Noted as one of the best starting places in the Bible, the Gospel of John is a first-hand account of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ from one of his most trusted friends and disciples. This book is necessary reading for the believer as its detail and insight is beyond anything one might cross as they seek out knowledge of this good Word. For this reason, I have decided to embark on a multi-part study on the Gospel of John to give not only in-depth analysis of the entire book; but, also background on it's creation and the man that wrote it. Today we continue our study as we move through part fourteen of this series and tackle John Chapter Fifteen!
John 15:1-2: “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more."
They should bear fruit [because of your faith] (good works, bringing someone to faith, etc.). Jesus has already taught them about obedience. Obedience and love is the response of faith that He requires. He does this for us and what do we do? We respond in faith. What does faith look like? Faith looks like obedience. If we do what He says, we are demonstrating our faith in a concrete way. In Chapter 15, He explains the blessings and curses attached to one’s obedience or disobedience. (read 15:1-2 now) He is using allegory here, using an image to make a point in concrete terms. For example, Jesus (He’s real), the vine (that’s the image). The Father in Heaven (He’s real), the vinedresser (that’s an image). Jesus uses these “I am” allegorical statements to make a concrete point. We’ve seen them in the past. For example, He says “I am the bread of life” (John 6). Was He really bread? Of course not, but the imagery makes it easy for the listener or reader to understand. “I am the light of the world” (John 8). “I am the door. I am the good shepherd. I am the way, I am the truth.” This is the same thing. Here the imagery is the vine.
Jesus explains that:
He is the only vine.
We must be connected to Him (believing in Him. There are plenty who don’t and still do good works. We must be connected to Him to become a fruit bearing branch in His name).
God (the Father) prunes the vine (He cuts away all the things in our lives that do not work. Expect adversity in the journey. It will be painful and hard at times).
We produce OR are cut away.
John 15:3-12: "You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father. “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. "
After His opening statement, the Apostles’ opening statement might have been about their own situation, whether or not they were worthy of being branches attached to Jesus. This is naturally what we all do. The Lord reassures them that they are clean/worth/purified and they have reached this state by believing Jesus’ words. Don’t worry, He is saying to them, you are branches, because you believe. In other words, they aren’t branches because of their closeness to Jesus (the proximity, physically), They are branches because they believe Jesus’ word and they obey it. This is what has made them clean. Jesus emphasizes that if the wish to bear fruit, they must remain a part of Him. Then Jesus goes on to mention seven specific details in relationship to the vine, the vinedresser, and the branch.
You become a branch by faith (in Christ)
Fruitfulness produced by faith and obedience (continually believing in Him is bearing fruit too!)
More faith and obedience = more fruitfulness (this is not a pass or fail thing. It does not have to be perfect! And it will NEVER be perfect, thats why we need Him!)
Less faith and obedience = less fruitfulness
Faith and obedience = Power in prayer
Bearing fruit glorifies God
Joy + Love = Son + Father (This will mirror the relationship and Joy that Jesus and the Father. We are connected to the Godhead [Father/Son/Holy Spirit] through our relationship with Christ. When Revelations happens, all the judgement and rapture and resurrection happens in a second, but what happens after that? Jesus says through our relationship with Him, We become a part of that Godhead. We are assimilated into Christ’s character on Earth through obedience in His word and our love for our brethren and become part of Him. These two experiences coming together mirror the experiences that the Godhead has within itself. We are getting a little taste, in other words, of what its like to be part of that Godhead, which is the ultimate fulfillment of reality in eternity [in the future]. Once you begin to experience that, there’s no going back. Satan couldn’t give you enough to go back after you get a taste of the Godhead experience.)
Going back to “Because of the Cross”:
John 15: 13-17: "There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. This is my command: Love each other."
They should Love each other. So Jesus continues in the style He has uses previously. He summarizes the idea and then He explains it in detail. He has given them the instruction to love each other several times and in different ways. Example of this is: the foot washing. The difference this time is that He establishes the measure of love as laying down one’s life for a friend. They might not be called upon to do this but the WILLINGNESS to do so is the kind of love that He had for them. People will die instinctively to protect family, but to die just for a friend, that is a WILLFUL act, a straight exchange of one life for another life. Jesus was willing to die for His friends and also His enemies which makes His love divine. People will die for their families and friends, yes maybe, for an idea, perhaps; but to die for your enemies, not too many would do this. So Jesus focuses on the word friends and that they have indeed become His friends. Can you imagine being a friend of God? I’m sure many of us would like to be able to say that. We all want to be friends with famous people for goodness sake. These disciples are his creations at best, followers, servants to Him (as God), but here Jesus raises them (AND US) to the level friends. Why? Based on faith and obedience, of course. They are friends because they are privy to the mystery and purpose of His coming/His death/His resurrection/His ascension and also how things work. He has explained to them how we bear fruit and honor God, as opposed to the legalism of the teachings of the priests and Pharisees. Their friendship has some conditions (like any friendship!). A friendship with Jesus also has conditions but it is still a friendship because it yields all of the things and more that a friendship produces (companionship, support, joy, communication, edification, and on and on and on). Jesus qualifies the friendship and defines the conditions and this is so because, well, He is God and we are not. The highest ranking person defines the friendship. We can have friendships like this. Jesus defines the friendship as one where He (as God) chooses us as friends and places the conditions on our friendship (that we produce fruit, the HE will answer OUR prayers, that we will love others). All the things He has asked us to do will benefit our friendship with Him.
John 15:18-20: “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you."
They should persevere in ministry. Remember, He is preparing them for His departure, not only for the three days after the cross but eventual departure from the Earth and when He will return to the state of deity in the spiritual world (in 43 days). Again Jesus summarizes the entire thought at the beginning of the passage. Essentially he warns them of Five things:
The world will hate them (just in case they thought the world would be happy to hear the Good News)
The world will reject them (be prepared for hatred and rejected because this is how they treated Him)
The world will not recognize them (The hatred and rejection will be because the world senses that you do not belong here. AND YOU DONT!)
The world will persecute them (what the world rejects, the world wants to destroy because it is threatening)
The world will not obey the Word (if they didn’t obey with God present in all of His glory, they wont when the same world is preached by mere men)
This is not the case in every instance but it will be the general rule
John 15:21: "They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the one who sent me."
There's a reason why the world will hate and reject, persecute and disobey them and it will have nothing to do with them. In modern language He is saying, “Its not about you, its abut Me.” They have rejected the Father in the past so they will still reject Him now.
John 15:22-25: "They would not be guilty if I had not come and spoken to them. But now they have no excuse for their sin. Anyone who hates me also hates my Father. If I hadn’t done such miraculous signs among them that no one else could do, they would not be guilty. But as it is, they have seen everything I did, yet they still hate me and my Father.This fulfills what is written in their Scriptures: ‘They hated me without cause.’"
Jesus goes on to say that this rejection of the Father has no excuse. It is without excuse with the Gentiles because as Paul says, they have a witness of the Father through creation and their conscious and through the Jewish nation. It is without excuse with the Jews because Jesus was among them teaching a performing miracles for three years! Its without excuse because the Word had warnings about this happening.
John 15:26-27: "But I will send you the Advocate—the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me. And you must also testify about me because you have been with me from the beginning of my ministry."
This warning may shake and frighten them but Jesus promises them once again that He will send the Holy Spirit to dwell within them. The Spirit will help them face the opposition in their ministry without stumbling. They will not have to do it alone.
Jesus prepares them for His departure by encouraging them to:
Continue to bear fruit
Continue loving each other
Continue serving in ministry
A lot of times when we are discouraged in our faith we tend to want to hide away when Jesus is actually telling us to lean in.
Review of events that have taken place at the final teaching in which Jesus has:
Washed the Apostles feet
Revealed the traitor
Prophesied concerning His death and resurrection
Promised the Holy Spirit
Encouraged to be fruitful
Commanded love of each other
Committed them to service
In this next section Jesus is going to continue to encourage the Apostles as He reviews with them what will take place in the near future. What is different about this time, however, is that the Apostles will start to grasp what He is talking about (instead of it going over their head). They will start to understand that trouble is coming.