Tuesday, June 12, 2012

John 15:1-4

Jesus and His eleven disciples have left the Upper Room and as they walk toward the Mount of Olives, He continues to teach them. Here He makes His final “I Am” statement:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  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.  You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will 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.” (John 15:1-4)

This is such a well-known analogy that Jesus uses here. Just as He is the only true way to the Father, here He affirms that He is the only true vine. Jon Courson, in his Application Commentary: New Testament, argues that Jesus uses the word “true” here to affirm to the disciples that it is NOT Judaism or any religion, it’s Him! He is the true vine. The disciples would soon be barred from the synagogue and persecuted by the Jewish leaders. They needed to know that being connected to Jesus, the true vine, was the only relationship they needed.

Jesus tells them that every branch that does not bear fruit will be “cut off” by the Father. I had heard this before, but I was glad to read it in Jon Courson’s commentary as well: the Greek word airo, translated “cut off,” has four meanings: lift up; pull up; raise up; take away. Courson says it is used in John 11:41, where Jesus lifts up His eyes to heaven, and in Luke 17, where the people lift up their voices. The Greek word translated “prunes” is kathairo, which is usually translated as “cleanse.” Courson’s point in making these distinctions is that often branches that were so heavy with fruit that they would be laying in the mud. The vinedresser needed to lift these branches up, give them support, and cleanse them of the mud.

Courson writes: “In this analogy, in keeping with the flow logically, what Jesus is saying is, ‘I lift the downtrodden branch; I wash the contaminated fruit. How? Through the Word.’ You’re clean through the Word. Gang, how do you bear more fruit? ... How do w get our live cleaned up? How does more fruit come? Fruit comes by a commitment to the Word, and by staying in the Word.” (Jon Courson’s Application Commentary: New Testament, P.563)

There are other references in the Bible to our being washed or cleansed by the Word (Psalm 119, Ephesians 5). The idea is that it is only by staying in God’s Word, Jesus that we are lifted up, cleansed, and bear more fruit. Many of you could testify to the fact that your life has been completely transformed through your study of God’s Word. This is really the point of this chapter!

Jesus is trying to prepare these disciples for what is ahead. He emphasizes the absolute necessity of staying connected to Him, the only true vine, by remaining in His Word. It is what feeds our spirit and changes us. When you are faced with challenges, where do you go to seek counsel? Do you get it from your coworkers or girlfriends who are not Christians? Do you seek advise from the latest self-help books or from Oprah or Dr. Oz? As disciples of Christ, our first place to seek counsel must be God’s Word itself. It is the only place where we are guaranteed to find Truth! Even well-meaning believers can offer us advise that is skewed (think of Peter trying to dissuade Jesus from going to Jerusalem).

Tomorrow we’ll talk about the fruit that Jesus speaks of here. Don’t you want to be more fruitful? Me, too!  

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