And Jesus said, “I Am” … the true vine
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. …I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
The deliberate “I am” metaphors in John culminate in a peek at the Jesus who not only provides life and light, but who produces fruit in those who believe in Him while they are still on earth.
Jesus and His disciples have just finished celebrating the Last Supper in the Upper Room. On the way to Gethsemane they possibly passed through a vineyard in the Kidron Valley (McGee’s Thru the Bible online commentary), the perfect spot for the perfect word picture.
To the Old Testament Jew, the vine represented the nation Israel: You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it (Psalm 80:8). Unfortunately the vine, Israel, failed to follow God; so God planted a new vine, foreshadowed by the psalmist: Watch over this vine, the root your right hand has planted, the son you have raised up for yourself (Psalm 80:14-15). With Jesus’ advent things changed: “I am the true vine” (John 15:1), said Jesus.
God, the gardener, prunes away at the branches, the believers—“clean because of the word I (Jesus) have spoken to you” (15:3)—to produce the best crop of fruit possible. The secret, of course, is to remain in the vine, Jesus. That is where the fruit originates, the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). The fruit we produce should attract others to the true vine, Jesus.
And the fruit of the Spirit culminates in glory to God: “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (15:8). Does not the combined “I am” personification of the Almighty point to the “I AM WHO I AM” of Exodus 3:14? Portraying Jesus as who He is, the “Messiah (called Christ)”, flows freely from a fruit-filled life. Jesus glorified God; the fruit of we who believe must do so as well.