John 15:1,5:
I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

Now we come to the final “I am” statement. It occurred during the upper room discourse. Jesus twice makes the declaration that he is “the vine.” On the first occasion, he links himself with the Father, when he says “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman (i.e. the “gardener” or, “vinedresser”) (John 15:1). On the second occasion, he links himself with the believer, when he declares, “I am the vine; ye are the branches.” This gives us a clear image of God working through Jesus to provide for His people.

The Old Testament uses the metaphors of the vine and vinedresser for the people of Israel and God. Among the most well known is Isaiah 5:1-7, which describes Israel as God’s vineyard. It is God’s because He loves it and painstakingly prepared the land and planted it. He protects it and providentially watches over it (Deuteronomy 7:7-11). As any other vinedresser, God does all this with the expectation of an abundant harvest.

In Psalms 80, God describes the exodus with the language of a vineyard; the vine being transplanted from Egypt to the Promised Land (vss 9-11). Other examples of the metaphor are found in Jeremiah 2:21; Hosea 10:2; and Ezekiel 17:5-6, 8. In the New Testament, the image of the vineyard is extended to the Kingdom of God (Matthew 20;1-11; 21:33-43).

In John 15:1-5 Jesus identifies himself as the true vine who claims that participation in the kingdom is reserved for those whom remain “in him.” Israel turned out to be a false vine, which produced wild grapes (Isaiah 5:1-7) while Jesus is the true vine, which produces good fruit. It is only by abiding in him that the believer has life and is nourished to enjoy it to the fullest.

By calling himself “the true vine,” Jesus identifies himself with what Israel should have been. Physical ancestry (i.e. being a Jew) no longer guarantees entrance into the kingdom; it is available only to those who abide in Jesus. Without him, we can do nothing of spiritual value for the kingdom of God. Branches cannot live without being associated with the vine. They will whither and die if the connection is severed.

The Bible speaks of different kinds of branches. We read of fruitless branches which will be severed from the vine. There is the withered branch which is not properly attached to the vine or is diseased. These will be gathered up and burned. Then we also have the fruitful branches which are pruned to bear even more fruit.

John 15:1-7:
I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

We ought to abide in the vine close to the water of life and let the vinedresser prune us for an even more abundant harvest. Jesus said, “without me ye can do nothing” and right he was. Paul several years later proudly proclaimed, “I can do all things through Christ which srengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13). Without him, we can do nothing and with him, all things are possible. Note, too what Jesus promised to those who accepted his invitation to abide in him: “Ye shall ask what ye will and it shall be done unto you.” Now those are words of great encouragement.

By Wayne Clapp