The Word Made Fresh
1“I am the true vine. My Father is the vinedresser 2who is removing every branch in me that produces no fruit. He prunes back every branch that does produce fruit so that they will bear even more fruit. 3You have already been pruned by the things I have told you. 4You are part of me as I am of you, and just as a branch can’t produce fruit by itself unless it’s connected to the vine, neither can you accomplish anything unless you remain part of me. 5I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who are connected to me, and I to them, will produce much fruit, but apart from me you can’t produce anything. 6Whoever is not connected with me is cast away like a barren branch and withers. The branches are gathered and thrown into the fire and burned. 7But if you remain with me, and let my words remain in you, you can ask anything you wish, and it will be done for you. 8And my Father is honored when you produce results and show that you are my followers. 9My Father has loved me, and I have loved you. Live in my love for you. 10If you obey my commandments you will live in my love for you, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commandments and live in his love. 11I tell you these things so that you will bring me much joy, and so that your joy will be full.
12“I order you to love one another as I have loved you. 13There is no greater love than to give your life for your friend. 14You are my friends if you obey me. 15I no longer refer to you as servants. Servants don’t have to know what their master is doing. But you are my friends because I’ve told you everything my Father has told me. 16I chose you – you didn’t choose me, and I sent you out to bear lasting fruit, and the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 17I’m telling you this so that you will love one another.
18“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. 19If you belonged to the world the world would love you as its own. But you don’t belong to the world because I have chosen you to be apart from the world, and that is why the world will hate you. 20Remember what I said about servants not being greater than their masters. So, if they harassed me they’ll do the same to you; but if they keep my word, they’ll keep yours, too. 21They will do this to you because of me, and because they don’t know the One who sent me. 22If I hadn’t come and spoken to them they wouldn’t be guilty of sin, but I have spoken, and they have no excuse. 23Whoever hates me hates my Father. 24If I hadn’t done in front of them the things that no one else did, they wouldn’t know they have sinned. Now that they know they hate both me and my Father. 25That fulfills what is written in their own law – ‘They hated me for no reason.’
26“When the Helper comes, the one I will send to you from the Father, he will speak for me. 27And you are to speak for me also, because you have been with me from the beginning.”
1-11: “I am the vine” is the seventh and last of the “I am” statements (see also 6:35, 8:12, 10:9, 11:25, and 13:19-20). It is a fitting metaphor with which to leave his disciples, for it reminds them of the connection they, the branches, have with Christ, the vine. They must depend on him for the power to bear fruit. As long as that connection exists, they can ask whatever they wish and the nourishment they need will be provided.
12-17: As he is connected to them, so they must remain connected to one another through love.
18-25: On the other hand, their connection with one another heightens their separation from “the world.” “The world” occurs 64 times in John (only 16 times in Matthew, Mark, and Luke combined), and is one of the primary concepts in his understanding of Jesus. In the first half of the gospel “the world” was, in general, a reference to Jesus’ mission field — “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (3:17). This sentiment is repeated almost verbatim at 12:47, but then the relationship between Jesus and the world changes at 13:1 (“Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them until the end”), and at 14:17 (“This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive”) the rift is complete. From that point on Jesus and “the world” are separated, and the disciples become those he has recruited to be “in the world but not of the world” (see, for example, 17:15-16). In these verses he is warning them that they will be persecuted, and “the world” will be their enemy.
26-27: The Helper, or Advocate, was first mentioned at 14:16. Jesus tells them that the Helper will team with them to testify on his behalf. In that way his witness in “the world” will not end with his crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension.
We are the branches connected to the vine. We maintain that connection through worship and studying the scriptures. Without that connection we are worthless to God and can do nothing that is helpful to, or lasting in, the world around us.