It is Thursday evening, and the crucifixion will happen on Friday. Jesus is meeting with his disciples in the last meal, and in it, giving them instructions and assurances, and again predicting his death. Much of this did not register with the disciples, as indicated by their responses upon his arrest and desertion after the sham trial. But Jesus has some final lessons for his disciples, which will shape them and the early church after his resurrection and departure to heaven. He has warned of Judas’ betrayal, and Peter’s impending denials. The predicted betrayal by Judas has put the disciples into a spin, and from that context comes a warning and a promise.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also 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. 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. John 15:1-8.
- The Promise of Standing and Security with God. From the imagery of a vineyard, through analogies develop:: God the Father as the gardener – one who tends, oversees, directs, guarantees production; Jesus as the True Vine – the source of life and hope and a life that counts for eternity; and the disciples as the branches – the measure of growth, of productivity, of the connection to the whole of the Kingdom of God. The starting point is established. Because of the disciples belief in Jesus, following Jesus, the promise is: You are already clean because of the Word I have spoken to you. No question about standing and status for those following Jesus.
- The Warning of Betrayal and Falling Away. Not the same security or promise for those following in Jesus’ stead. There are rewards for the disciple who perseveres. But to take a different direction leads to a life that is without worth or value. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. The opposite of productivity is absence of spiritual life or value. The branches are withered away and gathered and burned. This does not speak of a loss of salvation or standing for a disciple with God. It is all about productivity – growth and life conduct that counts for eternity. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
- Defining the True Disciple. And that is the first point of this vineyard analogy. The Father oversees, the Son gives life, and we are the recipients of that spiritual life in ways that honor God, and count for eternity. And moreso. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This instruction will be further defined in the New Testament, but it starts with a disciple being rewarded for his or her faithfulness.
Loving the Lord our God with all our heart, our soul, and our mind, and loving others [rather] than ourselves, is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, and is the first and great commandment. And it starts with our connection to God – our willingness to follow in the steps and instructions of Jesus.; More measurements of discipleship from the vineyard next week. Stay well.
– John Moore