I AM the True Vine

I AM the True Vine

“I AM the True Vine, and my Father is the Gardener.” (John 15:1)

Jesus once again declares the Great I AM in public for all to hear! This isn’t the first time. He has said things like this a lot lately… “Before Abraham was I AM; I AM the Bread of Life; I AM the Light of the World; I AM the Door; I AM the Good Shepherd; I AM the Resurrection and the Life; I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life.” And here he is doing it again, declaring himself equal to the Eternal Yahweh, the Name that is reserved for the Holy One, the personal Name given by God at the burning bush with Moses.

This time Jesus claims, “I AM the True Vine,” once again referring to Yahweh, professing a oneness with the Name of  the Lord. Jesus quickly follows up this claim with something we knew already… “My Father is the Gardener.” The prophets have told us in Scripture about how the Father God had planted a vine that was once a “splendid vine” (Isaiah 27:2), a “noble vine” (Ezekiel 17:8), a “fruitful and leafy vine admired for her height and the number of her branches” (Ezekiel 19:10).

The teachers have been telling us for ages that the vine represents the nation of Israel, and that the Father planted it with great care and love. But then the prophets are clear about how this vine, once nurtured by the hand of God, was then rejected by the gardener God because of infidelity and idolatry (Isaiah 5:1). Hosea says it best: “Israel was a luxuriant vine, yielding plenty of fruit. But the more the fruit increased, the more altars he built. Theirs is a divided heart.” (Hosea 10:1-2).

Many Jews have asked, did Yahweh, who once was the Guardian of the vine (Isaiah 27:2), reject us forever, or are we still waiting for another vine from heaven? But here Jesus is saying that somehow he is the True Vine, the genuine vine! Is Jesus claiming to fulfill the prophetic words in Psalm 80: “Come back, we beg you, O God of Heaven’s Armies! Look down from heaven and see our plight. Take care of this grapevine that you yourself have planted, this son you have raised for yourself.” (Ps. 80:14-15).

Is Jesus saying that the Guardian of Israel has finally looked down and hand-planted a true Son of Israel, a True Vine that is a divine replacement for the ancient vine of Israel, to make her fruitful once again?

Surely Jesus knows his scripture, he must realize the extreme claim he is making. This is either a false claim and Jesus is a charlatan, or it’s true. Jesus seems to be saying that he came down from heaven to be the long-awaited authentic vine, to bring Israel back, so Israel can return to being a planting of the Lord. God once said that Israel became “a vine that is alien to me.” (Jeremiah 2:21), because “many shepherd have laid my vineyard waste.” (Jeremiah 12:10). By being the True Vine, Jesus is saying that he is here to restore a relationship with God, so that Israel is no longer alien to God, no longer estranged from the Lord.

So, according to Jesus, the Father is the gardener, and the Son is the divine representative of Israel planted by the Father, through whom Israel will flourish once again. Is this the time when the words of the Psalm are fulfilled, when the Lord indeed looked down from heaven and came back to us as the psalmist cried? This does seem to make sense since it appears the Father has been preparing the ground for a long time, plowing it through the years with His faithful prophets.

And then when the ground was fully plowed and prepared, He dropped the heavenly vine seed into the earth. Then our gardener continued nurturing this little seed till it grew roots and broke ground. God has been protecting and tending this seedling with water and sun and tender care until now. And soon enough, the young vine Jesus has grown into a mature planting of the Lord, a strong vine, the true spokesman for Israel, ready to grow branches and bear fruit. The question was asked, is this Vine preparing to circle the earth, or just Israel? Perhaps the children of Abraham are going to be blessed with fruitfulness from the True Vine in order to bless the nations.

And now, is it time once again to be blessed and “admired for the number of her branches” (Ezekiel 19)? Jesus is saying that any who follow him are his branches, intimately joined to him and living in him, receiving the life needed to grow and bear fruit. And now the gardener’s work is not done. He is pruning these branches, cutting off the unproductive ones, and cutting back the productive branches so they can bear even more fruit. The True Vine depends on the Father to continue His care of the Lord’s vineyard.

What kind of fruit does the Vine want to produce? What does the fruit of the Vine look like? It looks like love. Jesus is saying that the fruit of love is what brings life and health and vitality. Love is the only fruit that will last and not rot on the vine. Jesus is stating the obvious… the branches cannot bear this eternal fruit unless they are joined to the Vine. The branches and the Vine are vitally united. Jesus at first called them servants, then he called them friends. Soon he will call them family. You can’t get a more intimate union than that.

Jesus wants to flourish, to add branches to the Vine until the Vine spreads everywhere, a prolific vine that grows around the world. All these branches are related because they are all joined to the same Vine, they grow from the same source. The fruit of love does not grow on those branches that live with the other branches as if they are not related at the core. Some branches are unproductive, and they will perish. Other branches are productive, and they will flourish. Productivity will depend on bearing the fruit of love, which is the heart, the life juice, of the Vine. Love is the vital fruit of the Holy Spirit.

By claiming to be the True Vine, Jesus is stating that it is he for whom we have been waiting, the messiah, the only authentic vine of Israel, as promised so long ago. Jesus is claiming to be the one and only genuine Vine of God, the true Son of Jacob, bringing all of us back into the vineyard of the Lord, destined to encircle the world. Let us shout the wonderful words of Isaiah 12:6: “Cry aloud, O inhabitants of Zion! Ring out your joy! For the great one in the midst of you is the Holy One of Israel!