“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.” (John 15:1, NKJV)
We’ve seen Jesus described as the Word, the Lamb of God, the Bread of life, the Light of the world, the good Shepherd, and the Resurrection and the Life. Each of these depictions helps us to understand the person and work of Jesus as the Christ. Each contributes another reason for resting in Jesus that we may have life in His name.
The final image from John’s Gospel that we will consider is Jesus’s claim to be the “true vine.” In it we find the work of the triune God for our salvation. The Father plants the vine. The Son is the vine. The Spirit unites to the vine.
Psalm 80 begins by addressing God as the Shepherd of Israel. He is their God and they are His people. God claimed them as a people for His own possession and prospered them. “You have brought a vine out of Egypt; You have cast out the nations, and planted it. You prepared room for it, and caused it to take deep root, and it filled the land. The hills were covered with its shadow, and the mighty cedars with its boughs. She sent out her boughs to the Sea, and her branches to the River” (Psa. 80:8–11).
But God had turned His back on His people. Why? Because they had forsaken God. They had broken covenant with Him. The prayer of the psalmist is the refrain of the psalm: “Restore us, O LORD God of hosts; cause Your face to shine, and we shall be saved!” (Psalm 80:3, 7, 19) The plea is that God would grant them life; for apart from Him they perish. “Then we will not turn back from You; revive us, and we will call upon Your name” (Psa. 80:18).
The psalmist refers to the vine as a “son.” “Turn again, O God of hosts! Look down from heaven, and see; have regard for this vine, the stock that your right hand planted, and for the son whom you made strong for yourself” (Psa. 80:14–15, ESV). The psalmist continues his plea: “Let Your hand be upon the man of Your right hand, upon the son of man whom You made strong for Yourself” (Psa. 80:17).
We turn the page to the New Testament to hear Jesus declare Himself to be the true vine, and it all fits into place. Jesus is the vine given by the Father in answer to Psalm 80. Israel had broken covenant. Jesus had kept covenant. He is the true vine. He is the Chosen One of God. In Him is life.
As the sole source of life, only through faith in Him can we have life and that abundant. Only by being united to Him by the Holy Spirit in the purpose of God the Father can we bear fruit of obedience and faithfulness and godliness. After declaring Himself the true vine, Jesus turns to us and says, “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” (John 15:5). Jesus wants us to bear fruit that is authentic, arising from union with Him, much fruit that abounds by His workmanship of grace, and lasting fruit that endures to the glory of God.
God is the vinedresser who plants the vine and tends the vine. Often when we receive a plant as a gift it comes with a little plastic placard embedded in the soil. On the placard is found the name of the plant and a description, and sometimes directions for its care. The Father has included such a placard here. It identifies the plant as Jesus Christ, the true Vine in which life – eternal, abundant, and free – can be found for all who will believe.
1. What does Jesus communicate about Himself by saying He is the true vine?
2. What does it mean to abide in Jesus as the vine?
Scripture quotations marked NKJV are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Those marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.