Loving Father, may I have the power to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge (Ephesians 3:18-19).
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.”
A full Passover moon shows the way for Jesus and His disciples as they depart the Upper Room (John 14:31). They are walking toward Jerusalem’s Sushan Gate through which they will descend to the Kidron Valley, up the Mount of Olives to a garden where Jesus likes to pray. But Bible scholars suggest they will first stop at the temple that is kept open for the thousands of Passover pilgrims filling the city.
Jewish historian Flavius Josephus notes that at the temple entrance there was the image of a golden grape vine “with its branches hanging down from a great height, the largeness and fine workmanship of which was a surprising sight to the spectators.” (Josephus, Antiquities) Elsewhere Josephus says that from this golden grape vine “clusters of grapes hung as tall as a man’s height.” (Josephus, The Jewish War)
The grape vine had long been the symbol of the nation of Israel; various Old Testament writers use it to represent Israel (Psalm 80:8-16; Isaiah 5:1-7; Isaiah 27:2; Jeremiah 2:21; Jeremiah 12:10; Ezekiel 15:1-8; Ezekiel 17:1-21; Ezekiel 19:10-14; Hosea 10:1-2). Jesus frequently used the grape vine to signify the nation of Israel in His teaching (Matthew 20:1-16; Matthew 21:28-41; Mark 12:1-9; Luke 13:6-9; Luke 20:9-16).
We can only imagine the astonishment of the disciples in today’s scripture when Jesus refers to Himself as the true and genuine grape vine. He takes up the ancient symbol and applies it to Himself saying, “I am the true vine.” Jesus likely has in mind many Old Testament scriptures about Israel as the grape vine, but on this Passover night Psalm 80 would have stood out: “You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground for it; it took deep root and filled the land” (Psalm 80: 8-9). God brought Israel out of Egypt and cared for it, but the nation had not produced spiritual fruit. God then promised to raise up a Deliverer who would fulfill the role of Israel and give life to His people and the world: “But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand (Emphasis added.), the one whom you made strong for yourself… Restore us, O LORD God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved” (Psalm 80:17, 19).
The “one at your right hand” is none other than God’s promised Messiah. It is Jesus at God’s right hand, the true vine who will fulfill Israel’s redemptive mission for the world. N. T. Wright comments: “The living God comes into this world in the person of Israel’s representative, to do for Israel and for the world what they could not do for themselves to be the meeting between the Creator and his creatures.” (N. T. Wright, The Day the Revolution Began)
Jesus did for Israel what the nation could not do, and He does for us what we cannot do. Jesus saves us and makes God’s light shine upon us! As we learn to “abide” in Jesus, His very life flows through us, the branches, bearing fruit for the world!
- Jesus acted as Israel’s representative, doing for Israel what it could not do
for itself. How do I understand Jesus acting as my representative today,doing for me what I cannot do for myself?
O most merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother, may I know Thee more clearly, love Thee more dearly, and follow Thee more nearly, day by day.
Richard of Chichester (1197-1253)