Sunday Morning Greek Blog

August 7, 2011

“I Am the True Vine” (John 15:1)

Wow! What an incredible, tiring July I had. My kids were with me for the first two weeks, and we had a great time together. Alec got to drive in the big city and learned what hills can do to the speed of a car. I took three days off from work, and we went to Sempeck’s and Papio Fun Center for laser tag, go carts, bowling, mini golf, and other frivolities. I’m glad they were here, and I miss them sorely now.

There was a price to pay, however (besides the cost of making two round trips to Illinois): I spent the last three weeks playing catch up on my secondary work, and for several consecutive days, I was going on minimal sleep. My Greek Bible reading had to be put on hold, but I certainly got my fill of Bible! I did a cold proofread on a Jewish commentary on the Torah, and got to proofread Ezra–Psalms in a King James Version. I guess God wanted to remind there’s still an Old Testament to be reckoned with. The Jewish commentaries are always engaging, because they’re not afraid to tackle anyone who comments on the Torah; from Maimonides (Rambam) to Freud, the authors covered the gamut! I finished off my three-week marathon by editing a devotional guidebook for Christians. It was quite the adventure, to say the least.

Through the sleepless nights and drowsy days, however, I needed an extraordinary strength and endurance that could only come from a connection to the one who said, “I am the True Vine” (Ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ἄμπελος ἡ ἀληθινή egō eimi hē ampelos hē alēthinē), Jesus Christ (how’s that for a segue!). And thus I come to the final chapter, belatedly so, of my discussion of the seven “I Am” statements of Jesus. To recap, here is the table showing the comparisons I have made along the way: (2/13/2012: You can click the “I Am” statement to open the blog post for that statement.)

Table 1: Linking the “I Am” Statements with Jesus’ Miracles

“I Am” Statement

Sign/Miracle

John 6:35: I Am the Bread of Life John 6:1–15: Jesus Feeds the 5000+
John 8:12: I Am the Light of the World John 9:1–12: Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind
John 10:7: I Am the Door of the Sheep John 5:1–15: Healing of the Invalid at Bethesda [Sheep Gate]
John 10:11: I Am the Good Shepherd John 6:16–24: Jesus Walks on Water
John 11:25: I Am the Resurrection and the Life John 11:38–44: Jesus Raises Lazarus from the Dead
John 14:6: I Am the Way, the Truth, and the Life John 4:43–54: Healing of the Official’s Son
John 15:1: I Am the True Vine John 2:1–11: Water into Wine

The connections between the last “I am” statement of Jesus and his first “sign” in John’s Gospel are striking. The most obvious connection that can be made is the thematic parallel of wine/vine. Although the respective words (οἶνος oinos ‘wine’; ἄμπελος ‘vine’) are not found in the opposite passage, there is no mistaking that the vine produces the fruit that would eventually become wine. Ἄμπελος is found nine times in the NT: three times in John 15:1–9; once each in the other three Gospels, all in the same statement of Jesus at the Last Supper, “I will not drink of the fruit of the vine…”; once in James 3:12; and twice in Revelation 14:18–19, where the earth is compared to a vine about to be harvested in God’s wrath.

One verbal parallel is of note in the passages: the word for “clean” and its related word “cleansing” appear in both passages. What makes this significant, in my mind anyway, is that Jesus, seemingly out of the blue in the midst of talking about vines and pruning, makes the statement in John 15:3, “You are
already clean because of the word I have spoken to you” (ἤδη ὑμεῖς καθαροί ἐστε ēdē hymeis katharoi este). The statement does not seem to fit the context very well, unless you make the connection to the water-into-wine pericope. In John 2:6, we learn that the vessels that contained the water turned to wine were those used for “ceremonial purification” (καθαρισμός katharismos) by the Jews. So, as early as John 2, wine is connected with cleansing. Is this a mere coincidence of circumstances? In Matthew 26:28 at the Last Supper, Jesus says that the cup is his blood-covenant for forgiving their sins. The very next verse is where Jesus says he will not drink of the fruit of the vine until he’s in the Father’s kingdom. The vine, then, represents the blood of Jesus and its cleansing power, and I believe that Jesus suggested the same thing with his first miracle, although, as he told his mother, it wasn’t his time yet for him to reveal his purpose.

Skeptical? I could understand, but look at the parallel language in the last part of the vine pericope, especially verse 10. (Note: the pericope comprises John 15:1–17). The NIV series has the paragraph break after verse 8, but the Greek text and several other English versions break the paragraph after verse 10, so I consider verse 10 to close out the first half of the pericope.) The word for “remain” (μένω menō) appears 10 times in the entire pericope, with 9 of those occurrences concentrated in verses 4–10. Jesus speaks of remaining connected to the vine all the way up to verse 10, where he switches things up and says, “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love” (μενεῖτε ἐν τῇ ἀγάπῃ μου meneite en tē agapē
mou). How does Jesus define that love in verse 13? “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friend.” In the very next breath, Jesus calls his disciples his friends. But do they (or we!) understand the implication there? In a very sneaky (if Jesus can be sneaky) sort of way, Jesus again here predicts his death. Remaining in the vine is remaining in the love of God exemplified in the shed blood of Jesus the Messiah.

I want to make one more point here, although there is much more that could be said about the two passages. The water-into-wine and vine pericopes also reflect a theme of God’s miraculous provision in our lives. In John 2, Jesus’ mother, Mary, has faith in her son (as any good Jewish mother would) that he can fix the problem of the wine shortage. Jesus reluctantly obliges, and provides not only an abundance of wine, but an abundance of quality wine such that the steward is incredulous. John closes out the vine pericope with Jesus’ promise of provision for his disciples (vs. 16): “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last (= μένω)—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” This not to undermine the first part of the verse about bearing fruit that will remain; the emphasis here is, I think, that our asking should focus on those things that help us remain in the vine.

What are those things? I think they are very basic: How can I love God more and remain in his love, and how can I love my neighbors more so that they can discover and remain in God’s love. I could elaborate, but I think it’s best to keep it simple, just like Jesus did when he summed up the law and the prophets with the two greatest commandments.

Peace!

Scott Stocking

PS It’s great to back in the blogosphere again!

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5 Comments »

  1. […] for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). We show our faith by the fruit we bear (Matthew 7:15–20; John 15:1–16; Romans 7:4). We demonstrate our faith by what we do (Romans 4; James […]

    Pingback by Redemption and Faithfulness « Sunday Morning Greek Blog — August 14, 2011 @ 5:09 pm | Reply

  2. […] John 15:1 […]

    Pingback by The “I Am” Statements of Jesus « Sunday Morning Greek Blog — November 8, 2011 @ 8:45 pm | Reply

  3. […] John 15:1: I Am the True Vine […]

    Pingback by “I Am the Bread of Life” (John 6:35) « Sunday Morning Greek Blog — February 13, 2012 @ 6:55 pm | Reply

  4. […] John 15:1: I Am the True Vine […]

    Pingback by “I Am the Door of the Sheep”; “I Am the Good Shepherd” (John 10:7, 11) « Sunday Morning Greek Blog — February 13, 2012 @ 7:12 pm | Reply

  5. […] (or people of any other faith or nonfaith for that matter) drinking alcohol in moderation. Jesus, the true vine, did change water into premium alcoholic wine at the wedding in Cana. In my journey to be like […]

    Pingback by Scandalous Living « Sunday Morning Greek Blog — June 24, 2012 @ 6:04 pm | Reply


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