The Gospel of John – Lesson 39 – John 15:1-17

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit, he is going to cut off. And he prunes every branch that does bear fruit, so that it will bear more fruit. “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I am going to remain in you. A branch cannot bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Likewise, you cannot bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the Vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him is the one who bears much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is thrown away like a branch and withers. Such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this: that you continue to bear much fruit and prove to be my disciples. “As the Father has loved me, so also I have loved you. Remain in my love. 10 If you hold on to my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have held on to my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you these things so that my joy would continue to be in you and that your joy would be complete. 12 “This is my command: Love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this: that someone lays down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you continue to do the things I instruct you. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know what his master is doing. But I have called you friends, because everything that I heard from my Father, I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will endure, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 17 These things I am instructing you, so that you love one another.

In the previous chapter of John, Jesus told his disciples that all who love him will obey his commandments. (See John 14:15) But that is easier said than done. Jesus has made it clear what he expects us to do. He said that we are to love God most of all with our heart, soul, mind and strength. We are to also love our neighbor as much as ourselves. (See Matthew 22:37-39, Mark 12:30-31, Luke 10:27) Our Lord further explained how we should display our love for him and for each other when he gave us Ten Commandments at Mt. Sinai. (See Exodus 20:1-17) As Christians, we know that obeying God’s will is good for us. We know that disobeying God places us under eternal judgement. Yet far too often we must admit as Paul did that the good we want to do we didn’t do and the evil we didn’t want to do, we kept on doing. (See Romans 7:19) Even when we do outwardly keep his commands, it is often done out of obligation or to avoid punishment, rather than out of love for God.

Jesus makes it clear in John 15:6 that it is impossible for sinful people to perfectly obey God’s commands. Nothing short of perfection satisfies God’s righteous demands. So how can we show our love to Jesus if we can’t obey his commands? Jesus used a parable to show us the solution to our dilemma.

If you’ve been in a vineyard at harvest time, you’ll see the vines are full of grapes. To reach this point, the gardener has been taking care of the vineyard for a long time. He prunes the fruitful branches so they will bear even more fruit in the future. The branches that don’t bear fruit are cut off. Why should they receive nutrients from the vine that could be better used by branches that do bear fruit?

But now imagine that you take a fruitful branch and break it off from the vine. No matter how fruitful that branch has been in the past it will never bear fruit again. Without the vine it will die. Such lifeless branches are no longer good for anything. They are gathered up and thrown into the fire.

Jesus tells us that he is the vine and we are the branches. Without Jesus we cannot bear fruit in his kingdom. Sinful humans cannot please God by themselves. Our Lord carefully tends us and nourishes us with the Gospel in Word and Sacrament. Through these means we come to faith in Jesus. Without these nourishing foods our faith in Jesus Christ will wither and die. We would be like the branch that has been broken away from the vine. We would be thrown into the fires of eternal judgement.

But as we remain connected to Jesus, our Lord gives us this promise. We will bear much fruit in his name. The more we remain in Jesus, through the Gospel, the more we become certain of his great love for us. The more we see how much our Lord has loved us, the more we want to show our love for him. The Gospel motivates us to do the work our Lord has given us. The Gospel gives us the proper attitude for serving our Lord. We will do his work, not out of obligation, but out of love for our Lord and for one another. We will do this all to the glory of God.

It’s not always easy to do what our Lord calls us to do. In fact, we will never serve him perfectly in this lifetime. But as we remain in Jesus we live in the truth that our sins are forgiven. In grateful response, we want to be fruitful branches. We know that Jesus laid down his life to save us. Such love moves us to glorify God by loving him and each other.

Discussion Questions

1 – Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. Why is it necessary for us to remain connected to Jesus?
A branch cannot bear fruit unless it is connected to the vine. Without Jesus we are hopelessly lost in our sins. Any good works we do are of no value without faith in Jesus. But as we are united with Jesus through faith, we want to produce the fruits of faith. We want to serve our Lord in whatever way he calls us.

2 – Are good works optional in the Christian life?
Good works don’t save us. Jesus has already accomplished everything necessary for our salvation. But a Christian faith is a living and active faith. Our works show we are Jesus’ disciples. (See verse 8) We want to do works according to God’s will to show our faith and love towards him.

3 – What did Jesus say was the greatest example of love? (Verse 13)
He said there was no greater show of love than to lay down your life for another. Jesus showed this love when he gave his life to save us.

4 – What assurance does Jesus give us as we strive to be fruitful branches? (See verse 16)
Remember that our Lord chose us, we did not choose him. He chose us to be fruitful members of his kingdom. He wants us to be successful in our work for him. He calls on us to ask him in prayer for the things we need. He will always give us what we need to be fruitful branches.

If you have any questions about the Word of God we studied in this lesson please contact Pastor Greg Tobison. You can send your questions to: