|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
15:1-8 Jesus Christ is the Vine, the true Vine. The union of the human and Divine natures, and the fulness of the Spirit that is in him, resemble the root of the vine made fruitful by the moisture from a rich soil. Believers are branches of this Vine. The root is unseen, and our life is hid with Christ; the root bears the tree, diffuses sap to it, and in Christ are all supports and supplies. The branches of the vine are many, yet, meeting in the root, are all but one vine; thus all true Christians, though in place and opinion distant from each other, meet in Christ. Believers, like the branches of the vine, are weak, and unable to stand but as they are borne up. The Father is the Husbandman. Never was any husbandman so wise, so watchful, about his vineyard, as God is about his church, which therefore must prosper. We must be fruitful. From a vine we look for grapes, and from a Christian we look for a Christian temper, disposition, and life. We must honour God, and do good; this is bearing fruit. The unfruitful are taken away. And even fruitful branches need pruning; for the best have notions, passions, and humours, that require to be taken away, which Christ has promised to forward the sanctification of believers, they will be thankful, for them. The word of Christ is spoken to all believers; and there is a cleansing virtue in that word, as it works grace, and works out corruption. And the more fruit we bring forth, the more we abound in what is good, the more our Lord is glorified. In order to fruitfulness, we must abide in Christ, must have union with him by faith. It is the great concern of all Christ's disciples, constantly to keep up dependence upon Christ, and communion with him. True Christians find by experience, that any interruption in the exercise of their faith, causes holy affections to decline, their corruptions to revive, and their comforts to droop. Those who abide not in Christ, though they may flourish for awhile in outward profession, yet come to nothing. The fire is the fittest place for withered branches; they are good for nothing else. Let us seek to live more simply on the fulness of Christ, and to grow more fruitful in every good word and work, so may our joy in Him and in his salvation be full.
Verses 1-10. -
(7) The parable of the vine and its branches. Incorporation of the disciples into one personality with himself. The image of the vine may have been suggested by some visible object. Either of the hypotheses of place would furnish a reminder of the nature and culture of the vine. Thus around the windows of the guest-chamber the vine may have thrown its tendrils, or on the slopes of Olivet the vineyards may have been prominent objects, or the burning heaps of vine-prunings may have suggested the idea. Again, if they were pausing in some apartments of the temple-court, the golden vine, the image of Israel, upon the gates may have supplied the point of departure. But our Lord needed no such help to his imagination, and it is by no means necessary to find an occasion for his imagery. The fact that he had the fruit of the vine before him, and had already made it symbolic of his sacrificial death, may have brought the thought nearer to the disciples. But the most simple explanation is that the vine was the image of Israel. The prophets and psalms abound with this reference (Isaiah 5:1, etc.; Ezekiel 19:10; Psalm 80:8-19), so that our Lord was giving a new meaning to a familiar figure. "The vine" was the beautiful image of that theocratic and sacramental community, which had its center in the altar and ark of testimony and the holy place; and the fruit of the vine was conspicuous in all the symbolic relations which, through priesthood and ritual enactments, brought individual Israelites into relation with the reconciled God. Here Christ says, "I;" but we see from Ver. 5 that the branches, which by reason of relation to him have and draw their life from him (or, to use his own words, "I and the branches," and "the branches in me"), constitute the veritable "vine" of the covenant. Verse 1. - The vine of the Lord of hosts (Psalm 80.) brought forth wild grapes (Isaiah 5, Ezekiel 19:10); Israel became "an empty vine" (Hosea 10:1). The failure of Israel to realize the ideal leads our Lord, as the true Israel of God, to say, I am the veritable (or, ideal) vine, including (as the context shows) in the idea of his complete Personality all the branches that derive their life from him. I with the branches, I involving my relation to the branches, and theirs to me - I as the Life-principle of humanity, together with those who are living in me - constitute and are the veritable vine of prophecy, the true Israel of God. So that this passage, from Vers. 1-10, denotes and expounds with all detail the idea elsewhere expressed by the head and the members of a body. Sometimes the idea of the parts predominates over the idea of the unity, and sometimes the unity triumphs over the parts; but in the relation between Christ and the people of his love they are often lost sight of in him, and he becomes the only Personality. The "I" of this passage is not that of the eternal Logos, nor is it the mere humanity, nor is it simply the Divine-human Personality, but the new existence which, by union with him, formed one personage with him, - the believer being united to him as he to the Father. My Father is the Husbandman, not simply the ἀμπελουργός, or vinedresser, but also γεωργός, the owner of the land as well. It is a term applied in connection with the traditional significance of the vine to the head of the theocratic family. In Isaiah 5. it is the "Lord of hosts;" in 2 Chronicles 26:10 and in the parable of the vinedressers it is applied to the rulers of the people. The Arians were wrong in concluding from this a difference of essence between the Father and Son. The vine dearly includes the branches; and the owner of the vineyard, who is also the dresser of the vine, deals here with the whole reality. All, however, which the Husbandman is said in Ver. 2 to effect is the taking away of the fruitless though proud branch, and the cleansing and gentle pruning of the branch that beareth fruit. Now, Christ, as the Son, has all judgment committed to him, and, as the great Organ of Divine providence and rule in the Church, he is the Administrator of discipline. Christ is not disclaiming the operations which he in other places assumes, nor representing his own Personality as perfectly passive in the matter, but he is claiming for Jehovah of hosts the same relation to the true Vine as he sustained to the degenerate vine of the old covenant; but he calls him "my Father." Alford says, "The material creations of God are only inferior examples of that finer spiritual life and organism in which the creature is raised up to partake of the Divine nature" (see Hugh Macmillan, D.D., 'The True Vine').
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
I am the true vine,.... The fruit of which he had been just speaking of at supper with his disciples; and then informs them, that he himself is the vine from whence that fruit must be expected, which should be partook of by them in his Father's kingdom; for though Christ may be compared to a vine for its tenderness, weakness, and being subject to cuttings and prunings; all which may express his outward meanness in his birth, parentage, and education, Which exposed him to the contempt of men; the weakness of the human nature in itself, his being encompassed with the infirmities of his people, and his sufferings and death for their sakes; yet he is rather called so with respect to his fruitfulness: for as the vine is a fruitful tree, brings forth and bears fruit in clusters, so Christ, as man and Mediator, is full of grace and truth, of all spiritual blessings, and exceeding great and precious promises; from him come the wine of divine love, of Gospel truths and Gospel ordinances, the various blessings of grace, and the joys of heaven, which are the best wine reserved by him till last: Christ is the "true" vine; not that he is really and literally so, without a figure; but he is, as the Syriac renders it, , "the vine of truth". Just as Israel is called a noble vine, wholly a right seed, , "a seed of truth", Jeremiah 2:21; right genuine seed; or, as the Septuagint render it, "a vine", bringing forth fruit, "wholly true"; to which the allusion may be here. Christ is the noble vine, the most excellent of vines, wholly a right seed, in opposition to, and distinction from, the wild and unfruitful, or degenerate plant of a strange vine: to him agree all the properties of a right and real vine; he really and truly communicates life, sap, juice, nourishment, and fruitfulness to the several branches which are in him. The metaphor Christ makes use of was well known to the Jews; for not only the Jewish church is often compared to a vine, but the Messiah too, according to them: thus the Targumist explains the phrase in Psalm 80:15, "the branch thou madest strong for thyself", of the King Messiah: and indeed, by comparing it with Psalm 80:17 it seems to be the true sense of the passage (g). The Cabalistic doctors say (h), that the Shekinah is called, "a vine"; see Genesis 49:11; where the Jews observe (i), the King Messiah is so called. The Jews (k) say, there was a golden vine that stood over the gate of the temple, and it was set upon props; and whoever offered a leaf, or a grape, or a cluster, (that is, a piece of gold to the temple, in the form of either of these,) bought it, and hung it upon it. And of this vine also Josephus (l) makes mention, as being in Herod's temple; of which he says, that it was over the doors (of the temple), under the edges of the wall, having clusters hanging down from it on high, which filled spectators with wonder as for the size of it, so for the art with which it was made. And elsewhere he says (m), the inward door in the porch was all covered with gold, and the whole wall about it; and it had over it golden vines, from whence hung clusters as big as the stature of a man: now whether our Lord may refer to this, being near the temple, and in view of it, and point to it, and call himself the true vine, in distinction from it, which was only the representation of one; or whether he might take occasion, from the sight of a real vine, to compare himself to one, nay be considered; since it was usual with Christ, upon sight or mention of natural things, to take the opportunity of treating of spiritual ones: though it may be rather this discourse of the vine and branches might be occasioned by his speaking of the fruit of the vine, at the time he ate the passover, and instituted the ordinance of the supper.
And my Father is the husbandman; or vinedresser. So God is called by Philo the Jew (n), , "a good husbandman"; and the same the Targumist says of the word of the Lord (o),
"and my word shall be unto them, , "as a good husbandman".''
Now Christ says this of his Father, both with respect to himself the vine, and with respect to the branches that were in him: he was the husbandman to him; he planted the vine of his human nature, and filled it with all the graces of the Spirit; he supported it, upheld it, and made it strong for himself, for the purposes of his grace, and for his own glory; and took infinite delight in it, being to him a pleasant plant, a plant of renown. The concern this husbandman has with the branches, is expressed in the following verse.
(g) Vid. R. Mosem Hadersan in Galatin. de Arcan. Cathol. verit, l. 8. c. 4. (h) Zohar in Exod. fol. 70. 2. & Cabala denudata, par. 1. p. 241. (i) Zohar in Gen fol. 127. 3.((k) Misn. Middot, c. 3. sect. 8. T. Bab. Cholin, fol. 90. 2. & Tamid, fol. 29. 1, 2.((l) Antiqu. l. 15. c. 11. sect. 3.((m) De Bello Jud. l. 5. c. 5. sect. 4. (n) Leg. Allegor. l. 1. p. 48. (o) Targum in Hosea 11. 4.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Joh 15:1-27. Discourse at the Supper Table Continued.
1-8. The spiritual oneness of Christ and His people, and His relation to them as the Source of all their spiritual life and fruitfulness, are here beautifully set forth by a figure familiar to Jewish ears (Isa 5:1, &c.).
I am the true vine—of whom the vine of nature is but a shadow.
my Father is the husbandman—the great Proprietor of the vineyard, the Lord of the spiritual kingdom. (It is surely unnecessary to point out the claim to supreme divinity involved in this).
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