The Old Testament uses the vineyard or vine as a symbol for Israel – especially in the book of Isaiah.
In today’s passage from John, Jesus begins chapter 15 by saying that He is the True Vine. In other words, Jesus is the True Israel. Isaiah 5 describes God as the Vinedresser – planting his vineyard and hoping to yield grapes…
My beloved had a vineyard
on a very fertile hill.
He dug it and cleared it of stones,
and planted it with choice vines […]
What more was there to do for my vineyard,
that I have not done in it?
When I looked for it to yield grapes,
why did it yield wild grapes? (Isaiah 5:1b-2a, 4)
Israel was a vine which yielded wild fruit. We know from our readings in Jeremiah that Israel was an apostate people – whoring after other gods and ignoring the warnings of invasion.
John contrasts the fruitlessness of Israel with the fruitfulness that comes from abiding in Christ.
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5).
Abiding is a mysterious and difficult concept. It involves consistent seeking, repenting, praying and obeying. It is a dependence on Jesus for everyday living. Jesus says that abiding is mutual, “abide in me and I in you.” It is the partial fulfilling of the promise made throughout the Old Testament, that God will dwell with his people. As we abide in Christ and He in us, He makes his dwelling in us. This promise will find its ultimate fulfillment in the new earth as He will make his dwelling place with man. In other words, today, He dwells in us through the Spirit, but in the new earth – we will see Him face to face!