John 15-16

In the Farewell Discourse, Jesus prepared His disciples for the formation of a new community. Toward that end, Jesus commanded them to pursue the closest possible union with Himself, to love one another, and to be strengthened by the ministry of the Spirit. In John 15-16, Jesus taught about Himself, the Father, and the Spirit in light of God’s instruction to Israel in the Old Testament.

(1) In John 15:1-17, Jesus described Himself as the vine, reflecting Old Testament imagery that portrayed Israel as the vine God planted in Canaan. God established Israel in Canaan so that they would bear fruit to Him there and reveal His greatness to the surrounding nations (Deut 4:1-8; Psalm 67). In Psalm 80, the psalmist described Israel as the vine that the Lord uprooted from Egypt and planted in Canaan. But the psalmist lamented that the Lord broke down the barriers protecting the vineyard, allowing foreigners to ravage Israel. The psalmist cried out, “Return, God of Hosts. Look down from heaven and see; take care of this vine, the root Your right hand has planted, the shoot that You made strong for Yourself” (Ps 80:14-15). Isaiah prophesied that though God had given Israel all the nation needed to thrive as a fruitful vine, Israel yielded only worthless grapes for the Lord (Isa 5:1-2; 27:2-6). Jesus’ point in the metaphor of the vine was that whereas the descendants of Jacob had failed to maintain covenant loyalty to God’s expectations, He Himself had been faithful. Jesus thus presented Himself as the source of true spiritual fruitfulness. Jesus exhorted His disciples to value Him and His teaching and to bear fruit—not the least of which would be answered prayer (John 15:7-10). Having disclosed Himself and the Father’s will to the disciples, Jesus addressed them as friends and commanded them to love one another (John 15:15-17).

(2) In John 15:25, Jesus quoted Ps 69:4 to express that the world unjustly hated Him and the Father. In Psalm 69, the psalmist cried out to God to deliver him from those who opposed him with mocking and insults and hatred. Because zeal for God’s house consumed the psalmist (Ps 69:9a; John 2:17) and he bore the reproaches of those who spoke against God (Ps 69:9b; Rom 15:3), he cried out to God for help. The psalmist’s opponents hated him without cause (Ps 69:4). Jesus told the eleven that because of identification with Him, the world would hate them (John 15:18-25). The world would treat Jesus’ followers just as they did the Son and the Father—hating them for no reason (John 15:25; Ps 69:4).

(3) In John 15:26-16:15, Jesus described the ministry of the Spirit in accord with the personification of wisdom in Proverbs 8. In Proverbs 8, Solomon portrayed wisdom as God’s active agent revealing the right path for His people. Wisdom’s lips speak truth (Prov 8:7). Wisdom provides instruction from God (Prov 8:10). Wisdom was present when God established the limits of the ocean (Prov 8:27-29; Gen 1:2). Jesus said that the ministry of the Spirit would include counseling the disciples, reminding them of His truth, and convicting the world of sin (John 15:26-16:15). Jesus told the disciples that in light of the difficulty that would come upon them for identifying with Jesus, “It is for your benefit that I go away, because if I don’t go away the Counselor will not come to you. If I go, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7). Jesus promised that the Spirit would declare to the disciples the truth of the Son—which Jesus had received from the Father (John 16:12-15).