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Thursday, March 3, 2022

Class Assignment: Observations: John 15:1-14










Observations: John 15:1-14






The King’s University, Southlake, Texas

Biblical Background and Interpretation (2021FA-BIBL-2301-ONL)

Professor: Dr. J. Wallace



By Darrell Wolfe


Observations: John 15:1-14

First reading

Major events, characters, places, and time references:

·         Within this text selection, there are no indications of whom is speaking to whom, or where or when this is taking place.

·         By backing up to 13:1-3, we find that Jesus and his disciples were meeting for their last meal before the feast of Passover.

·         Jesus launches into several movements within the dinner between 13:1-15:1.

·         By the time this section is taking place, Judas Iscariot has left to betray Jesus and the remaining eleven think it was to give to the poor.

·         As 15:1 opens, Jesus is speaking to his remaining eleven disciples and the speech takes the whole of the selected verses (1-14) and beyond. General


·         The speech uses a metaphor about vines, vineyards, branches, and fruit to teach something to the eleven. Jesus remarks in 16:25 that he spoke figuratively in the speeches from 13-17.

·         This portion of the speech includes verses 1-17, so the selection classroom selection is cut short.


Second reading

Repeated themes, words, etc.

·         Remain(s) was used eleven times in vs 1-14 (NET Bible) (twelve times if you include verses 1-17, full speech).[1] The word Greek word is MENO, most often translated “Remain”.[2] May or may not be relevant, but, it is used eleven times in this selection and there are eleven disciples he is speaking with.

·         Vine is used four times. Branch(es) is used six times. Fruit is used six times.

·         Thematically, the concept of a vineyard is the dominant theme.

·         Big Ideas:

o   Fruit Bearing: The disciples are branches that are intended to bear fruit for the Father. In order to bear more fruit, they are pruned by the Father. This pruning has something to do with the words Jesus spoke to them. As long as they “remain” in Jesus, they will bear fruit. The words Jesus speaks remain in his disciples which appears to have a reciprocal result of his disciples remaining in Him.

o   Commandment of Love: To remain his love, they need to obey his commandment to “love one another” by “laying their life down for their friends”.

Comparison and contrasts/figures of speech

·         The Father is the Vine Dresser / Gardener / Farmer (depending on translation).

·         Jesus is the Vine

·         Jesus’ eleven disciples are called the Branches who are seen as bearing fruit or not bearing fruit.

o   Question: What does it mean, practically, for his disciples to “bear fruit”? Is the answer within the text?

Relationship between sections/paragraphs/sentences; movement of ideas, climaxes, emphases, main points

·         15:1-3 – Set Up for the Metaphor. The Father is a gardener, and he prunes branches that bear fruit so that they will bear more fruit.

o   Seemingly odd or out of place interjection: “You are clean already because of the word that I have spoken to you”

·         15:4-6 – Transitions the metaphor to his disciples and talks about “remaining” in Him.

o   Jesus instructs them to remain in him and he in them, because a branch cannot bear fruit on its own, they must remain in Jesus to bear fruit.

o   Jesus expands the metaphor to “anyone” who does not remain in him.

·         15:7 – Odd or jarring statement: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you want, and it will be done for you.”

o   This promise of “whatever you ask” is predicated on two “if” statements. “If you remain in me” and “If my words remain in you”.

·         15:8 – The father is honored by bearing fruit, which proves they are Jesus’ disciples. So fruit must be important to the Father.

·         15:9-11 – Jesus transitions from the branches/fruit metaphor and ties the concept into obeying “commandments” to remain in him / in his love. He also ties this activity to joy

·         15:12 – Jesus defines his commandment: They are to “love one another, just as Jesus loved them”.

·         15:13-14 – Jesus wraps up and further explains: “greater love has no one than to lay their life down for their friends, and they are his friends”. He equates the sacrifice he has been telling them he would make to “love one another”.

General Observations:

·         Agrarian Culture: Jesus used an agricultural metaphor based on grape vineyards of which each of his people would be intimately familiar. He would also lead them to a vineyard just after this dialogue, making it especially potent as they flee the scene of his arrest from the vineyard.

·         High intensity emotional experiences create more powerful memories, so the fact he used a vineyard metaphor and then took them to a vineyard, from which he would be arrested, is interesting.

·         It could be because of my background; however, the statement in 15:7 seems to be punctuated in the middle of the discussion, almost making one do a double take at the whole discussion.

Third reading

·         Questioning the text

o   There is only one event, one speech, one line of thinking. It is positioned within several other speeches given on the night of Jesus’ arrest. He has reduced his ministry from 170 down to his core eleven (Judas who already left). These eleven will soon watch him be arrested and killed, and then be totally devastated for 3 days, and totally confused for another 40 +/- days until Pentecost. These are the last words he can give them to tide them over.

o   Customs: I could probably use more background research on this question. The Passover meal won’t be until the night after Jesus is killed (the Sanhedrin wants to get the killing over quickly to go home and prepare (ironically). So this is not the Passover meal; it is the last meal he will have with his eleven until he rises from the dead.

o   Question: Assuming he will explain “how” to remain in him?

o   Question: What does it mean to be “thrown out” and “burned up”?

o   Question: What does it mean to remain in Him and his words remain in them?

o   Clean Question (15:3): is a seemingly odd or out of place interjection: “You are clean already because of the word that I have spoken to you” – My presupposition is to equate “clean” with moral purity or “washed sin”; however, within the immediate context, the only “cleaning” was the act of pruning by the Father. Therefore, it is more reasonable to see this “clean” state as having already undergone some type of pruning related to the words Jesus spoke (which is what he says made them clean).

§  How does this relate to the bearing fruit? It appears that those who are “pruned” bear more fruit, so because he spoke words they are already pruned and already ready to bear fruit?

o   Anything Question (15:7): What does “anything” mean? Could they ask for a loved one who had been dead for 100 years to be returned alive to them on the spot? Could they ask for gold coins to fall from the sky like rain? If this seems unlikely to be the case; is it possible this statement has other qualifications; or is it is possible that this statement is hyperbolic?

End Observations

[1] NET Bible®New English Translation (NET), Online Notes Edition (HarperCollins Christian Publishing; Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C., n.d.),

[2] Logos Bible Software 8.17 SR- (Faithlife Corporation, 2000),


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