John Gills Exposition of the Bible Commentary

Verse 1 (John 15:1)

I am the true vine ,.... The fruit of which he had been just speaking of at supper with his disciples; and then informs them, that he himself is the vine from whence that fruit must be expected, which should be partook of by them in his Father's kingdom; for though Christ may be compared to a vine for its tenderness, weakness, and being subject to cuttings and prunings; all which may express his outward meanness in his birth, parentage, and education, Which exposed him to the contempt of men; the weakness of the human nature in itself, his being encompassed with the infirmities of his people, and his sufferings and death for their sakes; yet he is rather called so with respect to his fruitfulness: for as the vine is a fruitful tree, brings forth and bears fruit in clusters, so Christ, as man and Mediator, is full of grace and truth, of all spiritual blessings, and exceeding great and precious promises; from him come the wine of divine love, of Gospel truths and Gospel ordinances, the various blessings of grace, and the joys of heaven, which are the best wine reserved by him till last: Christ is the "true" vine; not that he is really and literally so, without a figure; but he is, as the Syriac renders it, נפתא דשררא , "the vine of truth". Just as Israel is called a noble vine, wholly a right seed, זרע אמת , "a seed of truth", Jeremiah 2:21 ; right genuine seed; or, as the Septuagint render it, "a vine", bringing forth fruit, πασαν αληθινην , "wholly true"; to which the allusion may be here. Christ is the noble vine, the most excellent of vines, wholly a right seed, in opposition to, and distinction from, the wild and unfruitful, or degenerate plant of a strange vine: to him agree all the properties of a right and real vine; he really and truly communicates life, sap, juice, nourishment, and fruitfulness to the several branches which are in him. The metaphor Christ makes use of was well known to the Jews; for not only the Jewish church is often compared to a vine, but the Messiah too, according to them: thus the Targumist explains the phrase in Psalm 80:15 , "the branch thou madest strong for thyself", of the King Messiah: and indeed, by comparing it with Psalm 80:17 it seems to be the true sense of the passage F7 Vid. R. Mosem Hadersan in Galatin. de Arcan. Cathol. verit, l. 8. c. 4. . The Cabalistic doctors say F8 Zohar in Exod. fol. 70. 2. & Cabala denudata, par. 1. p. 241. , that the Shekinah is called, גפן , "a vine"; see Genesis 49:11 ; where the Jews observe F9 Zohar in Gen fol. 127. 3. , the King Messiah is so called. The Jews F11 Misn. Middot, c. 3. sect. 8. T. Bab. Cholin, fol. 90. 2. & Tamid, fol. 29. 1, 2. say, there was a golden vine that stood over the gate of the temple, and it was set upon props; and whoever offered a leaf, or a grape, or a cluster, (that is, a piece of gold to the temple, in the form of either of these,) bought it, and hung it upon it. And of this vine also Josephus F12 Antiqu. l. 15. c. 11. sect. 3. makes mention, as being in Herod's temple; of which he says, that it was over the doors (of the temple), under the edges of the wall, having clusters hanging down from it on high, which filled spectators with wonder as for the size of it, so for the art with which it was made. And elsewhere he says F13 De Bello Jud. l. 5. c. 5. sect. 4. , the inward door in the porch was all covered with gold, and the whole wall about it; and it had over it golden vines, from whence hung clusters as big as the stature of a man: now whether our Lord may refer to this, being near the temple, and in view of it, and point to it, and call himself the true vine, in distinction from it, which was only the representation of one; or whether he might take occasion, from the sight of a real vine, to compare himself to one, nay be considered; since it was usual with Christ, upon sight or mention of natural things, to take the opportunity of treating of spiritual ones: though it may be rather this discourse of the vine and branches might be occasioned by his speaking of the fruit of the vine, at the time he ate the passover, and instituted the ordinance of the supper.

And my Father is the husbandman ; or vinedresser. So God is called by Philo the Jew F14 Leg. Allegor. l. 1. p. 48. , γεωργος αγαθος , "a good husbandman"; and the same the Targumist says of the word of the Lord F15 Targum in Hos. 11. 4. ,

"and my word shall be unto them, כאכרא טבא , "as a good husbandman".'

Now Christ says this of his Father, both with respect to himself the vine, and with respect to the branches that were in him: he was the husbandman to him; he planted the vine of his human nature, and filled it with all the graces of the Spirit; he supported it, upheld it, and made it strong for himself, for the purposes of his grace, and for his own glory; and took infinite delight in it, being to him a pleasant plant, a plant of renown. The concern this husbandman has with the branches, is expressed in the following verse.

- John Gills Exposition of the Bible Commentary