Updated: Apr 11
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Jesus said to his disciples, ”I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”
This is the Gospel selection for the fifth Sunday of Easter, Year B, according to the lectionary for the Episcopal Church. This reading will be preceded by the mandatory reading from the Acts of the Apostles [chapter 8], which states: “Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus.” That is followed by a selection of verses read from Psalm 22, which sings, “My praise is of him in the great assembly; I will perform my vows in the presence of those who worship him.” Then, the Epistle selection will immediate be read before this, where John wrote in his first letter, “Those who say, "I love God," and hate their brothers, are liars; for those who do not love a brother whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.”
In this reading, it is important to realize the setting. John’s chapter 13 ended with Jesus, his disciples and John leaving the upper room in the Essene Quarter of Jerusalem, where they would then exit the gate and begin a downward trek, towards Gethsemane. The disciples, all being adults, were drunk on Seder wine and some may still be drinking wine taken along with them, because the tradition of the Seder meal is to stay awake as long as possible, while drinking ceremonial wine. This would be why none of the disciples could stay awake at Jesus’ hour of need, later to come. John, however, being a boy still, was not allowed to drink the alcoholic wine, so he was wide awake and listening to everything his father, Jesus, said to him. As such, John wrote four chapters that recite what Jesus said, while neither Matthew or Mark [present as the disciples Matthew and Peter] wrote anything that elaborates what Jesus said to them, between leaving the upper room and the arrest of Jesus.
With that understood, it is the Episcopal Church that has added the words that begin this reading, as John did not write, “Jesus said to his disciples.” While it should be intuited that Jesus spoke in their presence, the fact that the twelve were all ‘drunk as skunks’ says it is more probable that Jesus spoke for John’s benefit, knowing he would record this for prosperity [including his prayers for his disciples, himself and the world]. Therefore, it is misleading to add that introduction, as it implies the disciples were attentive and listening for another lesson from Jesus, when they were not; they were incapacitated at that time and Jesus knew that.
When the NRSV says Jesus spoke, saying “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower,” this is the simple translation that misleads. While the full truth is openly stated, it becomes missed because of the rules of ordinary language. When one realizes this is divine language written by John, the written Word says something more powerful. This begins by realizing the first word, “Egō,” is capitalized, making it be divinely elevated in meaning. This word clearly states “I,” but when divinely elevated it must be read as Yahweh speaking through His Son, meaning “I.”
By seeing that, the second word, “eimi,” is a word stating “existence,” where “am” is connected to Yahweh's state of being, as “I am.” Seeing this becomes another identifying statement of Yahweh, who told Moses to tell the Israelites “I AM THAT I AM,” when Moses was sent to set them free. In that sense, it should be realized that Yahweh did not separate Himself from Moses, such that Moses became the manifestation of God on earth, so he could state “I am” is here as “that I am,” meaning the duplication of “I am” says Yahweh is within a human’s flesh, married to the soul attached to that flesh. In that way, Jesus was also like Moses, who said he spoke for the Father, not for himself. That submission of self [the “I am”] means Yahweh was speaking these words, through His Son.
Next, it is syntactical rules that cause English to take the Greek that literally says “vine true” and reverse that so it says “true vine.” What is a “true vine”? That translation weakens the truth, where Yahweh is saying, “I am this vine” [“Egō eimi hē ampelos”], which says Jesus is the vine of Yahweh. It is then that “vine” that is the channel of all “truth,” such that “hē alēthinē” says “this vine” is “this made of truth.” Because Jesus is the manifestation of Yahweh on earth, he is a tendril of “God’s truth” to the world.
While it can be argued that Jesus saying, “I am the true vine” says that [and the simple is still the truth, just not fully realized], the following comma, immediately followed by the word “kai,” says to translate “and” is a mistake. The first segment makes a separate statement that next needs to be importantly emphasized as Yahweh adding, “he Father of me” [from “hoPatēr mou”]. That importantly says Jesus is “this vine made of truth” because he is the Son of Yahweh, who made Jesus for that purpose.
Seeing the word “Patēr” capitalized is evidence of a divine elevation, beyond the simple word “father.” The capitalization allows the reader to know “Father” is a reference to Yahweh [God], which links back to “I am,” but “Father” becomes a necessary statement of the great “Progenitor,” whose spiritual presence has created the Son. Without Yahweh within one, merged with His Holy Spirit, the flesh is simply another human in the world. Simple humans have souls of animation breathed by Yahweh, giving the appearance of life in dead matter; but simple human beings cannot call God their “Father.” That is the lesson Yahweh is teaching through His Son.
Following a comma, the next segment of words says “this Father” is “this vinedresser existence” [from “ho geōrgos estin”]. In that, the word “geōrgos” is defined as “a husbandman” [in addition to “vinedresser”], with its usage implying “a worker of the soil, husbandman, farmer, farm-laborer, vine-dresser.” That says that Yahweh is the worker of “this vine of truth” that is Jesus. The word “estin” is the third person singular form of the verb “eimi” [seen in “I am” – “Egō eimi”], meaning the “existence” of Jesus, as the vine of truth, is due to the “work of the Father.”
The first verse of this reading is vital to fully grasp as Yahweh speaking through the Son, explaining that Yahweh made the “vine” and tends the vine [“the vinedresser”], so the “vine” is “made of truth.” The metaphor of grapevines and a vineyard owner is stated; but it is imperative to understand the reality of Yahweh saying He is the “Father” of all who grow from His “vine made of truth.”
With that understood, verse two then says, “He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit.” This becomes a statement about the “vinedresser,” such that a good “husbandman” tends to the plants so they become most productive. Therefore, “Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit” says the Father expects production and nothing less.
In verse 3, Yahweh says through Jesus, “You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you.” This becomes a statement about the preparation of the disciples, so they will bear fruit. This is an important statement, as the disciples had followed Jesus for three years, absorbing [not learning] the care of the Father, as their “husbandman.” The "vine made of truth” that was Jesus can then be seen as having twelve nodes appearing on him, as about to leaf and bud, as a natural development from divine caretaking. This means “the words that I have spoken to you” is the watering, which is most deeply relative to the flow of truth coming from Yahweh, through the vine, so the nodules are prepared through inner nourishing to burst forth, as fruit.
When verse 4 begins by stating, “Abide in me as I abide in you,” this is again the Father speaking through the Son, so the disciples have the same source of truth within them as Jesus has. This then led Yahweh to say, “Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.” This says all must be alive in Yahweh, as there can be no fruit produced without His presence within. Not having Yahweh within one’s being means one is dead, not living. Death is metaphor for a mortal existence, such that life means one's soul has become one with Yahweh.
In verse 5 is repeated the words that say, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” Again, “Egōeimi hē ampelos” is written, which restates Yahweh [“I am”] is the source of “this vine.” A semi-colon then begins a relative statement, which says, “you [are] these branches,” which are relative to “the vine” of Yahweh. While it is easy to paint a picture of Jesus speaking to twelve disciples, such that “I” and “you” become limited to those thirteen human beings, the importance comes from understanding Yahweh is the one speaking. When one hears that voice, then one can grasp how His words are speaking to all, at all times subsequent [including today], where Yahweh is the “vine made of truth,” which flows within as the blood of His Son, where one's soul is cared for and prepared so all who become growths of Yahweh’s “vine” will be His “branches.”
With that understood, Yahweh then continued in verse 5 to say, “Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.” That says all disciples who will be reborn in the name of the Son, as Jesus renewed through the branches, producing “much fruit.” Only those reborn as Jesus will produce the fruit of “the vine made of truth.” By saying “apart from me you can do nothing,” this repeats the prior statement that said, “He removes every branch that bears no fruit.” One is “apart” because one has been “pruned” for being fruitless.
That leads to verse 6 saying, “Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers.” In that, the Greek word “exēranthē” is translated as “withers,” when a better translation would be “wastes away” or “dries up.” That imagery projects the flow of Yahweh’s “truth” as having been denied or blocked. Without that inner source of life, a branch produces no green growth; therefore it becomes pruned. That leads to the related statement, which says, “such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.”
The metaphor of burning must be seen as a judgment of condemnation of a soul. Because the “vine” is Yahweh, there can be no flaw of His perfection that will cause a branch to wither and be pruned. This then says that the branches that become “dried up” and “wasted away” have done so of their own accord. Here, it is important to know that Judas Iscariot [although not present for this analogy spoken] was a branch that had been prepared by the words spoken by Yahweh through His Son. Those words of “truth” fed all who listened to Jesus speak the words of the Father. Still, some denied that flow of truth to bring life to their souls, so their denial of the truth would become their condemnation, where the metaphor of burning of dried plant branches means reincarnation.
This then leads to Yahweh saying through Jesus, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” Here, the element of “made of truth” and “cleansed by the words I have spoken” becomes a way of saying the fluid that flows through the “vine” of Yahweh is His Word. His Word gives life to dead matter. His life produces “much fruit.” This can only come from having consumed the Word and drank the blood of Jesus, becoming a reproduction of the Anointed one of Yahweh. When one has been reborn as the Son, everything one needs will be freely given. That is repeating the care of the “vinedresser.”
This reading then ends with Jesus saying, with the approval of the Father, “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.” In that, the Greek word “edoxasthē” is written, which means “is glorified.” This is one of those words that has such nebulosity that everyone hears it or reads it and can only understand it as a good thing, but little more than that.
The root Greek word “doxazó” means, “to render or esteem,” with the implication being “to bestow honor.” The first person applies “is” to this verb,” which needs to be seen as the one receiving the truth of Yahweh is the one “being glorified.” Yahweh, as God Almighty, needs no “glory” given to Him, as He is the source of all “glory.” Thus, the literal Greek text makes this clearer.
Written by John is this: "en toutō edoxasthē ho Patēr mou," which literally translates to say, "in this is glorified that Father of me." The word "this" reflects back to one wanting and receiving. That means "in" is the Holy Spirit within one's being, "in" one's soul. When that presence is "in," then one has received what it wanted. That then projects forward to "this is glorified," where one receiving the Holy Spirit becomes the "honor bestowed" by Yahweh to the recepitent. That glory is the the ability for one to claim Yahweh as "that Father," because the presence of Yahweh has made the recipient "of me," reborn as Jesus.
When this says, “you bear much fruit,” this sets the expectation that each of the disciples will become extensions of the “vine made of truth,” which says they will be branches that will be the resurrection of Jesus. Just as a gardener knows the techniques of taking a cutting from a living plant and making it becomes a separate plant, that separate plant will still be the same plant as that from which it was cut. Thus, in the same way that Jesus was a cutting of His “vine made of truth,” so too will each of the disciples, in the same way that he bore the fruit of his devoted followers – all filled with the Word of the Father – also bear the same amount of fruit, or more, individually.
When this ends by Yahweh saying, “kai genēsthe emoi mathētai” or importantly “you will be of me disciples,” that can be confusing, when one hears Jesus telling his disciples that they will be still disciples of his. The truth comes from hearing Yahweh telling the disciples of Jesus, who had been prepared to become each a new “vine” like Jesus, that when they bear fruit they will be just like Jesus resurrected [who, at that point, was still alive, still not even under arrest]. That says Jesus was a “disciple” of Yahweh, as Yahweh was the Master and Jesus was the “pupil,” who always spoke only what the Father told him to speak. Seeing Yahweh telling branches prepared to produce good fruit they would be His “disciples,” says they will all be new ‘cuttings’ of Jesus, planted separately to do the same as he had done.
As the Gospel choice of the fifth Sunday of Easter, a season when preparation for ministry is the point, Jesus was speaking what the Father told him to speak, in preparation for those disciples of his to enter ministry. Entering ministry is when one bears fruit for Yahweh. All of those who stood or sat as drunken Jews, while Yahweh spoke through His Son, had been married to Yahweh when they signed on as students who followed Jesus all around. They had demonstrated their faith, even though they were clueless about everything Jesus said. That ‘watering by the word’ was preparing them to take bloom and produce fruit.
Once a branch has proven capable of producing fruit [on Easter Sunday they received the Spirit], it can then be cut and replanted, again under the care of the “husbandman” Yahweh. That replanting is when they are ready to enter the world as a new Jesus, extending the “vine of truth” so others will develop as “branches” and produce fruit – a continuous cycle of new growth.