“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.”
John’s Gospel is focused on the task of bringing us to faith that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Messiah who was promised by God. There is good reason why new Christians, myself included, are encouraged to read John’s Gospel first. This is a Biblical book which breathes faith. Every chapter confronts us with a new piece of evidence that Jesus is the Christ. There is material here that will test the most accomplished of Bible Scholars. There is also a simplicity which encourages the faith of even the newest of believers.
In looking carefully at the fifteenth chapter of John I am becoming increasingly convinced that John’s intention is to lead us into a profound meditation on some of the key passages of Scripture, seeing in them their fulfillment in the Lord Jesus Christ.
David Hill in “’Son of Man’ in Psalm 80 vs. 17” (Novum Testamentum 15 : p. 261-69) makes a convincing case that the Vine imagery used in Psalm 80 is the background to the exposition of Scripture which Jesus give us here in John 15. In that Psalm, which is a prayer for the restoration of the people of God, and which three times repeats the chorus, “Restore us, O God; make your face shine upon us, that we might be saved,” the Psalmist begins with a reflection on God as the shepherd of Israel but half way through the Psalm he turns to a reflection on the vine which God had planted in the land.
“You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the Nations and planted it.
You cleared the ground for it, and it took root and filled the land.
The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches.
It sent out boughs to the Sea, and its shoots as far as the River.
Why have you broken down its walls so that all who pass by pick its grapes?
Boars from the forest ravage it and the creatures of the field feed on it.
Return to us, O God Almighty!
Look down from heaven and see!
Watch over this vine, the root your right hand has planted,
The son you have raised up for yourself.
Your vine is cut down, it is burned with fire;
At your rebuke your people perish.
Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand,
The son of man you have raised up for yourself.
Then we will not turn away from you; Revive us, and we will call on your Name.”
The Psalmist refers to Israel as the vine the Lord planted in the land which has fallen on hard times and needs once again to be restored that she might be saved. Then he seems to shift his focus to a Kingly figure who is raised from misfortune by the hand of the Lord. Finally this figure is described as the Son of Man who is raised up by the power of God.
This Messiah is the true vine who brings life to all who will cry out with the Psalmist. “Restore us, O Lord God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we might be saved.”