productiveness (vs.16).
3. In the final section of this chapter about relationships, Jesus turns to their relationship with the world (vs. 18-27). As Jesus prepares to face the Cross of Calvary he knows that they will have extreme challenges after he has gone, so he continues with a clear warning that where he is going they will also have to go. Obviously they cannot do what he had to do, but as they follow him with the message of the cross in their hearts and on their lips - they were going to face difficult times! This was perhaps in strong contrast to the picture that they had of being part of the new dispensation that Jesus had come to introduce. They were now in for challenges that they could not have foreseen or even imagined.
7. As John completes the chapter Jesus again promise the Counsellor who he will send from the Father, "who will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning". (vs.26,27) Testimony of a Christian life and of the Gospel message is an integral part of the new life that we receive in Christ. The Holy Spirit leads in this as we allow Him to take over our lives and guide us. Understanding God's will can only come as we study the Bible with the help of the Spirit. He also empowers us with the courage that we need and the disciples at this time indeed needed all the help they could get as they faced the uncertain future and trauma. Yet they will not be left as orphans. (John 14:18)