Ciao, travelers! If you’ve been getting thirsty for a while now, I have good news: just ahead lie the verdant vineyards of Tuscany. On our private tour through one of the best, we’ll explore the rich world of Italian viticulture and all of the wonders it has to offer. At this point in the gospel of John, Jesus is leading His disciples through the dark streets of Jerusalem the night before His crucifixion. As the group passes into more rural country, they notice a grapevine, and the Lord seizes this opportunity to describe life in His coming kingdom—both its beauty and its danger.
Scripture writing: I loved copying out verses 4-5 in The Message. Read a bit slower than normal to let your inner pace match that of the Spirit:
“Live in Me. Make your home in Me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with Me. I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with Me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing.”
Can’t you just feel your soul heaving a sigh of relief? Jesus’ words take all of the pressure off of my performance, no stressing or straining required. Grape vines don’t make a big deal about what they’re up to. A vineyard is silent, still; but life is exploding all around.
Studying: My favorite note about this chapter comes from The Voice:
At a time when all of His disciples are feeling as if they are about to be uprooted, Jesus sketches a picture of this new life as a flourishing vineyard—a labyrinth of vines and strong branches steeped in rich soil, abundant grapes hanging from their vines ripening in the sun. Jesus sculpts a new garden of Eden in their imaginations—one that is bustling with fruit, sustenance, and satisfying aromas. This is the Kingdom life. It is all about connection, sustenance, and beauty.
There have been a handful of times I’ve felt uprooted, so I find it particularly meaningful that my Hero would go out of His way to pave a path ahead. The more I ponder this concept, the more I appreciate that though chaos may surround, my interior world can be a well-tended sanctuary.
Commentaries: Once again, Matthew Henry offers stunning insight, this time about Jesus’ command in verse 12 and repeated in verse 17:
He interposes His authority, has made [loving one another] one of the statute-laws of His kingdom. Observe how differently it is expressed in these two verses, and both very emphatic. (1.) This is My commandment (v. 12), as if this were the most necessary of all the commandments. As under the [Old Testament] law the prohibition of idolatry was the commandment more insisted on than any other, foreseeing the people’s addictedness to that sin, so Christ, foreseeing the addictedness of the Christian church to uncharitableness, has laid most stress upon this precept.
If Matty H thought Christians were addicted to unkindness in 1706 Puritan culture, he’d be appalled at the amount of deep church hurt we experience in modern times—friendly fire causing wounds that have never properly healed. (Not to mention how we treat those who don’t even pretend any connection to the body of Christ.) It’s more crucial than ever to let Jesus’ law of love rule our hearts.
In verse 15, Jesus says, “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.” While much has been written on the subject of friendship with God, D.A. Carson points out the distinction of us being Jesus’ friends rather than the other way around, arguing:
Neither God nor Jesus is ever referred to in Scripture as the ‘friend’ of anyone. Of course, this does not mean that either God or Jesus is an ‘unfriend’: if one measures friendship strictly on the basis of who loves most, guilty sinners can find no better and truer friend than in the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Son whom He has sent. But mutual, reciprocal friendship of the modern variety is not in view, and cannot be without demeaning God.
If anyone would like to turn this into a cute printable and put it on Pinterest, that would be great. Thanks. In all seriousness, Carson’s perspective lends a sense of great worth to our blooming relationship with the King and Creator that has leaked through the “Jesus is my BFF” mentality.
Sermons: I found Driscoll’s take on the persecution passage in verses 18-25 convincing. He asserts that
If you live for the love of the world, you will endure the wrath of God. If you live for the love of God, you will endure the wrath of the world. You pick your love, and you pick your wrath.
While a comfortable existence free of anyone’s wrath may sound appealing, it’s not an option available to us in our fallen state. But the idea of choosing the source of our pain removes victimization and restores some sanity.
On a different note, John MacArthur states with massive impact:
Repentance is a significant facet of the fruit Jesus speaks about, and it’s meant to be ever-increasing. It comes more readily and frequently as a mark of maturity.
I love this. Growing up as a good church girl, I basically assumed that maturity meant needing less repentance. But as I’ve grown in self-awareness, I’ve also gained deeper insight about how much repentance is actually called for on a daily basis. Being confronted with more and more of my desperate need for Jesus isn’t losing ground: it’s actually evidence of health.
Journaling: As I reflected on Jesus’ warning about persecution that “all these things they will do to you on account of My name,” I realized something:
The name of Christ is both the safest and the most dangerous name in the universe. It’s a refuge and a target.
Just one more reminder that we’re not living in peacetime. This world is a battleground and will remain so until Jesus comes back to take us home. Tension between safety in Christ and danger because of Him is our immediate reality, and we can lean into that tension as He multiplies our faith.
Meditation: Gazing at the command to “Live in My love” (verse 15:9, GW) unwrapped a nugget of truth:
Far from being constricting, this world of Christ’s love is the most expansive, life-giving Eden imaginable. While some might chafe at the boundary, we’re only being guarded from entering a toxic wasteland on the other side of it.
You know those people who can’t stand limits, the ones who consider defined borders as oppressive and small-minded? They miss out on the vastness of abundant life. We’re being invited into a world of magnified joy, peace, and freedom known only to souls who can happily agree to live in the love of Jesus. And once we’ve tasted it, all previous loves turn to ash in our mouths: nothing can compare to Him. This is how we relearn to be human.
With the taste of grapes still fresh on our tongues, we return to the bus. A few more adventures are planned for this trip, so John beckons us ahead—up a hill and toward a cross.
*Following the study schedule right along, my binder is thickening up with doodles, prayers, and tons of background information on the text. This summary is just the condensed version, the highlights of each approach—you can find my full binder notes for John 15 here.