After answering the questions and doubts that the disciples had brought forward, Jesus uses the illustration of a vine and its branches to help the disciples understand how they are connected to the Father through Him. Throughout the Old Testament, illustrations involving vine usually denoted the Israelites and their failure to comply with God’s instructions. However, Jesus describes Himself as the true Vine with God as the gardener and the disciples His branches.
We are all connected to God through Jesus who has bridged the gap between us through His sacrifice on the cross. If we remain in Him we are deemed righteous not because of our works but His sacrifice. And just like a gardener who cuts off the rotting branches and leaves to help the plant reach its full potential, God cuts off the non-fruit-bearing branches from the body of Christ.
In their minds, the disciples would have thought that they were close to Jesus as they had spent the better part of three years with Him. But as we see throughout their journey, their hearts had just not accepted Jesus as the Messiah. Our fellowships, which may be a fusion of people from different backgrounds, have both good and bad branches. Just because we see Jesus working in our fellowship does not mean He is working in our lives also by association. Our lives can be like rotting branches which is not able to produce fruits unlike those who are around us. The bad branches prevent the good branches to produce the fruit that they are capable of producing. They corrupt the entire fellowship with their self-preservation mentality and bring down everyone with them. We must remember that God is our Gardner and has placed us in His Garden, with a purpose. If we remain in Christ and obey His words, we will be made clean by the Gardner but if we choose to be like the rotting branches, we will be cut off from our Vine, Jesus.
You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.John 15:3
We are already clean because of the Word. Adam was clean because of God’s Word in Him. If he had remained in God, then he could have been clean forever. But he chose his own path away from God and was cut off from God’s tree. Similarly, the disciples were clean because of Jesus’s word and His grace on them. If we choose to remain in Him, we will be clean forever.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit —fruit that will lastJohn 15:16
The disciples did not find Jesus on their own but He chased them down and over time, recruited them. None of them chose Jesus and some like Peter needed to be called several times before they would even commit to Christ. None of us chose Jesus but He chose to die for all of us. Whether we obey Him or not or even acknowledge Him, He continues to support us. He has appointed us for a purpose and if we choose to obey Him we will produce fruit that will last.
Prince of This World
If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own.John 15:19
Jesus makes it very clear that the prince of this world is satan and everything in it belongs to him. If we remain in Jesus then we will not love the things of this world. It is because of our desires for the things of this world that there is an internal struggle within our hearts where we end up giving in to our pleasures, most of the time. This is because Jesus wants us to choose Him like He chose us rather than enforcing His will on us. On the other hand, the prince of this world wants our soul to rot in hell and thereby tries his best to separate us from the True Vine.
They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me.John 16:2-3
Often believers use this verse to justify their arguments or fights that they have with their fellow believers. Jesus is not talking about our arguments concerning the things of this world, but only about our actions that seek to build His kingdom and destroy the hold of satan.
Jesus warns His disciples of the impending persecution that they would face because of their desire to spread the Gospel. If we are working for Christ, that means we are working against the prince of the world and satan will try his best to separate us from our family, our social circles, and even our fellowships so that we begin to doubt our walks with Christ. At that point in our lives, we must remember that Jesus faced the same difficulties but was able to overcome them and stay on the path that God had chosen for Him. So when we face persecution for His kingdom’s sake, He will do the same for us and give us the support that we need when we are abandoned by everyone around us.
Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.John 16:7
While the disciples were mourning the departure of Jesus, they did not understand who the Advocate is about whom Jesus spoke.
The theology behind the ‘Trinity’ has caused more confusion than actually explaining the concept of the ‘Triune God’. We have only one God, the Father who has given us provisions in the form of His Son and His Spirit. Provisions to help us come closer to him, to bridge the gap that we had created. Holding on to any of these provisions over God will only prevent us from coming closer to Him.
The disciples did not understand what Jesus was offering to them in the form of His spirit but they wanted to hold on to the physical body of Jesus. Are we aware of what Jesus has to offer or are we still holding on to the physical semblance of what our religion or denomination worships?
Then Jesus’ disciples said, “Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.”John 16:29-30
Jesus was saying that all would be made clear to them after His resurrection but the disciples misunderstood this to mean from that moment. Jesus was still speaking metaphorically but perhaps the disciples did not want to be rebuked by Him again and falsely claimed that they understood everything and now had complete faith in Jesus.
Seeing their reactions to the capture of Jesus, it is obvious that none of them truly believed in Jesus, being the Son of God. But still, at this moment, the disciples claimed to believe in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. The confidence that they exuded through this statement is similar to the one, Peter demonstrated just a few hours ago when confronting Jesus about His departure. And just like He did with Peter, Jesus called out the disciples also on their so-called belief.
“Do you now believe?” Jesus replied. “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.John 16:31-32
After the capture of Jesus, all the disciples retreated to their hometowns. None of them stood by Jesus’s side during those crucial moments. They all were scared for their lives and rightly so, as the Pharisees were hell-bent on removing any trace of Jesus. It took the incredible sight of the Risen Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit to bring these branches back to the Vine. The same provisions are available to us also. No matter how bad our relationship with Jesus has gotten to be, the True Vine can get us to produce fruits and connect us back with our Father.
- V2: How can the disciples or people of God who are connected with Him not bear fruits?
- V15: Why does God prune the fruitful branches?
- V16: If we did not choose Jesus but He chose us then how can we be expected to be Good or Bad branches?
- V1-5: Despite these warnings, why the disciples were bewildered when everything happened?
- V7: What is the significance of Jesus saying “unless I go away”?
- V30: What made the disciples suddenly believe?