This is my paper on the “I am the true vine” statement made by Jesus in John 15. There are three areas that were examined; the Textual Context, the Relation to God in the Old Testament, and lastly, how this statement shows Christ’s deity. Enjoy!
The Context in which we find Jesus’ statement “I am the true vine” is back in chapter thirteen of John’s Gospel. What we have is a series of discussions between Jesus and His disciples which took place the night of their last meal together before His arrest. At the beginning of chapter thirteen, we find the setting to be the Feast of the Passover. There are some speculations as to where Jesus and the disciples were when He began to tell them that He is the vine in chapter fifteen. Dr. Towns mentions four possibilities of what spurred Jesus to make this “I am” statement.
We know that they had left the supper table due to Jesus saying at the end of chapter fourteen, “Arise, let us go hence.” However, speculation as to where this “I am” statement took place is not the purpose of the article, and therefore, we will not spend any time addressing it besides saying that God in His inspiration of Scripture did not tell us and thus it appears to have been of little importance to Him for our well being. What we can confidently say is that this dialogue took place during the time of the Feast of the Passover, and that they had moved from the supper table to somewhere else. It was at this time that Jesus said to them, “ I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.”
This statement is surrounded by discussions between Jesus and His disciples leading up to His betrayal by Judas Iscariot later that night in the garden. Arthur W. Pink most excellently describes for us the spiritual context, he said, “The immediate context is the closing sentence of chapter 14: “Arise, let us go hence. Christ had just said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.” He had said this while seated at the supper-table, where the emblems of His death—the basis of our peace—were spread. Now He gets up from the table, which prefigured His resurrection from the dead. Right afterwards He says, I am the true vine. Christ’s symbolic action at the close of 14, views Him on resurrection-ground, and what we have here in 15 is in perfect accord with this. There must be resurrection-life before there can be resurrection-fruit.”
Thus it could be said that Jesus is preparing His disciples before He is betrayed for the task they will be given after His resurrection.
Relation to God Seen in the Old Testament
The imagery of the vine would not have been a new concept to the disciples for it was used several times by Moses, by the Prophets, and in the Psalms in the Old Testament. In his exposition of Genesis 49:11, John Gill said the vine is better understood as “figuratively, of Christ’s causing the Gentiles, comparable to an ass’s colt, for their impurity, ignorance of, and sluggishness in spiritual things, to cleave to him the true vine, in the exercise of faith, hope, and love, or to join themselves to his church and people, sometimes compared to a vine or vineyard.”
Thus, as this verse reveals, the vine analogy was used in reference to Christ, and yet was also used to speak of God’s people as in Jeremiah 2:21 which says, “Yet I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed: how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me?”
These are but two examples of how this figure of speech is used in God’s Word, and there are many more examples that could be given to further show this to be true.
When Jesus said, “I am the true vine”, He did not end there but went on to say that God the Father is the husbandman.
This ought to give us great comfort knowing that Christ provides us with life and the Father nurtures that life in us. Arthur W. Pink put it this way, “In the Old Testament the Father is represented as the Proprietor of the vine, but here He is called the Husbandman, that is the Cultivator, the One who cares for it. The figure speaks of His love for Christ and His people…This is very blessed. He does not allot to others the task of caring for the vine and its branches, and this assures us of the widest, most tender, and most faithful care of it.”
This is further evident when we again examine what God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah. He said, “Yet I had planted thee a noble vine.” Thus once again showing us that He alone is the caretaker of His vineyard.
How This “I am” Statement Reveals Christ’s Deity
This statement is really remarkable as it pertains to the deity of our Savior. By calling Himself the vine and His church the branches, He has pointed us back not only to John 14:6 where He tells us that He is “the way, and the truth, and the life” but more importantly we have been directed back the beginning of the this Gospel where John tells of the creative power of Jesus. Telling His disciples that He is the true vine, that is the source of spiritual life, Jesus has essentially told the disciples that just as He created all physical life in the beginning, He also creates all spiritual life, and has for all eternity. But this is only the start of what this saying tells us concerning the Godhood of Jesus. For this also revealed Christ as the promised Messiah. Because, “Christ was the perfect, essential, and enduring reality, of which other lights were but faint reflections, and of which other bread and another tabernacle,, were but the types and shadows. More specifically, Christ was the true light in contrast from His forerunner, John, who was but a “lamp” (John 5:35 R.V.), or light-bearer.”
Also, Jesus calling himself the “true vine” meant that he was claiming to be the focal of God’s plan for salvation.
This likewise signified the end of the law as the means of Salvation because now the God-Man provided all that was necessary and did away with the mosaic sacrificial system. Thus this statement most beautifully displays Christ deity through Him proclaiming yet again that He alone is the author of our spiritual life just as well as our physical life. There ought to be great joy found in knowing that Jesus, the eternal Son of God, is the source of our spiritual life. For if Jesus was merely a man lacking deity and unity with the Godhead, then we would be in sore need still. However, as a result of John choosing to show us Jesus’ deity in this passage, we need not fear that our Provider of Life will ever run out of that provision.
The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version.
Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009.
John D. Barry, Michael R. Grigoni, Michael S. Heiser et al., Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham,
WA: Logos Bible Software, 2012), Jn 15:1–17.
Gill, John. “John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible.” Bible Study Tools.
(accessed August 11, 2012).
Arthur Walkington Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John. Swengel, PA: Bible Truth Depot,
Towns, Elmer. The Gospel of John: Believe and Live. Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2002.