With the time remaining Jesus is now maximizing these final moments with the disciples by teaching them some important truths — specifically truths to prepare them for His departure.
When we left things off last Sunday Jesus has just told these men in John 14:15, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” While we’ve already discussed in great detail how obedience is the tangible evidence a person really does love Jesus in response to His love for them…
The context for this specific “commandment” intended to take us back to John 13:34 when Jesus said to these eleven men earlier in this dinner, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”
Not only are we instructed to “love one another,” but this commandment was given with a specific caveat… We’re to “love one another” just “as Jesus has loved us!” Without question such a command is virtually impossible without the direct involvement of Jesus Himself.
Jesus continues… John 14:16-18, “I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever — the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.”
In light of Jesus’ pending departure, the disciple’s anxiety over this ominous reality, and the massive challenge of loving one another in the same manner as Jesus had loved them… He makes it know to these men that while He may indeed be leaving them, they were not to worry because “the Father will give them another Helper.”
In the Greek this word “Helper” is paraklētos which is difficult to translate into English. The word can be written as Comforter or Assistant, but simply means to come alongside to aid.
What’s interesting about this “Helper” is the adjective Jesus uses to describe Him. He says, “Another Helper.” In the Greek this word “another” doesn’t imply an additional Helper, but rather a Helper of the same kind as the first. Jesus has just declared Himself “the way, the truth, and the life” so it’s not an accident He now calls this Helper “the Spirit of truth.”
Jesus knew these men would need His help to live the life they’d been called too as well as fulfill the mission they would be charged with. And yet, while it was necessary Jesus ascend to heaven, He promises to send a “Helper” in the person of the Holy Spirit. They would not be alone nor would they be without help. God would send exactly what they needed!
Knowing He’d be leaving them physically, Jesus is promising to send to these men the Holy Spirit who in addition to “dwelling with them” (para) would more importantly “be in them.” In Acts 1:8 Jesus will later add that the Holy Spirit would also “come upon them” (epi). The Holy Spirit would comfort them, indwell them, and ultimately empower them!
In the original language Jesus is saying what He had been to these men physically the Spirit would be to them spiritually! Jesus would “not leave them as orphans” promising first that the Father would “send the Helper” before then adding “I will come to you!”
The implications of these two statements being used is that the presence of Jesus would manifest in their lives through the person of the Holy Spirit. While they were uniquely separate Jesus and the Spirit would work in tandem. In fact, in Philippians 1:19, the Apostle Paul will go so far as to refer to the Holy Spirit as being “the Spirit of Jesus.”
It’s important to note Jesus isn’t presenting the Holy Spirit as some mystical power or force. Quite the contrary. Not only does Jesus present the Spirit using masculine pronouns, but He reveals Him as an individual member of the Godhead with His own will. Yes, while the O.T. presents Him as the “Spirit of God” — He exists as a separate member of the Holy Trinity.
Though “the world cannot receive” the Holy Spirit “because it neither sees Him nor knows Him,” Jesus says to His disciples, “You know Him” and “He will abide with you forever!” In much the same way as Jesus came to earth to reveal the presence of His heavenly Father, these men would know a relationship with Him though an interaction with the Spirit!
John 14:19-21, “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more (His death and later ascension), but you will see Me (there would be ten post-resurrection appearances). Because I live, you will live also. At that day (which is likely a reference to the Day of Pentecost and the ultimate outpouring of the Holy Spirit) you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you (occurs through the Spirit’s indwelling). He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”
Though John — with the limitations of a 600 word vocabulary — has a way of complicating what is being said, don’t miss the overarching point Jesus is making… The ultimate role of the Helper in the life of a disciple is that the Holy Spirit brings the presence of Almighty God (the Father and Jesus) into that person’s life through His indwelling.
Regarding this notion of the presence of God indwelling a person’s life, in Colossians 1:27 the Apostle Paul will again remark, “To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
This last line where Jesus says, “I will manifest Myself to him” peaks Judas’ attention… John 14:22, “Judas (not Iscariot) (this is the Thaddaeus referenced in Matthew 10:3) said to Jesus, ‘Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?’”
In the context of the predominate Jewish understanding of the Messiah this question posed by Judas was completely appropriate. They believed the Messiah would present Himself to the entire world by establishing a physical Kingdom on the earth centered in Jerusalem.
As Judas is processing what Jesus is saying the very notion they would see Him as the Messiah but the rest of the world wouldn’t seemed inconsistent with what they already knew.
Now in response to this question… John 14:23-24, “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.”
Judas wants to know how the world would come to see Jesus in the way He had manifested Himself to them if He was going to be leaving… “Jesus, if You are departing, how can the world come to see You in the way we have? How will they know who You are?”
To answer this question Jesus reiterates two points He’s already made… First, He says, “We will come into him and make our home with him.” Jesus’ point is that His presence would still remain active in this world through the men and women He indwells through His Spirit.
Secondly, though Jesus will be physically in heaven, the tangible manifestation of His presence would be made known in this world by the love His disciples had for one another. “Judas, the world will come to know who I am through the Spirit working in and through your lives, as well as the unique and otherworldly way you demonstrate love to one another.”
Jesus continues… John 14:25-27, “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
At the close of chapter 13 Jesus’ declaration that He’d be departing from them had left these disciples sincerely “troubled.” Not only has Jesus sought to temper their anxiety by promising to send “the Helper, the Holy Spirit,” but now He promises to leave them with “His Peace!”
Notice Jesus qualifies this by letting them know this “peace” would not be similar to what the world possesses, but something else entirely. In our world peace manifests circumstantially.
We enjoy peace when the circumstances around us yield it. Sadly, peace is more often than not a temporary experience. But note… What Jesus is promising runs much deeper than this. He’s promising to give an internal and permanent peace independent of circumstance.
Friend, the truth is that the peace of God can only come once a man has entered into a peace with God! Anything this world has to offer is but a temporary reprieve. Lasting peace for the restless soul can only be found in a relationship with Jesus. Amazingly, in Philippians 4:7 Paul describes “the peace of God” as something “which surpasses all understanding.”
John 14:28-31, “You have heard Me say to you, ‘I am going away and coming back to you.’ If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, ‘I am going to the Father,’ for My Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe. I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me. But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do. Arise, let us go from here.”
Imagine begin one of these men sitting around this table hearing Jesus say, “The ruler of this world is coming.” How intimidating! And yet, while Jesus knew Satan was planning a full-blown attack, He continues, “He had nothing in Me!” Though in the hours to come the Devil would indeed have his moment, in just a few short days Jesus would emerge victorious!
John 14 closes with Jesus saying, “Arise, let us go from here.” While there is no question John records a change in the underlying scene — leaving the upper room, in chapters 15, 16, and 17 Jesus will continue His dialogue with these men. In fact, the next movement is found in John 18:1, “When Jesus had spoken these words, He went out with His disciples over the Brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which He and His disciples entered.”
Though likely Jesus and the disciples leave the upper room at the close of chapter 14, it would appear the conversation continues as they make their way along the streets of Jerusalem, through the Temple Precincts, before ultimately exiting via the East Gate.
According to John, once outside the city, they would then proceed to trek across the Kidron Valley only to enter the Garden of Gethsemane located at the base of the Mount of Olives.
At some point during this nightly stroll John recalls Jesus saying… John 15:1-3, “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 bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.”
This statement Jesus makes declaring, “I am the true vine” did not occur without context. According to a first-century Jewish historian named Josephus, on one of the western gates of the Temple Mount was a golden door adorned with a golden vine hanging across the expanse that possessed golden grapes as tall as a man. Keep in mind, the Temple had been build by Herod the Great and was considered one of the wonders of the ancient world.
The ornament of the vine had been included in the Temple architecture in order to recognize the deeper symbolism of Israel being the vineyard of Jehovah God. In fact, in passages like Psalms 80, Isaiah 5, Ezekiel 15, and Hosea 10 this illustration had been well established.
Aside from this, earlier in His ministry, Jesus had even built off of this imagery when He taught the Parable of the Vineyard which was a rebuke of the religious leaders wickedness.
It’s likely when Jesus and His disciples reached the Temple entering through this very door He takes a moment to teach them an important lesson. In the shadow of this very decor Jesus turns to these men and declares His final “I am” statement, “I am the true vine!”
In the Greek this word “true” literally means genuine or real. Jesus is saying Israel and their religious system would no longer be the way to connect with God. He was replacing the vine of Israel! Where the law had failed to produce Godly fruit He would succeed.
In light of the fact Jesus is seeking to prepare these men for His coming departure, using this particular picture of the vine, branches, fruit, and vinedresser was apt. What Jesus is seeking to emphasize was a necessary and continued dependency upon Him. It’s as though Jesus is saying to them, “While I might be leaving, it’s critical we stay connected!”
Understand, a cluster of grapes can never exist apart from a branch’s relationship with the vine. A connection between the two is more than important — it’s essential! In playing off of this picture Jesus is making it clear a disciple must remain completely dependent on Him for any fruit (Godly results) to be yielded from his or her life. It’s not enough to simply add Jesus to one’s life. You must be completely dependent on Him as the source of life itself.
As with the lesson presented in the washing of the disciple’s feet, it appears Jesus is not speaking of salvation. In verse 3 He reiterates, “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” The lesson Jesus is articulating pertains to fruitfulness.
Jesus says, “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” In the context of His Father being “the vinedresser” Jesus is telling them how the Father works in their lives so that they’ll yield fruit.
Before we get to this, it would be helpful for us to quickly take a moment and define what Jesus means when He discusses fruit. In a broad sense Jesus is speaking practically of what His presence in our lives should yield through our lives. Again, in the analogy Jesus is the vine. We are the branches. And fruit is what’s produced from this connection.
By its very definition fruit is what a branch naturally yields from its relationship with the vine. The vine produces fruit through a branch. As a byproduct of this connection fruit is not manufactured or forced by a branch. Fruit is yielded. It’s an organic manifestation.
Beyond this, fruit is the evidence of life. A dead branch will never yield fruit. Additionally, a branch is alive for only one reason — it’s connected to the vine. The vine provides everything necessary for life! The point is that Jesus, as the vine, is the source of our spiritual lives!
Generally speaking, the fruit naturally produced through your relationship with Jesus can be all kind of things. As the evidence of life fruit can be the product of evangelism — souls being saved as you shine His light into a dark world or Christian service. Fruit can manifest as the praises of your limps, the raising of Godly children, a manifestation of generosity, etc.
More specifically, in Galatians 5:22-23, Paul builds off this analogy by describing “the fruit of the Spirit” as mainly being “love” before then adding things like “joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Later on in Ephesians 5:9 Paul will include both “righteousness and truth” as also being “fruit of the Spirit.”
Because many get the implications of this illustration wrong, let me repeat… A branch doesn’t make fruit! It is the vine that produces fruit through the branch. The branch is really nothing more than a conduit. The branch’s only job is to stay connected to the vine.
It’s not an accident this idea of fruit is also described in Scripture as Christlikeness or Godliness. The “fruit of the Spirit” is really nothing more than a list describing the person and character of the Holy Spirit. While the law employs a list of commands to obey to become more like God, Jesus offers a relationship with Him that naturally yields Godliness.
You see the only way for your life to become more like Jesus is for Jesus to manifest through your life. Think of it like this… It’s not an accident we refer to grapes as the fruit of the vine and not the fruit of the branch! When it’s all said and done the “fruit of the Spirit” manifesting in your life is impossible without the working of the Spirit of the fruit.
The simple reality is fruit is always characteristic of the vine itself. Logically, an apple tree produces apples while an orange tree yields oranges. In much the same way, Godly fruit manifesting from your life is nothing more than the evidence of God’s direct involvement. Christlikeness can only be produced from a branch connected to Christ Himself.
Once more is all of this follows a natural order. Have you ever seen a branch struggling to yield fruit? No! All a branch does is hang out on the vine and fruit organically results.
So with this idea in mind… How does God insure a branch yields all the fruit it can from the nutrients it draws from the vine? First, Jesus says in verse 2, “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away.” Sadly, this is not the best translation into English.
In the Greek the word we have “takes away” — which falsely implies the destruction of the branch — would be better translated as “to lift up.” What Jesus is referring to was a moment whereby the vinedresser — in the process of tending to his vineyard — runs across a branch that’s in need of repair. Since the branch is on the ground, the vinedresser lifts up the branch, tends to any damage, and repositions the branch so that it can bear necessary fruit.
Sometimes as a branch this world knocks us down. Sure, we’re still connected to the vine, but we’ve been buried under a mountain of cares. We’ve fallen, gotten dirty, ended up down in the dumps. And yet, since the branch is no longer in a place to yield fruit, the Father comes along, lifts us up, cleans us off, and restores us to a place of health and fruitfulness.
But that’s not all the vinedresser does… Jesus also says that even the “branch that bears fruit” requires “pruning” so “that it may bear more fruit!” Concerning even healthy branches there are times when saplings naturally emerge. While not all bad, because a sapling isn’t necessary they do end up minimizing productivity by diverting resources from the fruit.
In such a situation, as the vinedresser tends to his vineyard, he will lovingly prune a branch of anything that prohibits the best fruit possible from being produced. While the pruning of dead saplings (sin) is obvious, the calculous of the pruner centers not only on what’s good or bad for the branch, but what’s good and best for the yielding of fruit.
Along this same theme, Hebrews 12:1-2, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
In the context of Jesus being the vine and you and I the branches — with the role of the Father as the vinedresser working in our lives to maximize fruitfulness established, Jesus answers the obvious and age-old question… As a branch what’s my role?
John 15:4-5, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”
The application of this analogy for the branch is simple. Since a “branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine,” the branch really has only one job — “abide in the vine!” In the Greek this word “abide” means to remain in place and to not depart, staying and remaining. The word implies the continuance of state and position, a continuing connection.
Jesus’ point is simple… Since fruit is produced by the vine working itself through the branches, the only role of a branch is to “abide in the vine!” Please know nothing good or Godly, noble or righteous originates in you. Jesus says, “Without Me you can do nothing!”
It’s only logical that without the vine there is no life in the branch, yet alone fruit! In the same way without God there is no Godliness. Without Christ there is no Christlikeness. Without the Spirit how could you ever hope to see spiritual growth. This phrase “you can do nothing” can be translated as “without Me you don’t have the power (dynamai) to do anything!”
As a branch your relationship with Jesus as the vine and connection to Him is a non-negotiable — it’s essential! And it’s because this is the case your focus should not be on bearing fruit, but simply abiding in Him knowing one is impossible apart from the other.
The truth is that abiding is of such importance for someone to be a disciple that Jesus continues… John 15:6, “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.”
While there is no mistaking the strong warning presented in this verse, we should refrain from building concrete doctrine or dogma off the continuation of what is simply an analogy.
Don’t forget Jesus is speaking to His disciples in order to stress how abiding in the vine was essential for fruitfulness. To hammer this home He continues the illustration by saying a branch that isn’t abiding “is withered, cast out, gathered, and thrown into the fire.” His point is to emphasize the fact there are no true disciples who do not abide in Him.
With this in mind, there is a point that should be considered… While you might consider yourself to have a relationship with Jesus, do you see any fruit of this relationship? The reason this is important is a branch without fruit is likely a branch that isn’t abiding.
“Ok Pastor Zach, how do I abide in Christ?” John 15:7-8, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.”
Not only is Jesus saying the purpose of “bearing fruit” is to bring God glory and not yourself, notice the key connection Jesus makes between “abiding in Him” and “His words abiding in you.” Because abiding spoke of the continuation of your relationship with Jesus, practically we understand this happens through an abiding in His Word.
Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living, powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” The Word of God has the power for transformation!
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