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John 15:1-10 - Exposition

(7) The parable of the vine and its branches . Incorporation of the disciples into one personality with himself . The image of the vine may have been suggested by some visible object. Either of the hypotheses of place would furnish a reminder of the nature and culture of the vine. Thus around the windows of the guest-chamber the vine may have thrown its tendrils, or on the slopes of Olivet the vineyards may have been prominent objects, or the burning heaps of vine-prunings may have suggested the idea. Again, if they were pausing in some apartments of the temple-court, the golden vine, the image of Israel, upon the gates may have supplied the point of departure. But our Lord needed no such help to his imagination, and it is by no means necessary to find an occasion for his imagery. The fact that he had the fruit of the vine before him, and had already made it symbolic of his sacrificial death, may have brought the thought nearer to the disciples. But the most simple explanation is that the vine was the image of Israel. The prophets and psalms abound with this reference ( Isaiah 5:1 , etc.; Ezekiel 19:10 ; Psalms 80:8-19 ), so that our Lord was giving a new meaning to a familiar figure. "The vine" was the beautiful image of that theocratic and sacramental community, which had its center in the altar and ark of testimony and the holy place; and the fruit of the vine was conspicuous in all the symbolic relations which, through priesthood and ritual enactments, brought individual Israelites into relation with the reconciled God. Here Christ says, "I" but we see from John 15:5 that the branches, which by reason of relation to him have and draw their life from him (or, to use his own words, "I and the branches," and "the branches in me"), constitute the veritable "vine" of the covenant.

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