THE TRUE VINE AND THE BRANCHES
HOW TO REMAIN IN JESUS’ LOVE
Jesus has been encouraging his faithful apostles in a heart-to-heart talk. It is late, perhaps past midnight. Jesus now presents a motivating illustration:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the cultivator,” he begins. (John 15:1) His illustration resembles what had been said centuries earlier about the nation of Israel, which was called Jehovah’s vine. (Jeremiah 2:21; Hosea 10:1, 2) However, Jehovah is casting off that nation. (Matthew 23:37, 38) So Jesus is introducing a new thought. He is the vine that his Father has been cultivating since anointing Jesus with holy spirit in 29 C.E. But Jesus shows that the vine symbolizes more than just him, saying:
“[My Father] takes away every branch in me not bearing fruit, and he cleans every one bearing fruit, so that it may bear more fruit. . . . Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it remains in the vine, neither can you unless you remain in union with me. I am the vine; you are the branches.”—John 15:2-5.
Jesus has promised his faithful disciples that after he goes away, he would send a helper, the holy spirit. Fifty-one days later, when the apostles and others receive that spirit, they become branches of the vine. And all the “branches” would have to remain united with Jesus. To accomplish what?
He explains: “Whoever remains in union with me and I in union with him, this one bears much fruit; for apart from me you can do nothing at all.” These “branches”—his faithful followers—would bear much fruit, imitating Jesus’ qualities, actively speaking to others about God’s Kingdom, and making more disciples. What if one does not remain in union with Jesus and does not bear fruit? Jesus explains: “If anyone does not remain in union with me, he is thrown out.” On the other hand, Jesus says: “If you remain in union with me and my sayings remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will take place for you.”—John 15:5-7.
Now Jesus returns to what he has mentioned twice—keeping his commandments. (John 14:15, 21) He describes a key way for disciples to prove that they are doing so: “If you observe my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have observed the commandments of the Father and remain in his love.” However, more is involved than loving Jehovah God and his Son. Jesus says: “This is my commandment, that you love one another just as I have loved you. No one has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his life in behalf of his friends. You are my friends if you do what I am commanding you.”—John 15:10-14.
In a few hours, Jesus will demonstrate his love by giving his life for all who exercise faith in him. His example should move his followers to have similar self-sacrificing love for one another. This love will identify them, as Jesus stated earlier: “By this all will know that you are my disciples—if you have love among yourselves.”—John 13:35.
The apostles should take note of Jesus’ calling them “friends.” He relates why they are such: “I have called you friends, because I have made known to you all the things I have heard from my Father.” What a precious relationship to have—to be intimate friends of Jesus and to know what the Father told him! In order to enjoy this relationship, though, they must “keep bearing fruit.” If they do, Jesus says, “no matter what you ask the Father in my name he [will] give it to you.”—John 15:15, 16.
The love among these “branches,” his disciples, will help them to endure what is to come. He warns them that the world will hate them, yet he offers this comfort: “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were part of the world, the world would be fond of what is its own. Now because you are no part of the world, . . . for this reason the world hates you.”—John 15:18, 19.
Explaining further why the world will hate them, Jesus adds: “They will do all these things against you on account of my name, because they do not know the One who sent me.” Jesus says that his miraculous works, in effect, convict those who hate him: “If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have both seen me and hated me as well as my Father.” Actually, their hatred fulfills prophecy.—John 15:21, 24, 25; Psalm 35:19; 69:4.
Again, Jesus promises to send the helper, the holy spirit. That powerful force is available for all his followers and is able to help them to bear fruit, “to bear witness.”—John 15:27.