John 15 –
Tending the Garden
As we move into John 15 in our study of John’s Gospel, we are reminded that Jesus’ “Upper Room Discourse” is continuing through chapter 16. However, there is an important transition here at the beginning of John 15. In 14:31, Jesus is quoted saying “Arise, let us go from here.” This synchronizes with Matt. 26:30, Mark 14:26, and Lu. 22:39 as Jesus moves toward the Garden where He will pray. John alone gives us the significant teachings of chapter 15-16 that occurred along the way. The deep truths found in these verses take us to the core of our spiritual life in Christ and there is much to learn.
Walking Through the Gate
The Hebrew people have a rich agrarian tradition – groves of olives and grape vineyards quickly come to mind as being very typical of the landscape. As Jesus and His disciples approach the Mount of Olives, the view likely included olive groves grave vines. The Vineyard is a great metaphor of spiritual life to the Jewish people. Chuck Swindoll suggests that no illustration could touch the Hebrew soul more than this picture of vineyard and vinedresser. Much or the OT uses the vineyard picture to underscore Israel’s failures. Compare for example Isaiah 5:1-7:
- How did God care for the vine?
- What did the vine produce?
- Who was the vine?
- What fruit was God seeking?
- What did God find?
In John 15:1, they have finished the Passover Feast, and the customary singing of the Hallel Psalms (Psa. 115-118). Perhaps they’re singing Psa. 118, leaving the upper room probably late at night, walking down the path and across the Kidron River towards Mt. As they walk along, Jesus transforms this vineyard imagery into a beautiful picture of the fruits of Redemption.
The sobering question & answer session of Jn.13-14 (“Lord, where are you going?… how we survive?”) is over, and now the men can share a few moments of close fellowship with the Savior as they walk. They are alone, enjoying close fellowship with Jesus, finding common ground and agreement, perhaps gaining a sense of resolve, a renewed or new sense of direction in life. Jesus is God, He knows the end from the beginning, and He knows that the disciples are headed for extreme difficulties and they need inner strength based on faith to continue on with what they have been called to do. We in hindsight know they are hearing the last words of Christ before His death, full of deep meaning and importance.
- The vine is Christ, the Messiah – Psa. 80:8-18 speaks of the vine in reference to Israel, but then shifts the emphasis to the Messiah where real fruit will result.
- What does the vine produce? Branches, believers redeemed by faith in the finished work of Christ on the Cross. Israel failed through the centuries to produce fruit.
- How does God care for the vine? 15:2, He removes dead (unredeemed) branches and prunes (nurtures, strengthens) the live branches. The branches have to be attached to and drawing life from the Vine.
- What do the branches produce? Fruit, abiding in Christ, becoming more like Him, Glorifying God, and bringing more believers onto the Vine.
John 15:1-8 – Abiding in Christ
In John 15:4, Jesus tells the disciples (us included) to “abide” in Him. So, what does it mean to you – right where you are in your life – to abide in Christ? John 15:3, Jesus says to the disciples that they are “already clean” – a repeat of this remarkable phrase spoken to Peter in Jn. 13:10. This confirms that this passage is related to genuine believers, people who have understood their sinful guilt and their eternal destiny ending in hell and separated from God, and then understood that Jesus died on the Cross to pay that penalty, so that by faith we can be redeemed and thus have an eternal life in God’s presence.
This term “abide” is used by John 11 times in John 15, a strong emphasis by God’s inspiration to get this important mindset clearly communicated. The Greek word, “meno”, means to stay in place, abide, remain, continue, endure. John uses the word to express the permanence of the believer’s relationship to Christ. In effect, the challenge is to “park and stay put”, put down deep roots (Psa. 1), rejoice in dwelling in God’s presence (Psa. 91:1).
So, how do we abide – what steps should we take, is there a formula to follow? Are today’s typical exuberant worship songs what is needed? Or what about being a monk in a monastery? Or today’s norm, occasionally reading a devotional with a verse or two along with a “lovely thought”. While much of our “effort” falls short, we need to focus on Christ, being “like Him”. Paul states it clearly in Phil. 3:10, “…that I may know Him.”
Something to think about: Chuck Swindoll comes in from the other direction with his book So You Want to Be Like Christ? He covers eight essentials to focus on as we seek Christlikeness:
- Intimacy: Deeping our lives
- Simplicity: Uncluttering our minds
- Silence& Solitude: Slowing the pace
- Surrender: Releasing the grip
- Prayer: Calling out
- Humility: Bowing low
- Self-Control: Holding back
- Sacrifice: Giving Over
- Look at these verses in the Gospel of John and write some thoughts about how we should understand “abiding”: John 6:56; 8:31, 35; 14:10.
- How many times do you see the various forms of the word in John 15? Note each in your journal and connect the line of thinking that you see.
- Look in James 1 for the concept of abiding. The Greek word here is a “superlative” form of “meno” – “hupomonei”. How is it expressed in James? How is it different from John 15?
John 15:9-11 – Abiding in Obedience
In John 15:9, Jesus introduces the aspect of obedience into abiding in Him. Obedience in this case is an expression of our abiding in Christ and experiencing His love. Jesus gave us the perfect model for obedience by the love He shared with the Father, which was expressed by His obedience of the Father. Our obedience in this context becomes the key to our abiding in Christ. Looking at the Bible’s complete view of God’s law, we see that this is a manifestation of His love for us. When disobedience occurs, God doesn’t withdraw His love from us, but we withdraw from the enjoyment and blessing of His love. John elaborates on this connection often (4:34; 5:19; 6:38; 8:29, 55; 10:17-18).
Note that this natural extension of abiding in Christ with loving obedience has its natural result by believers producing fruit and experiencing joy in the process. Remember, John’s purpose in writing his Gospel is “that your joy might be full” (1 Jn. 1:4) and Jesus’ reason for teaching these things in the first place (Jn. 15:11).
Our tendency is to very “obedient” when we’re face with our own crises – we seek Him out and are focused on listening and pleasing Him as petition His solution to the problem. It’s different when “cruising through life”, enjoying the pleasures of our place in the world, but doing little to nurture the depth of our relationship with Christ. The world can be distracting very easily if we let it. Personal spiritual discipline is the key.
Bible Study Journal
How do we know that we abiding in Christ? Is it just a feeling we happen to have? No, there are evidences which John has show us here. Look up these thoughts (from Warren Weirsbe) and make notes in journal about how this shows up in your life.
? You produce ___ (Jn. 15:2)
? You experience the Father’s ______ so that you will bear ____ _____ (Jn. 15:2).
? Your ________ are answered (Jn. 15:7).
? You experience a ________ ______ for Christ and for other believers (Jn. 15:9; Jn. 15:12-13).
? You experience ______ (Jn. 15:11).”
John 15:12-25 – Abiding in Relationships
As Jesus is comforting His disciples (and us) about how we can anticipate living an “abundant life” (Jn. 10:10), we are reminded in these verses that we experience this life in Christ while we are “in the world”, constantly engaged in relationships with those around us that God has led to be in our “sphere of influence”. We need to be very clear about our relationship first of all with Jesus Christ, but it is just as important that this love relationship extend to our brothers & sisters in Christ.
Jesus teaches us that we should experience growing intimacy in three ways:
- Starting as Servants – Jn. 13:13, Jesus demonstrated His relationship to the Disciples by being a Servant to them
- Growing as Friends – Jn. 15:15, After sharing the Last Supper, they were no longer servants, His disciples are Friends
- Maturing as Brothers – Jn. 20:17, After His resurrection, He refers to the men as Brothers
In Jn. 15:18-25, Jesus finishes this portion of the Upper Room Discourse with a reminder that we as Believers in Christ also have a relationship with the unbelieving world. This relationship will controlled Satan and hatred, a rejection of the Gospel message, and their rejection of God. That this difficult relationship will include not just rejection but also persecution just makes the news more difficult. Their sin has “no excuse”, a sobering indictment which is amplified by Paul in Rom. 1:18-32. Just as Jesus was in the world and rejected by them (Jn. 1:10-11), so we experience the same rejection. This difficult closing to the Lord’s thoughts about relationships leads to some very good news that takes us in John 16, and more about the special relationship we will have with the Holy Spirit.
- Eph. 2:2-3
- 2 Cor. 4:4
- 1 Jn. 2:15-16
- 1 Jn. 5:19