1 March, 2024

Jan. 28 Lesson | I AM the Vine

by | 22 January, 2024 | 0 comments

Unit: John (Part 2)
Theme: I AM
Lesson Text: John 15:1-20, 26-27
Supplemental Texts: Isaiah 5:1-7; Jeremiah 17:7-8; Matthew 3:7-11; Galatians 5:22-23
Aim: Glorify God by bearing the fruit of Christ’s life flowing through you.
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Download a PDF of this week’s lesson material (the study by Mark Scott, the Application by David Faust, and Discovery Questions): LOOKOUT_Jan28_2024.

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By Mark Scott

The next step beyond a metaphor is an allegory. A metaphor is a comparison of two unlike things (that is, bringing “A” and “non-A” together, such as in the statement of Jesus about Herod, “Go tell that fox” [Luke 13:32]; Herod was not a fox, but he acted like one). By contrast, an allegory can be a more complete narrative than a metaphor, and possibly have more than one point of comparison (for example, in Jesus’ parable of the sower, soils, and seed in Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23).  

As Jesus continued his Upper Room Discourse in John 15, he moved beyond metaphor by claiming to be the true vine of Israel. Then he connected the dots between the vine and himself, the gardener and his Father, and the branches and the disciples. If, by this time, Jesus and the disciples had left the upper room and were on their way to Gethsemane (John 14:31 ended with Jesus’ words, “Come now; let us leave”), perhaps they walked past a vine that sparked this analogy. 

The Vine and Fruit
John 15:1-8 

To start this chapter, Jesus made a characteristically audacious claim—as he was inclined to do in John’s Gospel—by saying, “I am the true vine.” (He repeats this a few sentences later, but without using the word true.) It probably meant Jesus was claiming to be the New Israel. In just a few hours, Old Israel, who thought of themselves as God’s vine in the world (Isaiah 5:1-7), would compromise themselves in this respect by trying and condemning God’s Son. Jesus was the provider of the real fruit from heaven. Jesus said that the Father was the gardener (i.e., one who cultivates the earth). 

The true vine of Israel wanted the branches (disciples) to bear much fruit. Three conditions must be met for the branches to produce a bumper crop. First was the pruning of unproductive branches. Dead branches must be cut off and thrown into the fire and burned. Second, there was the pruning of the productive branches. Prune means “to take away or lift.” It seems so counterproductive, but any backyard gardener knows it is vital to prune good branches. This is not often fun (cf. Hebrews 12:7-11). Third, remaining in the vine is the most important condition. Some form of the word remain occurs in this text 11 times. It means to “dwell, live, or abide.” No wonder Jesus said if we do not remain in him we can do nothing. But remaining in him guarantees production of fruit and even answered prayers. 

The Lord and Love
John 15:9-17 

In these verses, Jesus turned to love, one of the major themes of the Upper Room Discourse. After Jesus gave the great mandate (“love one another,” 13:34-35), love dominates the Gospel of John, with the word occurring more than 20 times. Here Jesus called his fruit-bearing disciples (cf. Galatians 5:22-24) to love one another in the same way the Father and Son love each other.  

Love is connected with four virtues in this paragraph. First is the matter of obeying commands. Love is not antithetical to obedience; love is both the fruit of obedience and the reason for obedience. Second is the matter of sacrifice. Love’s highest gift is sacrifice—something Jesus knows all too well. Love means laying down one’s life for another (1 John 3:16). Third is the matter of joy. Jesus wanted his joy in his disciples, and he wanted that joy to be complete (i.e., full). And joy is still the second fruit of the Holy Spirit. Finally, there is the matter of friendship. C.S. Lewis put this kind of love at the top of his list (The Four Loves). Jesus called them friends, not servants. And out of this friendship comes answered prayer (as in the former paragraph). 

The World and the Persecution
John 15:18-20, 26-27 

Bearing fruit that lasts and loving others unconditionally does not mean the walk will be easy. Jesus never overpromised (except concerning the world to come). He said the world would hate the branches. Like teacher/like students. Like master/like servants. Persecution of one means persecution of the others. But obedience of one also means the obedience of the others. 

Who can sustain the persecuted disciples? The answer is the Advocate (helper, counselor, companion). The Father and Son would send the Holy Spirit to the disciples. He would not only give testimony about Jesus (which is what he is most comfortable always doing, since he does not want the spotlight), but he would also help the disciples with their testimony for Jesus. 

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