Jesus and His disciples left the upper room to go to the Mount of Olives. On the way to the Mount they passed the Temple area to reach the Kidron Valley. On the Temple there is a symbol used to represent the Israelite nation, it is a golden vine. During the period of independence under the Maccabees the vine was the symbol of the nation used on its coins. This vine finds its origin in the scriptures and is represented that Israel was a vine planted out of Egypt. The vine grew in the Promised Land they had been led to by Moses. Many branches grew from the vine and its shoot reached from the sea across the land and to the river. The branches grew so tall that the mountains were covered by its shadow. The branches of the vine planted by the Lord produced good fruit until the branches forsook the vine and the fruit became worthless. The vinedresser, the Lord God, questioned what more could He have done for the branches of His vine. So He told the branches that He would take down the vine hedges that protected them, that He would scatter them, and that He would allow briers and thorns to come up within their midst. (Psalm 80:1-16 Isaiah 5:1-7 Jeremiah 2:21 Ezekiel 19:10-14)
As Jesus and the disciple walked past the Temple Jesus made reference to the symbol by saying, “I am the true vine.” All of the scriptural references of God’s chosen people being a vine planted in the Promised land found in Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel speak of how Israel had grown wild. Jesus came into the world and was obedient to the will of the Father. Jesus said to them, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.”
The gardener of the vine was careful to the vine and pruned the branches to encourage them to bear more fruit. And the gardener would cut off the unproductive branches. He is not the kind of gardener that allows branches to grow wild and without discipline. He would have constant and concerned care for the branches so that it would be the most productive possible.
Jesus applied this metaphor to His disciples. He made reference to them from what He had spoken earlier that His words had made them clean. Jesus told them that the branches of a vine draw their strength and substance from the vine, so the disciples would draw their strength and substance by abiding in Jesus. Jesus made it clear that the only way they could bear fruit was by abiding in Him. The relationship of a follower of Jesus must be as close as that of the branches to the vine. Jesus made that point more real when He said, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” A branch cannot live unless it has a life-sustaining union with the vine. By Jesus’ statement that we are the branches and He is the vine He made it clear that the believer cannot have a life-sustaining union that will produce good fruit apart from Jesus, the vine. The disciples were to be in a constant union with their unseen Lord, and through them His life was to be manifested and His purposes accomplished. Just as the branches are in a living connection with the vine, which only in the branches is the fruit produced.
Jesus had said in the previous chapter that Jesus would be the divine being that would ever abide in His followers. Here then is the importance of the believer’s faith on the words of Jesus as an absolute condition of the life He would impart. Faith here is pictured as an abiding in Jesus, which is inseparable as the living branch is to the vine. Rich fruit will be the result of this kind of relationship producing a spiritual experience, of Christian virtues and of souls saved.
Jesus also expresses the displeasure of the Father with faithless followers, “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away.” Some people say that they believe in Jesus but they do not act on His word with faith. They do not study God’s Word in the Bible. They do not pray. They do not obey Jesus’ commands. Instead, they do whatever they want to do. They say that they are Christians. But they do not achieve anything for God. Their lives do not show that they follow Jesus. They may even stop other Christians who are trying to do God’s work. Such people do not have a close relationship with Jesus. So they are useless. We cannot do his work if we separate ourselves from him. Then we would become like useless branches, as we have separated ourselves from the sustaining power of Jesus. And therefore God will separate them from genuine Christians.
As the believer in Jesus abides in Him and the Word of God abides in the believer the old life of living for this world departs into the new life of conforming to the character and image of Jesus. For the believer of Jesus Christ will maintain a relationship with Him through faith and in conformity to His teachings that what a believer would ask for in prayer would be in line with the will of the Father. One of the promises of this abiding relationship is answered prayer. “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” The proof of the disciple is a character in conformity with the character of Christ. The Father is glorified by answered prayer. “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.”
The whole life of Jesus had demonstrated His love of the Father and the Father had made know His love of the Son, Jesus. “And behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” As Jesus loved His disciples, they too were to live in His love. From their experience of Jesus’ love they are to express the love of Jesus in their lives.
Jesus lived His life in complete obedience to the Father. The true mark of a follower of Jesus is obedience. The believer in Jesus is to live his life in loving obedience to Jesus. Abiding in the love of Jesus is obeying His will and to live His way of life. Joy is another true mark of a disciple of Jesus. The Joy of Jesus Christ will fill the life of a Christian. Believers experience the fullness of Christ’s joy by their abiding relationship with Him. We must remember that this conversation took place on the eve of Jesus’, arrest, trial, and crucifixion. These words were spoken to a group of people whose hearts were troubled while Jesus was staring death in the face. Jesus was preparing them for a life of witness here on earth without His physical presence. Joy was one of the results of living a sustaining relationship with Jesus even under these circumstances.
Frequently we are tempted to believe that sin will produce happiness. Joy is the flower of the right; it is always the fruit of obedience to Jesus. Joy is the essence of the consciousness of Jesus’ approving love.
Jesus then gives His last commandment to the disciples, “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. The illustration of Jesus’ love is His own self-sacrifice which was to be accomplished the next day upon the cross. His love was also illustrated by His divine friendship which had led Him to confide to His disciples all His plans and gracious purposes. He had revealed to them the Kingdom work which would consist in revealing true virtues and in the salvation of mortal souls, a work which would be accomplished by prayer in His holy name. It may be to some, who wonder at their fruitlessness as followers of Jesus need this word from the Master: “This I command you, that you love one another.”
The Disciples of Jesus are privileged to share in the love of the Father but they must also be involved in the world’s hatred and rejection of Jesus. Since the world hated and rejected Jesus it would also hate and reject those who follow Jesus’ teachings. Those who have been commissioned to reproduce the character of Jesus will find the people of the world will not accept them and oppose them.
The disciples had been chosen out of the world to follow Jesus. To be chosen by Jesus is to become a different kind of person and the world always has a problem dealing with people that are different. The world at large had persecuted Jesus and his disciples could expect the same reaction. If the world at large had received the message of Jesus then it would have also received theirs, but it had not.
The world had not received the Father who sent Jesus and therefore would not receive the message that Jesus had for them. By failing to know the Father in faith and rejecting His Son they would also reject those who followed Jesus in faith.
Those in the world who had never heard the truth of the Father could not be held accountable to their lack of belief. Jesus coming into the world brought the truth of the Father and therefore sin increased because now they had heard the truth. Still they rejected the truth but now they were accountable because they had heard the words of Jesus. Those who loved and received Jesus both knew and received the Father. Those who hated and rejected Jesus both hated and rejected the Father. The unity of the Father and the Son works in both directions. Jesus bringing His message to them and working His works of grace among them they now held personal responsibility for their rejection of God. In Psalms (Psalms 35:19 Psalms 69:4) there is a reference to hating God without a cause. Ironically, the Pharisees who were supposed to know the scriptures best were living out that statement because they both hated and rejected both the Father and the Son.
Jesus was about to depart and would leave the disciples in that kind of atmosphere of persecution, hatred, and rejection. The disciples were promised the Counselor would come into that atmosphere and help and strengthen them. The Counselor would be sent by Jesus and would come from the Father. The interaction between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit shows the unity between them. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one but experienced separately. The Trinity is a doctrine of experience.
By Jesus calling the Holy Spirit the Spirit of Truth it emphasized witness as a work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of Truth gives witness to the truth of Jesus’ witness of God. The witness and leadership of the Holy Spirit in a life will never be contrary to the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. The Spirit of Truth gives witness to the truth that Jesus has shown.
The Holy Spirit is the Spiritual witness to the truth of Jesus and the disciples are the physical witnesses of the truth of Jesus. Those who have experienced faith in Jesus Christ testify to the life changing character of that faith. Their witness is backed up by the witness of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit leads persons to faith through the witness of believers in Jesus Christ. The world is not left without a witness of Jesus. Therefore those who reject Jesus and the Father who sent Him into the world must bear their own burden of guilt.
Psalm 80:1-16, Isaiah 5:1-7, Jeremiah 2:21, Ezekiel 19:10-14, Matthew 3:17, Psalms 35:19, Psalms 69:4