Jesus’ Life and Ministry
Enjoying an Intimate Relationship
FOLLOWING the memorial meal, Jesus has been encouraging his apostles with an informal heart-to-heart talk. It may be past midnight. So Jesus urges: “Get up, let us go from here.” However, before they leave, Jesus, moved by his love for them, continues speaking, providing a motivating illustration.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the cultivator,” he begins. The Great Cultivator, Jehovah God, planted this symbolic vine when he anointed Jesus with holy spirit at his baptism in the fall of 29 C.E. But Jesus goes on to show that the vine symbolizes more than just him, observing:
“Every branch in me not bearing fruit he takes away, and every one bearing fruit he cleans, that it may bear more fruit. . . . Just as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it remains in the vine, in the same way neither can you, unless you remain in union with me. I am the vine, you are the branches.”
At Pentecost, 51 days later, the apostles and others become branches of the vine when holy spirit is poured out on them. Eventually, 144,000 persons become branches of the figurative grapevine. Along with the vine stem, Jesus Christ, these make up a symbolic vine that produces the fruits of God’s Kingdom.
Jesus explains the key to producing fruit: “He that remains in union with me, and I in union with him, this one bears much fruit; because apart from me you can do nothing at all.” If, however, a person fails to produce fruit, Jesus says, “he is cast out as a branch and is dried up; and men gather those branches up and pitch them into the fire and they are burned.” On the other hand, Jesus promises: “If you remain in union with me and my sayings remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will take place for you.”
Jesus goes on to show his apostles what glorifies the Father, namely, “that you keep bearing much fruit and prove yourselves my disciples.” The fruit God desires from the branches is their manifestation of Christlike qualities, particularly love. Moreover, since Christ was a proclaimer of God’s Kingdom, the desired fruit also includes their activity of making disciples as he did.
“Remain in my love,” Jesus now urges. Yet, how can his apostles do so? “If you observe my commandments,” he says, “you will remain in my love.” Continuing, Jesus explains: “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 soul in behalf of his friends.”
In a few hours, Jesus will demonstrate this surpassing love by giving his life in behalf of his apostles, as well as all others who will exercise faith in him. His example should move his followers to have the same 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.”
Identifying his friends, Jesus says: “You are my friends if you do what I am commanding you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master does. But I have called you friends, because all the things I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”
What a precious relationship to have—to be intimate friends of Jesus! But to continue to enjoy this relationship, his followers 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.” Surely, that is a grand reward for bearing Kingdom fruit!
After again urging the apostles to “love one another,” Jesus explains that the world will hate them. Yet, he comforts them: “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it hated you.” Jesus next reveals why the world hates his followers, saying: “Because you are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on this account the world hates you.”
Explaining further the reason for the world’s hatred, Jesus continues: “They will do all these things against you on account of my name, because they do not know him [Jehovah God] that sent me.” Jesus’ miraculous works, in effect, convict those who hate him, as he notes: “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 and hated me as well as my Father.” Thus, as Jesus says, the scripture is fulfilled: “They hated me without cause.”
As he did earlier, Jesus again comforts them by promising to send the helper, the holy spirit, which is God’s powerful active force. “That one will bear witness about me; and you, in turn, are to bear witness.” John 14:31–15:27; 13:3, 35; Galatians 6:16; Psalm 35:19; 69:4.
▪ When did Jehovah plant the symbolic vine, and when and how do others become part of the vine?
▪ Eventually, how many branches does the symbolic vine have?
▪ What fruit does God desire from the branches?
▪ How can we be friends of Jesus?
▪ Why does the world hate Jesus’ followers?