Life lessons from a vineyard
Don’t cut yourself off from the Vine1 “I’m the Genuine Grapevine, source of the harvest. My Father makes sure the vines grow. 2 When he sees a branch that doesn’t produce fruit, he cuts it off. But when he sees a branch that produces fruit, he carefully prunes it. This keeps it clean and healthy and better able to produce even more fruit. 3 My teachings have already pruned clean your branches. 4 Stay connected to me and I’ll stay connected to you. You know that a branch can’t produce fruit if it’s cut from the vine. That’s true for you, too. You won’t produce fruit if you don’t stay connected to me.
5 I am the vine. You are the branches. When you’re connected to me and I’m connected to you, you’ll produce a lot of fruit. If we’re not connected, there’s no fruit. All your efforts are fruitless. 6 If you’re not connected to me, you’re like a branch withered dry. People scoop those up and toss them in the fire, which destroys them. 7 If you stay connected to me and let my words sink into you, ask me for anything you want. You’ll get it.
8 When you become my disciples, following my teachings and producing fruit, my Father gets the glory. 9 I love you just like the Father loves me. Stay connected to my love. 10 To stay connected to my love, do what I’ve taught you. That’s how I stay connected to my Father’s love, by doing what he asks me. 11 I’m telling you this because I want you to experience unlimited happiness. It’s my gift to you for staying connected.
Love each other12 Here’s what I’m telling you to do. Love each other just as I’ve loved you. 13 There’s no love greater than the love someone shows by dying for friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I’ve told you.
15 I won’t call you servants any longer, for you’re not my servants. How could you be? Servants have no idea what their master is up to. You’re my friends. I’ve told you everything that’s going on. Whatever my Father told me, I’ve told you. 16 You didn’t pick me out of a crowd. I picked you. I gave you a job. Produce fruit, the kind that will keep growing. Do that and my Father will give you whatever you ask, when you ask on my behalf.
17 Here’s what I’m telling you to do. Love each other.
The world hates us18 If the world hates you, remember this. It hated me first. 19 If you behaved like people in this world do, they’d love you for it. But you don’t. That’s why I chose you. And that’s why they hate you.
20 Remember that old saying I told you about, ‘The servant isn’t more important than the master’? Well, if they hurt me, they’re going to hurt you. But if they listen to me, they’re going to listen to you.
21 Whatever they do to you, they’re doing it because of me and because they don’t know who sent me. 22 If I hadn’t come and talked to those people, they wouldn’t be guilty of any sin because they wouldn’t have known any better. But now they don’t have any excuse.
23 People who hate me hate my Father, too. 24 If I hadn’t done the miracles I did—right in front of their faces—they wouldn’t be guilty of any sin. But I did. And they saw it. Yet it made no difference to them; they still hated me and my Father.
25 That’s how it had to be, though. The words written into their own law had to be fulfilled. ‘They didn’t have any reason to hate me. They hated me anyhow.’
26 I’m going to send a Spiritual Guide to help you. This helper will come from the Father. This Spirit—the essence of truth—will teach you about me. 27 In turn, you need to teach people about me because you’ve been with me from the beginning of my ministry.”
“True Vine” is how many scholars translate the phrase. The Greek word for “true” can also mean “real” and “genuine.” Some scholars say that Jesus is comparing himself to Israel, a spiritually rebellious nation sometimes described in the Jewish Bible as a worthless vineyard fit for nothing but getting stomped into the ground (Isaiah 5:5). A modern-day takeaway, some scholars say, is that Jesus is the source of any spiritual fruit that’s produced for God. It wasn’t the Jewish nation. And it’s not the Christian church.
“I Am” is God’s name. When God told Moses to go to Egypt and free the Jewish people, Moses said the Jews would want to know who gave him the assignment. God told him to tell the people that “I Am” (Exodus 3:14) sent him. In John’s Gospel, Jesus seems to apply that name to himself as well, in seven “I Am” phrases. I Am:
- life-giving bread (6:35)
- the light of the world (8:12)
- the gate for the sheep (10:7)
- the good shepherd (10:14)
- the resurrection (11:25)
- the way, the truth, and the life (14:6)
- the Genuine Grapevine (15:1)
Some scholars would say that people truly connected to Jesus would pray much like Jesus did when he asked God to spare him from crucifixion. “Father, if it’s okay with you, please don’t make me drink this cup of death. But I don’t want my way if it’s not your way” (Luke 22:42). So, if we ask for a truckload of money or a good poker hand, we qualify our request with, “if it’s okay with you.”
Literally, “in my name.”
This phrase shows up in both Psalm 35:19 and 69:4. But New Testament writers often cited Psalm 69:4 as predicting the suffering of Jesus during his final hours.
The Greek word is paraclete. It can mean someone who helps another, as an intermediary or an advocate. It’s a word New Testament used to describe the Holy Spirit.
In a sentence or two, how would you sum up what Jesus has to say when he tells the people, “I am the Genuine Grapevine… You are the branches” (15:1, 5)?
Jesus tells the disciples, “If the world hates you, remember this. It hated me first” (15:18). Who hates Christians and why?
What do you think about the following statement of Jesus, which will probably surprise a good many missionaries? “If I hadn’t come and talked to those people, they wouldn’t be guilty of any sin because they wouldn’t have known any better. But now they don’t have any excuse” (15:22).
LIFE APPLICATION. “Ask me for anything you want. You’ll get it” (15:7). Really? Have you found that to be the experience in your life and in the prayers you pray?
LIFE APPLICATION. Jesus warned, “If you’re not connected to me, you’re like a branch withered dry” (15:6). Many Christians experience times in their life when they feel disconnected from God. What kind of situation produces that and how does it make Christians feel?
LIFE APPLICATION. Jesus says God the Father prunes the branches of the grapevine because that helps strengthen the vine. It also, “keeps it clean and healthy and better able to produce even more fruit” (15:2). In what way do you think God prunes branches attached to Jesus, presumably a reference to pruning followers of Jesus?
LIFE APPLICATION. There Jesus goes again, talking about loving everyone the way many of us love our family and close friends. “Love each other just as I’ve loved you. There’s no love greater than the love someone shows by dying for friends” (15:13-14). Who is someone you know who sacrificed a lot to help someone else?