John 15 Part 1

From the House of The Nazarene. This will be a very in-depth deep-dive study of the Book of John.

Again, let’s review the context we are dealing with. First of all, there was the ‘Book of Signs’, in chapters one through twelve, in which there were seven signs that were used to reveal Jesus’ identity and also to communicate that responsive acceptance on the one hand and rejection on the other. By the way, this was beautifully interposed in the context of the crucifixion, when you saw the two malefactors, one who represented that acceptance and another who represented that rejection. Those are the only two options you’ve got; to ignore Him is tantamount to rejecting Him.
So, those are the only options we can have. Although, in our own day, as you well know, more and more people are trying to eliminate those two options and get around it. Their end-run attempt is simply to re-define Jesus. That is really the whole philosophy of our own time; everyone wants Him on his or her bandwagon, everyone wants the Jesus they want, not the Jesus who is.
So, they will either criticize the Gospels and say they have to pick and choose, or they want to reinterpret them in such a way that makes them more livable. People will say they really like the Sermon on the Mount and they have no idea what they are talking about. Have they read it lately? It is a scary document.
But, the fact is that the Jesus of the Gospels is utterly and completely unique in all the world. There is no one like Him. No one has made the claims He has made and no one has had the credentials that backed up those claims. That is really part of the purpose of the ‘Book of Signs’, in chapters one through twelve, to demonstrate those claims and those credentials. For example, He would say, “I am the Light of the world,” but what would He also do? He would give sight to a man born blind. He would say, “I am the resurrection and the Life,” and then He would raise Lazarus from the dead. So, the words and the works went together.
So, the idea of Jesus as being One who will require a response is part of that theme in this Gospel and then the rest of the Gospel, chapters 13 through 21, we can call the ‘Book of Glory’, because glory has to do with Him being raised up and part of His glorification, which might seem surprising to us, is being raised up on the cross and then ascending to the Father. In so far as that was His intention and His purpose, He came to give His Life in exchange for ours. That is the point at which He could truly say, “Father, glorify Your name.”
So, we see in the next section, then, the ‘Book of Glory’, that we have His Upper Room discourse in chapters 13 through 17, and then in chapters 18 through 21 we are back to the narrative account of the Passion of the Christ. That is the narrative that ends up with the resurrection and His various appearances.
So, to contexturalize this, we saw in chapter 13 that Jesus was working with His disciples in the upper room and He performed, as you recall, a visual parable in which He washed the feet of His disciples, including those of Judas. Then He said, “Just as I have done to you, you must also do to one another.” The fact is that a teacher is greater than His students and yet He was the one who washed their feet and therefore it was needful for them to do the same. As I have so often told you, Jesus never invites us to do something for others that He has not already done for us.
So, if he asks us to serve one another, He has done it first. If He invites us to wash one another’s feet, it is because He has done it first. If He asks us to obey the Father, it is because He did it first. If He asks us to love one another, it is because He did that first.
So, we have, really, in these incarnations, a God who manifests His intimate care by becoming one of us. In that solidarity of the human condition, He now can identify with the human plight. He understands all those things that we really go through, not merely by intellectual apprehension, but by actual personal experience. In Hebrews chapter two and chapter four, we are invited to go boldly before God because we have a high priest who really cares for us. This contextualizes that. I think I see, in this section, a remarkable picture of intimacy.
At the same time, they are troubled, are they not? By the end of chapter 13, it is beginning to dawn on them that what He said before, about His coming crucifixion, really was going to take place. They weren’t sure about that crucifixion, but they were sure He told them, “I am going to a place you can not go. You can follow Me later, but you can not come with Me now.” This led to tremendous pain and that is why in chapter 14 He had to tell them not to be discouraged, that it was needful that He goes to the Father, and then He could send them the power of the Holy Spirit, so that they would have this intimate communion, the deepest communion conceivable, namely something that is illustrative of the communion of the Father and the Son. Just as Christ is in the Father, and the Father is in Him, now we are in Christ and Christ is in us. Then He says His Father will come to them and make His dwelling.
So, we have a Triune God actually indwelling the believer. I find that to be quite extraordinary and quite unique. There is a profound intimacy and imminence in the portrait that is found in the New Testament, about God’s relationship with His children, and yet at the same time, it never eliminates that magnificent transcendence. It never eliminates the glory and power and majesty and mystery of God.
So, there is this deep mystery; how God is imminent and close to us and at the same time He is awesome and unknowable in His deepest self. So, there is this tension that we embrace because both are confirmed in Scripture.
Then, at the end of chapter 14, we saw that Jesus, in sharing these important words, tells them, in the last verse, “Get up. Let us go from here.” Just before He said that He said, “So that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me.” I take it that it implies Jesus was now inviting His disciples, at the end of their meal, to get up and go up to the valley of Kidron and the garden of Gethsemane, where they would often gather. In doing so, I imagine Jesus telling this parable, this allegory, of the vine as they are moving through the vineyards in that ancient world.
So, what is seen in the world around them comes always illustrative of the spiritual world. The reason why I am a big believer in nature, in terms of teaching, is by helping you see, and you can use anything in the created order, from beetles to rocks, it will teach a spiritual truth about the living God. It points beyond itself to spiritual truth. The way I have thought about is this: In Romans 1, we realize there is a limited knowledge we can have about God in His created order. The problem is that you need something more than a general knowledge about God. You need to have special revelation, because you would never know from Romans 1, that is to say from the created order, that the God who created it all is also a God who loves us. Indeed, He suffered and sacrificed for us. You would never know that. My point is that having come to understand that from special revelation, now we can go back to the general world and see through attributes revealed in special revelation illustrated in the natural world and that is what I am doing.
Now, going back to the text, we see Jesus using a vine and its branches as one of those analogies, as He so often did in His parables. This is an allegory. “I am,” He says, “the true vine and My Father is the vinedresser.” This imagery of the vineyard is really a basic Biblical motif because we can look at the idea of the vine in the past. In the past, the vine really illustrated Israel. Turn to Isaiah chapter five, and it illustrates how Israel was seen as a vine. God cultivated it and gave it every opportunity, but it produced wild grapes.
So, in Isaiah 5:1-7, we see, “Let me sing now for my well-beloved a song of my beloved concerning His vineyard. My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill. He dug it all around and remove its stones, and planted it with the choicest vine. He built a tower in the middle of it and also hewed out a wine vat in it; then He expected it to produce good grapes, but it produced only worthless ones. 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?
Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes did it produce worthless ones? So, now let Me tell you what I am going to do to My vineyard: I will remove its hedge and it will be consumed; I will break down its wall and it will become trampled ground. I will lay it waste; it will not be pruned or hoed, but briars and thorns will come up. I will also charge the clouds to rain no rain on it.
For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel and the men of Judah His delightful plant. Thus, He looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, a cry of distress.” Instead of producing justice, then, it practiced oppression. Instead of producing righteousness, it produced unrighteousness and cries of distress from its victims. In spite of God’s chastening, they would not respond. This reminds me of Jesus’ parable of the vineyard in Matthew chapter 21. In verses 33 to 46, you recall the image of the son of the vineyard owner, and he comes and they cast him out and they kill him. This clearly is a portrait of God’s people rejecting the One who is coming for them.
They rejected Him and, frankly, this was predicted before, in the Old Testament Scriptures and their Hebrew Bible. As to the past, then, we see clearly that it was really related to Israel. As to the future, there is also a vine. In the future, we see the vine of the earth, in Revelation 14:14-20. This is a context in which the Gentile world system is being ripened for God’s judgment, and so the idea is that it will be crushed and the image of profound judgment is what we see, especially in the Gentile world system. The time of the Gentiles will come to an end and then the righteousness will come from Jacob and thus all Israel will be saved.
We go on to the present tense, though, of the vine, and in the present tense what we see here is that it is us. It is God’s people. That is to say, in the present tense, it is Christ and the branches. As the true vine, then, He is the original, of which all others are copies. As believers, we do not live on substitutes. What we have in Christ, then, is a living union because it is an allegory of something that is truly alive. It is not inert. You have to be alive to bear fruit. It is also a loving union in so far as we are invited to enjoy Him and to find our life in Him and find Him as the source of our deepest pleasure. It is also a lasting union. It is lasting because we do not need to be afraid. He is the One who has overcome the world and this is going to go on forever. It is going to endure and last forever, and that makes it truly significant.
So, if we continue and look at this image of the vine and the branches we see what He says in verse two, “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” You see, Ezekiel 15 makes it very clear. It says there that branches are good either for bearing fruit or for burning. They are not good for building. They can not produce their own life, the branches actually bear the fruit of the vine itself and they receive it and display it.

 

Continued in part 2

3 Replies to “John 15 Part 1”

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