John 15:1-27

Illustrating the need for his disciples to be inseparably united to him, Jesus referred to himself as the true vine, his Father as the vine grower, and his disciples as the branches in the vine. His Father would remove all unproductive branches and prune (literally, “clean”) fruit-bearing branches so that they might yield more fruit. In verse 2, the Greek term used for the removal of unproductive branches is aíro, literally meaning “to raise” or “to lift up” but here signifying “to remove” or “to take away.” The Greek word for “clean” or “prune” is kathaíro. The use of the two Greek terms suggests a play on words (aíro — kathaíro). (15:1, 2)

The word, message, or teaching Jesus imparted to his disciples had already “pruned” or “cleaned” them. They had accepted his word, acting on it by imitating his example and testifying to their faith in him. By their conduct, which reflected favorably on him, and their witness about him, the disciples proved themselves to be productive branches that had been made fruitful through the cleansing power of his word. (15:3)

As Jesus remained “in” his disciples, being attached to them, he admonished them to remain “in” him, continuing to be at one with him. Only by remaining part of the vine do branches bear fruit. Likewise, the disciples would only be able to bear good fruit as persons attached to Jesus or at one with him. (15:4)

After identifying himself as the vine and his disciples as the branches, Jesus again stressed that the one who remained “in” him (attached like a branch to the vine) and he “in” the individual (attached like the vine to a branch) would bear much fruit. Therefore, apart from him, the disciples could not produce anything, that is, anything which his Father, the vine grower, would consider acceptable fruit. (15:5)

The person who failed to remain “in” Jesus or to be attached to him would prove to be like an unproductive branch that is thrown away and the leaves of which wither. Useless branches would be gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. This indicates that a severe judgment awaits those who forsake Jesus and, in disposition, word, and deed, cease to bear fruit, no longer conducting themselves as persons who recognize him as their Lord. (15:6)

If the disciples remained “in” or attached to him, and his word or teaching remained in them (being like a deposit in their inmost selves and motivating their thoughts, words, and deeds), whatever they might wish to request would be granted. In view of their being at one with Jesus and their having made his teaching their own, their asking would have been in harmony with God’s will, and this would have assured their receiving a favorable response to their petitions. (15:7)

Ultimately, when Jesus’ disciples bore much fruit in word and deed, and proved themselves to be his faithful disciples by advancing his interests, his Father would be glorified or honored. (15:8)

Just as the Father loved him, the Son loved the disciples. His appeal to them was, “Remain in my love.” For them to continue in his love would require that they keep his commandments, adhering to his teaching in their life as his disciples. Jesus had set the example for them. He had kept his Father’s commandments and thus had remained in his love. (15:9, 10)

The reason Jesus spoke about their remaining in his love by keeping his commandments was so that he might find joy in them. On seeing their faithfulness in bearing much fruit and proving themselves to be his disciples, he would rejoice. Their responsiveness to his word would occasion joy. At the same time, their joy would be made complete. They would experience the inner contentment from knowing that they were pleasing to him as their Lord and, therefore, also to his Father. Upon attaining their reward, the disciples would attain the ultimate fullness of joy. (15:11)

Jesus’ principal command for them was, “Love one another as I have loved you.” This called for a self-sacrificing and selfless love, a love that expressed itself in finding delight in serving others. Jesus’ love for them surpassed anything they had ever experienced. As he told them, “No one has greater love than this, that someone give up his soul [life] for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you [to do].” By acting on his command to love one another, they would prove themselves to be his friends, loving as he loved. (15:12-14)

Although Jesus was their Lord, he did not treat them in a manner that resembled a master-slave relationship. As he said, “I am not still calling you slaves, for a slave does not know what his master is doing. But I have called you friends, for I have made known to you everything I have heard from my Father.” In a master-slave relationship, the master primarily issued commands to the slave. He did not treat him as a confidential friend to whom he would have entrusted precious intimate thoughts. The slave primarily obeyed his master out of a sense of duty and fear. Jesus, however, disclosed the teaching of his Father, teaching that he had received as his Father’s dearly beloved and unique Son. Being acknowledged friends of Jesus, the disciples would be motivated to heed his commands because they loved him. (15:15)

The disciples had not chosen Jesus, granting him the authority to be their Lord and Teacher. He had chosen them to be his disciples and his apostles. His purpose for choosing them was that they might go and bear fruit and that this fruit would remain. They would be going out among the people, and their fruit in the form of words and deeds would move others to accept their testimony about Jesus and put their faith in him. Accordingly, these believers would prove to be the enduring or remaining produce of the apostles’ faithful service. The labors of the apostles yielded fruit that has remained to the present time, for throughout the centuries many have put faith in their testimony and have acted on it. When fulfilling the purpose for their being chosen, the disciples would also have an approved relationship with his Father. So, as Jesus indicated, their fruit bearing would assure that the requests they directed to the Father in Jesus’ name (in recognition of who the Son truly is) would be granted. In carrying out their commission, the disciples would need the courage to speak with boldness, the strength to endure hostility, and the wisdom to express themselves appropriately and effectively. They could be confident that their petitions respecting the accomplishment of their assigned service would be answered. (15:16)

Indicative of the prime importance of love, Jesus is quoted as again saying, “These things I am commanding you, that you love one another.” (15:17)

In the world of mankind alienated from the Father, they would not find the love they were to enjoy among themselves. They would be hated. If or when this happened, they should be able to understand it, for they knew that the world hated Jesus before expressing its hatred against them. If they were part of the world, living as persons without faith in the Son and, therefore, also without faith in the Father, the unbelievers of the world would love them as their own. Although living in the world of mankind, the disciples were not from that world. Their thoughts, words, and deeds were focused on proving themselves to be Jesus’ disciples. He had chosen them out of the world, no longer to be a part of it in its unbelief and its ways that did not honor his Father. As persons who had ceased to be part of the world, the disciples were objects of its hatred. (15:18, 19)

In relation to their encountering the world’s hatred, Jesus wanted them to remember what he had told them previously, “A slave is not greater than his master.” (Compare Matthew 10:24, Luke 6:40, and John 13:16.) Therefore, they should expect the same kind of response and treatment as Jesus had experienced. As he said, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word [accepting his teaching and observing it], they will also keep yours.” (15:20)

Whatever hostility or mistreatment the disciples were to experience would be on account of Jesus’ name or because of their being identified as belonging to him as his disciples. The hateful reaction and treatment would result because those who persisted in unbelief did not “know” the Father who had sent his Son. They did not recognize the Father in the Son, revealing that they had no relationship with him. (15:21)

If Jesus had not come and labored among them and spoken to them, “they,” according to his words, “would have no sin.” But he did labor and teach among them, leaving them without any excuse for their sin — their persistence in unbelief and hatred of him. His example in love, compassionately bringing relief to the sick and afflicted, and his teaching gave them no basis for their hateful response. The clear evidence of God’s spirit working through the Son in the accomplishment of good served to condemn their unbelief and hostility. Without this overwhelming evidence, they would have been acting out of ignorance and so would not have had the sin of deliberate unbelief charged against them. (15:22, 24)

When hating Jesus, the unbelievers also hated the Father who deeply loved his Son. No one else had done the works that Jesus did among them. If he had not done these marvelous works that resulted in relief for many suffering fellow Jews, the unbelievers would not have had sin. They could not have taken a hostile stand despite evidence of good deeds, for they would not have witnessed these works. Having, however, seen Jesus and the works he did, they nevertheless hated him and his Father (the very one whose works Jesus was performing and whose teaching he was conveying). This fulfilled the “word” of the “law” (in this case seemingly meaning words in the holy writings that had the authority or validity of law), “They hated me without cause.” These words of Psalm 69:4 (68:5, LXX) found their full meaning in the hatred Jesus experienced. (15:23-25)

With the aid of the paraclete, the spirit of the truth, the apostles would be able to discharge their commission to testify concerning Jesus. He would send the paraclete from the Father, the one from whom this helper or “the spirit of the truth” proceeded. Upon arriving, the paraclete or helper would testify about Jesus. This testimony would have included opening up to the minds of the apostles how the words of the holy writings and everything Jesus had said to them beforehand had been fulfilled in him. With the spirit operating within them, the apostles would then be in a position to testify concerning Jesus, for they had been with him from the time he began his ministry among the people. The spirit would recall to their minds the things he had said, and they would be able to convey his teaching to others. (15:26, 27)

The designation “paraclete” (parákletos) at the start of John 15:26, as in John chapter 14, is best understood to mean “helper.” In agreement with its masculine gender, the apparent or intended antecedent parákletos is followed by pronouns in the masculine gender. This is so even though the parenthetical expression that includes the neuter noun pneúma with its corresponding neuter pronoun (“the spirit [pneúma] of the truth, which [] proceeds from the Father”) separates parákletos and the accompanying phrase (“whom [hón, the masculine pronoun] I will send you from the Father”) from the conclusion of the sentence. Without the parenthetical words about the spirit, the sentence would read, “When the helper arrives, whom I will send you from the Father, that one [or he; the masculine pronoun ekeínos] will testify about me.”