“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” (John 15:1-4).
What did Jesus mean when He compared Himself to a vine and for that matter, a true vine? The word “true” (ἀληθινός; alethinos) means genuine or real along with not being imaginary. The word “vine” (ἄμπελος; ampelos) specifically refers to a grapevine. Jesus spoke of a fruit bearing vine. Coupled together these two words, Jesus was expressing the inward and intimate fellowship He has with each of His disciples: then and now.
When Jesus said He was the “true vine” this presumes that there are those who pretend they are either true vines, or connected to such. But in reality are liars and deceivers. This would mean Satan who is the father of lies (Genesis 3; John 8:44) along with those who follow him (I John 2:26).
Jesus then said that “and my Father is the vinedresser.” The noun Father, from the Greek word πατήρ (pater) in which we derive our English word “paternal” meaning fatherly or a male parent, is a specific reference to God the Father. Jesus refers to Him as “my” Father. Jesus also made this reference to the Father in John 5:18 wherein the Jews rightly concluded that Jesus was making Himself equal with God.
Jesus said the Father “is the vinedresser.” The little word “is” means the Father presently, actively and singularly exists as something or someone. That someone God the Father is compared to is a vinedresser.
A vinedresser is a tenant farmer, a share-cropper or even a gardener. He is a person who works the land by digging into the ground for agricultural or gardening purposes. Where I live in Indiana, there are multiple farms owned and tended to by dedicated farmers. In a more modest way, one of my favorite hobbies is working outside my house during the spring, summer and autumn seasons. I thoroughly enjoy working in my flower beds and landscaping my front and backyard.
A background commentary to Jewish history indicates that “The Old Testament and Jewish literature sometimes portrayed Israel as a vineyard (e.g., Isaiah 5:7), or less frequently as a vine (e.g., Psalm 80:8; Hosea 10:1), and God as the vine grower. A golden vine in the temple symbolized Israel’s power, and Jesus may here portray the disciples as the remnant of Israel (see comment on 15:16). The most basic point of the imagery is the obvious dependence of branches on the vine for their continued life.”
Isaiah 5:1-7 says. “Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and briers and thorns shall grow up; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry!”
God the Father is characterized as one who carefully protects the vine and the fruit of the vine. In the Old Testament, Israel was known as the vineyard of God. However, it failed to produce the fruit of righteousness. Rather, it produced the wild grapes of sinfulness.
However, by being the true vine Jesus Christ is the true Israel of God. Jesus is the fruitful servant who will accomplish God’s purposes for salvation and glorification of God’s people. God the Father’s people are those joined to the true vine, Jesus Christ, by the sovereign grace of God alone, through the sovereign gift of faith alone, in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone. This is ultimately for the glory of God alone.
How does God the Father protect the fruit of the vine, which are those joined to the true vine, Jesus Christ? The answer Jesus gave may surprise you. Take time today to thank God for joining you to the vine, Jesus Christ. May the fruit of righteousness be seen in you today.
More to come.
Soli deo Gloria!