[(2) THE LAST WORDS OF DEEPEST MEANING TO THE FAITHFUL FEW (continued).
(e) Relation of Jesus and His disciples to each other; and to the world (John 15:1-27).
( α) Their union with Him. The True Vine: union from within (John 15:1-11)—comp. the Good Shepherd (John 10); union from without.
( β) Their union with each other (John 15:12-17).
( γ) The hatred of the world (John 15:18-24) The reason of it (John 15:18-21); The sinfulness of it (John 15:22-25).
( δ) The witness to the world (John 15:26-27): By the Paraclete (John 15:26); By the disciples (John 15:27).]
(1) I am the true vine.—For the word “true,” comp. Note on John 1:9. The ideal truth, of which the natural vine is a figure, is fulfilled in Him. The thought is introduced suddenly, and with nothing in the context to lead up to it. The natural explanation of this is, that here, as in other instances, it was suggested by some external object which met the eye. If we suppose (comp. Note on John 14:31) that they were crossing the valley on the way to Gethsemane, there is reason for the idea that they passed a vineyard, that supplied the form in which our Lord’s thoughts are expressed; but the journey itself, during the discourse, is improbable; and the sight of a vineyard is the less likely, as it was night. On the supposition that they were still in the room where they had eaten supper, a vine whose tendrils grew into the room, or the vine carved on the doors of the Temple (Jos. Wars, v. 5, § 4; Ant. xv. 11, § 3), or the vineyards seen in the distance by moonlight, or the vine suggested by “the fruit of the vine” of which they had drunk, have been suggested. Of these the last has most probability, as bound up with the significance of the cup of which they had drunk that night. We cannot say more than this. The imagery may have followed from some incident, or custom, or remark, now wholly unknown to us. It was, as in the case of the Good Shepherd, familiar to them from the Old Testament, and would have come to their minds from any slight suggestion. (See, e.g., the following passages: Psalms 80:8-19; Isaiah 5:1 et seq.; Jeremiah 2:21; Ezekiel 19:10.) It seems to have been expressed also in Rabbinic precepts, e.g., “Whosoever dreameth of a vine-branch shall see the Messiah.” (Berachoth, fol. 89.)
And my Father is the husbandman.—Comp. Matthew 21:33 et seq.; Mark 12:1 et seq.; Luke 20:9 et seq. The thought here is of the owner of the vine, who himself cultivates and trains it.
The True Vine
I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh it away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he cleanseth it, that it may bear more fruit.—John 15:1-2.
1. Our Lord here opens the book of nature for the last time to complete the training of the Twelve. It had furnished many illustrations for the parables and discourses of the past three years, but none is more rich in suggestion than this of the vine and its branches.
2. What suggested this lovely parable of the vine and the branches is equally unimportant and undiscoverable. The great truth in this chapter, applied in manifold directions, and viewed in many aspects, is that of the living union between Christ and those who believe in Him, and the parable of the vine and the branches affords the foundation for all that follows.
The subject may be considered under three heads:—
I. The Vine.
II. The Vine and its Branches.
III. The Husbandman.
“I am the true vine.”
Two currents of thought are united by Christ when He speaks of Himself as “the true, the ideal vine.”
1. The Hebrew nation and Church in Old Testament times is called a vine. The Psalmist says: “Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it.” Isaiah says: “The vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel.” Jeremiah says: “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?” Ezekiel says of the kings of David’s house: “Thy mother was like a vine, in thy blood, planted by the waters; she was fruitful and full of branches by reason of many waters.… And now she is planted in the wilderness, in a dry and thirsty land.” The vine was used as an emblem of the Jewish nation under the Maccabees in the second century before Christ, and appears on their coins. But the people of Israel failed to live a life in harmony with the emblem. They did not bring forth fruit to God. They were not the True Vine.
Now, the Lord Jesus Christ has been planted in the earth like a great fruit-bearing tree, to do what the Hebrew nation failed to do. He is the “true,” that is, the genuine, the real, the perfect Vine; not a mere shadow of it, but its very root and stem, at once living and life-giving. He has been planted in the world of mankind and in the soil of human nature, that our race may yield fruit to the glory of God.
The departure of Israel from God and their ingratitude is illustrated by the comparison with “wild grapes,” “the degenerate plant of a strange vine,” “an empty vine,” “grapes of gall.” Finally, our Lord has selected the vine as the type of Himself in His intimate union with His disciples, who bore fruit through their union with Him: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.” “I am the vine, ye are the branches.”1 [Note: H. B. Tristram, The Natural History of the Bible, 413.]
2. But Christ may also have called Himself the true vine in distinction from the material vine, the image of which He had conjured up in the mind of His disciples. The images of the Bible, especially those employed by Christ, are not merely poetic figures. The outward is a real symbol of the invisible world; physical growths are a parable of spiritual growths, the kingdom of nature is a picture of the kingdom of grace, because both come from the same creative hand, are made subject to the same great laws, and are under the same great King. The physical vine is the shadow; Christ is the true, real vine, whom the shadow symbolizes; and it will last when the shadow has passed away.
The material creations of God are only inferior examples of that finer spiritual life and organism in which the creature is raised up to partake of the Divine nature.1 [Note: Dean Alford.]
The Vine and the Branches
One of the most important aspects of Christ, the Vine, is His relationship to His people, the branches of the Vine, and this aspect is set forth in the fifth verse of the same chapter: “I am the vine, ye are the branches.”
1. There is a personal relation. As in other connexions of thought (“I am the light of the world,” “I am the bread of life,” and the like), Jesus here fixes the eye of faith on His own person; but in the present saying He regards Himself as inclusive of His members, who participate in His own life, and, as it were, complete it. He says, not “I am the root, I am the stem,” but “I am the vine—and ye are the branches,” presenting Himself and the Church as one organic whole. Thus we see in Jesus the Incarnate Son, a new stock of humanity, planted of God in the earth, able to expand His own life over others, and so to include their lives in His own, and (if we may use the language here suggested) to ramify Himself in them. This capacity is the consequence of the conjunction in His own person of the human and the Divine natures; for by the one He enters into union with us in the flesh, and by the other He communicates Himself to us as “a quickening Spirit.”
Christ was the Son of God. But remember in what sense He ever used this name—Son of God because Son of Man. He claims Sonship in virtue of His Humanity. Now, in the whole previous revelation through the Prophets, etc., one thing was implied—only through man can God be known; only through a perfect man, perfectly revealed. Hence He came, the brightness of His Father’s glory, the express image of His person. Christ, then, must be loved as Son of Man before He can be adored as Son of God.2 [Note: F. W. Robertson, Life and Letters, 417.]
2. There is a vital union. The figure of the vine offers a type of manifold, of combined, of fruitful energy. It presents to us Christ and the believers in Christ in their highest unity, as a living whole. The figure of the shepherd and the sheep does not indicate relationship so close and wonderful. The shepherd has one nature and the sheep another. Shepherd and sheep are separate and independent beings. What the sheep receive is not directly from the shepherd himself, but only through his agency. The unity of the stem and the branches is organic and living. The branch has a nature like that of the tree. It is the prolongation of its tissues and fibres. The sap that is the life of the trunk is the life of the boughs. A relationship very close indeed is denoted. Stalk and limbs have a resembling nature. Stem and branch perform similar vital functions, are animated by a common principle of life, and act together for the attainment of the same identical ends.
Some day you go down to the shore. Your dingy lies in a wee reed-fringed inlet of one of the many bays that indent the coast of Long Island. You get into your boat and shove off the yellow sand. You drop your oars in and then pull away, away down the winding inlet, from behind the fringe of reeds, across the little bar, over the rocking waves of the bay, out into the deep, green, long, low swell of the limitless ocean. From the inlet into the ocean! And where did the inlet end, and where did the ocean begin? And what is the difference between the water of the inlet and the water of the ocean? The same elements combine in both; the same winds that blow in from the distances sweep over the surface of both; the same tides which roll in from the middle seas swell the waves of both. The difference is shallow and unplumbed, land-locked and unlimited. But the likeness is more than the difference, the likeness of water, wind and tides which bring the ocean into the reed-fringed inlet, and carry you out of the inlet upon the bosom of the shoreless flood.1 [Note: T. C. McClelland, The Mind of Christ, 55.]
If we pour a glass of wine into a glass of water, and mix them, the water will be in the wine, and the wine in the water. So in like manner all that we do, while our own acts, should be manifestations of the indwelling Saviour.2 [Note: Hudson Taylor’s Choice Sayings, 1.]
(1) In this vital union the branches are wholly dependent on the vine. The relation in which the vine stands to the branches in the natural world is, on the part of the vine, a relation of supreme support and nourishment. It provides, it contains, it distributes the life by which the whole tree lives. Without the stem, without the root, the branches are nothing and can do nothing. Instead of bearing fruit they can only wither and perish. A branch is nothing of itself. It is only as it abides in the vine that it has either value or continued existence. And as it is in the natural world so is it in the spiritual counterpart—the kingdom of grace. Jesus Christ, the True Vine, is the supreme and only source of spiritual life to His disciples. Without Him they can do nothing. Without Him they are nothing. It is only as they abide in Him that they can bring forth any fruit, not to speak of bringing forth much fruit. A Christian’s life, in one word, is “hid with Christ in God.” Christ is his life, the source and the sustaining power of his spiritual being.
It is impossible to conceive a more complete image of total dependence than that of the branch on the vine. It is not a partial dependence. One tree may give rise to another tree; but the new plant, whether seedling or sucker, becomes a separate individual, and derives nothing more from the original tree. There is dependence at the beginning, but no further. So, for a while, a child is dependent on the parent; but by and by he is cast entirely on his own resources. The living and thriving branch, on the contrary, is always dependent. To be removed from the stem is death and destruction.
Without something higher and nobler than yourself you will do nothing good. You must have an aim to evolve yourself to. This is an imperceptible and a natural thing. You do not think about breathing. It is natural. Your mother has thrown a sacredness over your life. Her name brings to you purity and love in their highest forms; you are bound to something higher, and through her you are bound to Christ. Thus naturally you are evolved into the Perfect Man. You reflect Him everywhere—in other words, you are growing like Him. A man at college who reflects Christ is a man who is bound to Christ, and thus the “man” in him rules his life. You must bind yourselves to Christ to get it at first hand; you must become acquainted with the Lord Jesus Christ as your best Friend.1 [Note: The Life of Henry Drummond, 472.]
Thou art the Vine,
And I, O Jesus, am a branch of Thine;
And day by day from Thee
New life flows unto me.
Nought have I of my own,
But all my strength is drawn from Thee alone.
As, severed from the tree, the branch must die,
So even I
Could never live this life of mine
Apart from Thee, O living Vine;
But Thou dost dwell in me,
And I in Thee!
Yea, Thine own life through me doth flow,
And in Thyself I live and grow.1 [Note: E. H. Divall, A Believer’s Songs, 32.]
(2) The vine is nothing without its branches. It is the branches that bear the fruit, and this is their office. Jesus wants us, and, with all reverence be it said, He cannot do without us. Of course, if He had pleased, He could; but since He has chosen to make us branches in the vine, He requires us each one. All are in the vine, and all are needed.
A vine bears fruit—how? Through its branches. On the branches and on their fruitfulness all the vine’s fruitfulness depends. One branch may wither, yet another bear; but if it were possible that all should fail, there would be no fruit. It is a wonderful honour, then, to be called “branches” by Him who is the Vine. It means no less than this: “I entrust My cause to you; I am content to wait for My fruit till you bear it; through you I choose to live My life; with all My yearning for fruit I inspire you; what you bear, I shall own.”
3. The branches are dependent on one another.
(1) As we are one with Christ and Christ with us, so we are one with other men. Our own bodies are so transitory, we seem to stand so far apart from one another, the sense of individuality within us is so much stronger and so much more obtrusive than the sense of dependence, that we are apt to lose sight of our intimate and indissoluble connexion with others as men and as Christian men. Here again the image of the tree comes to our assistance. Nothing could show us more clearly that there is a unity between us as we now work together in our several places, and a unity between us and all who have gone before us. We are bound together in the present, even as the tree has one life, though the life is divided through a thousand forms, and we are children of the former time, even as the tree preserves in itself the results of its past life, which has reached, it may be, over a thousand years. These two ideas of a present unity and a historic unity are not equally easy to grasp. We can all see the present unity of the parts of the tree; we can all rise from that to the conception of the unity of men in the nation or in the Church. However imperfectly the idea is worked out in thought, however imperfectly it is realized in practice, yet it is not wholly strange or ineffective among us. But that other unity, the unity of one generation with another which has been and with another which will be hereafter, is as yet unfamiliar to most men. The tree may help us to learn it. Cut down the tree, and you will read its history in the rings of its growth. We count and measure them, and reckon that so long ago there was a year of dearth, so long ago a year of abundance. The wound has been healed, but the scar remains to witness to its infliction. The very moss upon its bark tells how the tree stood to the rain and the sunshine. The direction of its branches reveals the storms which habitually beat upon them. We call the whole perennial, and yet each year sees what is indeed a new tree rise over the gathered growths of earlier time and die when it has fulfilled its work. And all this is true of the society of men. We are what a long descent has made us.
Moses was a thinker; Aaron was a speaker. Aaron was to be to Moses instead of a mouth, and Moses was to be to Aaron instead of God. Thus one man has to be the complement of another. No one man has all gifts and graces. The ablest and best of us cannot do without our brother. There is to be a division of labour in the great work of conquering the world for God. The thinker works; so does the speaker; so does the writer. We are a chain, not merely isolated links; we belong to one another, and only by fraternal and zealous co-operation can we secure the great results possible to faith and labour. Some men are fruitful of suggestion. They have wondrous powers of indication; but there their special power ends. Other men have great gifts of expression; they can put thoughts into the best words; they have the power of music; they can charm, fascinate, and persuade. Such men are not to undervalue one another; they are to co-operate as fellow-labourers in the Kingdom of God.1 [Note: J. Parker.]
(2) Yet the Christian life—the Christian life, that is, in its widest sense—is manifold. The loveliness and grandeur and power of the Christian life all spring from the infinite variety of its forms. In some respects the Pauline image of the body and its members presents this lesson to us with more completeness; but the image of the vine—the tree—brings out one side of it which is lost there. In the tree we can actually trace how the variety is all fashioned out of one original element. Step by step we can see how the leaf passes into the flower, the fruit, the seed. Each living part of the true vine is ideally the same and yet individually different. Its differences are given to it to fit it for the discharge of special offices in its life. If therefore we seek to obliterate them or to exaggerate them, we mar its symmetry and check its fruitfulness. We may perhaps have noticed how in a rose the coloured flower-leaf sometimes goes back to the green stem-leaf, and the beauty of the flower is at once destroyed. Just so is it with ourselves. If we affect a work other than that for which we are made, we destroy that which we ought to further. Our special service, and all true service is the same, lies in doing that which we find waiting to be done by us. There is need, as we know, of the utmost energy of all. There is need of the particular differences of all. We cannot compare the relative value of the leaves, and the tendrils, and the flowers in the vine: it is healthy, and vigorous, and fruitful because all are there. We cannot clearly define the minute features by which leaf is distinguished from leaf, or flower from flower, but we can feel how the whole gains in beauty by the endless combination of their harmonious contrasts.
It is the instinct of Christianity to be glad that God has broken the universe into little pieces, because they are living pieces. It is her instinct to say, “Little children, love one another,” rather than to tell one large person to love himself. This is the intellectual abyss between Buddhism and Christianity, that for the Buddhist or Theosophist personality is the fall of man, for the Christian it is the purpose of God, the whole point of his cosmic idea.2 [Note: G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, 243.]
“My Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh it away; and every branch that beareth fruit, he cleanseth it, that it may bear more fruit.”
Some readers, and not a few commentators, not noting the distinctive character of the first verse, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman,” treat the whole passage as merely a revelation of the close union of believers with Christ. They overlook the relation to the Father. Overlooking this, they necessarily have an imperfect view of the other; for it is from the relation of Christ to the Father that the relation of believers to Christ takes its character. “What the branches receive by abiding in the Vine is determined by the nature and circumstances of that Vine; by its being the True Vine, and having the Father for its Husbandman. To put this in other words, we lose much if we read here no more than a comparison to the relation which the branches of any sort of tree, good or bad, wild or uncultivated, bear to their stem. The teaching is immeasurably illuminated by the thought that the tree in question is that tree which bears the richest fruit, and that by the thought of the Divine Husbandman tending it, and watching for the fruit, with a view to which He planted it, prunes it, and will glorify it.
1. God is the Husbandman of the True Vine.—Christ ever lived in the spirit of what He once said: “The Son can do nothing of himself.” As dependent as a vine is on a husbandman for the place where it is to grow, for its fencing in and watering and pruning, Christ felt Himself entirely dependent on the Father every day for the wisdom and the strength to do the Father’s will.
When Christ came into this world to establish His Church, He did not set aside the Divine claim upon the creature, but He came to enable the creature to fulfil the claims of the Creator. Consequently, in all the acts which He did as Man, He recognized the will of the Father as supreme. He did not cease Himself to possess the fulness of the Divine power, but His acts were to be perfect according to the measure of human morality, although containing the power of God. That power gave them dignity, but did not exempt them from the necessities of created life. He submitted to receive the treatment proper to man, but He never withdrew Himself from the love proper to the Son of God.
We may learn from this that God’s moral government of mankind is not fixed by any arbitrary or changeful standard. God rules mankind according to law, and that law is suited to the nature of man. All that God appoints for man is fixed by the inherent requirements of man’s nature. The moral law is not a legislation alongside of the physical law of man’s natural condition, but it is the assertion of what man’s physical nature demands. It interprets those demands for us, which perhaps we might not find out for ourselves. It tends to the development of man’s nature, and now that man is fallen it tends to his recovery. Nothing could be altered in that which God has ordained without a proportionate injury to man’s physical well-being. The Creator is the Lawgiver and His word is the explanation of His works.
So the character of a husbandman implies the cultivation of existing powers, not a transformation so that one plant should bring forth different kinds of fruit. God watches over Christ so as to develop by His providence the true glory of the Humanity. He does not seek to make the manhood of Christ fruitful in any way contrary to the nature of man. Christ’s human nature was fitted to germinate in every form of humanity. It possessed the virtues necessary for every individual character, so that His righteousness might really be adequate to all the needs of all times and all ages. The new regenerate Humanity should derive its completeness from the moral nature of Christ, cherished by the providence of God as the great Husbandman.1 [Note: R. M. Benson, The Final Passover, ii. (pt. ii.) 6.]
2. The Husbandman is also the Father.—When the vinedresser, in the literal sense, deals with his plants, he finds that they are filled with a life and purpose quite independent of himself. He has to impose his own purpose upon something not wholly suited either for it or for his methods; and so, it may be, he impairs its natural vigour. But God is the Creator as well as the Gardener; and there is not in His creatures any real purpose or meaning other than His own.
(1) The Husbandman who cultivates this “plant of the Lord” is the very Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. “My Father.” The relationship does not belong to the vine as a vine, but to the Person of Him who assumes the humanity which the vine symbolizes. Thus is brought out the relation of Christ personally to God as Father, and in His created nature to the Divine Providence as moral governor. While culture is according to law, it is nevertheless a personal watchfulness that is exercised. So God does not merely leave Christ to go through the world anyhow. There was a real fatherly care with which He assigned all the events of His life as He, in His infinite wisdom, knew to be most suitable for the development of His personal predestination.
A husbandman cares for the plant as a living thing. The Father cares for the spiritual Vine as having the life of Heaven. As it is the Body of His only begotten Son, He cares for it with all the love which He has for His only begotten Song of Solomon 1 [Note: R. M. Benson, The Final Passover, ii. (pt. ii.) 9.]
(2) God, the Husbandman, is our Father through Christ. The Father is the source and spring of redeeming grace through Christ. Many people think—at all events, they feel—that Christ is their friend, but that God the Father is stern and unbending, almost resentful, ready to swoop upon them for every offence, like an eagle upon its quarry; if the Son did not restrain Him, He would take a positive delight in visiting condign punishment upon sinners. That is a mistaken conception of the disposition of God the Father. True, He is just, and cannot look with any degree of allowance upon sin; but the Son is also just, as is shown by more than one stern rebuke that fell from His lips. However, the truth we now wish to make clear is that God the Father is wondrous kind, filled with love, moved by compassion, and so desirous of our well-being that the scheme of redemption had its inception in His heart, and that, of His own volition, He sent His Son into the world to bring it back to Himself.
Surely, if anything could reconcile us to the culture that the Husbandman imposes upon us it is the name He bears. “My Father,” says Christ; and if Christ’s Father, therefore also our Father. For He Himself has taught us so to think of God: “I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.” Whatever, then, the discipline of Christian life may be—however sharp and hard to bear—of this we may rest satisfied, that it is such, and only such, as a Father’s heart suggests, and as a Father’s hand may execute.
Does not Christ Himself always tell us about a Father, not a Judge? Why should you not take His own way of it? “The Father” is the key to God’s character, and to all true knowledge of Him; and it is only when we understand that that we cease to fear, and love becomes possible.
Perhaps you have gathered hard thoughts of God from some person whom you have believed to be good and religious; but much religion is harsh in its character, and you should try to get rid of any such impression, and to think of Him as He is in Christ. “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.”1 [Note: Principal Story, 146.]
And so, encompass’d with our flesh, He came,
Thy Son, Thyself—to make less far and high
The distant Godhead. Now Thy heavens declare
No far Creator, but a Father there!2 [Note: J. Sharp.]
3. The Husbandman and the Branches.—The vine existed to bear fruit. It was useless for anything else. Ezekiel brought home that thought to the exiles in Babylon. “What is the vine tree more than any tree, the vine branch which is among the trees of the forest? Shall wood be taken thereof to make any work? or will men take a pin of it to hang any vessel thereon? Behold, it is cast into the fire for fuel: the fire hath devoured both the ends of it, and the midst of it is burned; is it profitable for any work?” The sole glory of the vine was its fruitfulness.
So God makes fruitfulness the test. Not leaf, not colour, not wood, but fruit. In other words, God’s great test is not profession, not privilege, not apparent power, but the fruit of the Spirit in the life and character. If there is no fruit there is no life. If there is fruit, it is an evidence that Christ is abiding in the soul. He acts, therefore, on the same principle that He laid down for the guidance of His people when He said, “Therefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”
We are not created in Christ Jesus out of good works, but unto good works. We do not make ourselves Christians any more than we make ourselves human beings. Works are the fruit of life, not the root. The works of the flesh are uncleanness, hatred, and their bad train; the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, and their good train. Life works from root to fruit; logic argues from fruit to root. We grow from our roots; we are known by our fruits.3 [Note: M. D. Babcock, Thoughts for Every-Day Living, 10.]
(1) The husbandman takes away the branches that bear no fruit. Christ’s words are: “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit”; so the question arises, How can a branch be in Christ and bear no fruit? Calvin’s explanation that “in me” is equivalent to “supposed to be in me” is inadmissible. It does not explain Christ’s words, but substitutes others for them. Alford’s explanation is better, but it labours under the serious disadvantage of substituting for Christ’s declaration, “I am the vine,” the very different declaration that the visible Church is the vine. “The vine is the visible Church here, of which Christ is the inclusive head; the vine contains the branches, hence the unfruitful as well as the fruitful are in me.” But to be in the visible Church and to be in living communion with Christ are very different things. We should rather say that Christ here lays down, in a simile, the general law that to him that hath shall be given, and from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. If the soul, in the measure in which it has knowledge of Christ, bears Christian fruit, it will grow more and more into oneness with and likeness to Christ; if, on the other hand, it does not realize the fruits of its knowledge in a life fruitful in Christian works, it will gradually lose its knowledge and become separated from Christ. Thus both the grafting into and the separating from the vine are in the spiritual experience gradual processes, and they depend on the fidelity with which the conscious branch avails itself of its privileges, and shows itself worthy of larger privilege.1 [Note: Lyman Abbott.]
Life is given to us on probation. Whatever be our outward circumstances, the supernatural life is capable of making them fruitful. The fruitfulness of the spiritual vine may be found in the richest or the poorest soil. It is not dependent upon the soil like the earthly tree, which naturally grows there. It has an indestructible life, capable of bringing forth its fruit in every soil, and the life must assert itself by turning to account every condition of outward accident. Riches and poverty, health and sickness, praise and blame, are equally capable of being used to nourish this supernatural fruitfulness. We may not despise earthly gifts, as if we could do without them. If we have them we are responsible for them. But neither may we desire earthly gifts, as if they would enable us to glorify God better than what He has given. We are to rise superior to them, knowing that God expects us to show His fructification under the conditions of difficulty which that outward lack may occasion. The branch that is in Christ possesses all that is necessary to become fruitful; and if it be unfruitful, the supernatural virtue will be withdrawn. The branch will be left to its natural deadness and will be cut off. There is one vocation common to us all in Christ. We are called to be saints. This is a vocation that we can all of us fulfil, for the grace of God will not be wanting to us if we seek it rightly; but if we do not fulfil this vocation, so as to have our “fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life,” we must be cut off from Christ by the unsparing hand of the Great Husbandman.1 [Note: R. M. Benson, The Final Passover, ii. (pt. ii.) 15.]
(2) The husbandman “cleanseth” the fruitful branches that they may bear more fruit. The vine is a tree of rampant growth; its branches easily outgrow its power to fill and ripen the fruit. In a fertile soil, and under genial skies, it spreads out its boughs, puts forth a lavish growth of leaves, and forms many a cluster which a wise hand will cut away. If it were allowed to run unchecked, many of the blossoms would never fruit; they would form tendrils instead of clusters; the bunches that might form would be hardly worth the gathering. The husbandman early fixes on the bunches he will preserve, and devotes all his care to the swelling and ripening of these. He stops the branches on which they grow, that the sap may fill the clusters; many a grape is cut out that those which remain may grow large and rich. All the summer through the pruning is continued; the leaves fall that the sun and air may play among the ripening branches, and that the roots may feel the genial warmth in which the tree delights. It seems at first like reckless waste, this constant use of the knife; but it is the prevention of waste, the husbanding of the strength of the vine for fruit that shall be worth the gathering.
Thanks to Thy sovereign grace, O God, if I
Am graffed in that true vine a living shoot,
Whose arms embrace the world, and in whose root,
Planted by faith, our life must hidden lie.
But Thou beholdest how I fade and dry!
Choked with a waste of leaf, and void of fruit,
Unless Thy spring perennial shall recruit
My sapless branch, still wanting fresh supply.
O cleanse me, then, and make me to abide
Wholly in Thee, to drink Thy heavenly dew,
And, watered daily with my tears to grow!
Thou art the truth, Thy promise is my guide;
Prepare me when Thou comest, Lord, to show
Fruits answering to the stock on which I grow.
In deep dejection of spirit, Mr. Cecil was pacing to and fro in the Botanic Garden at Oxford, when he observed a fine specimen of the pomegranate almost cut through the stem. On asking the gardener the reason, he got an answer which explained the wounds of his own bleeding spirit. “Sir, this tree used to shoot so strong that it bore nothing but leaves. I was, therefore, obliged to cut it in this manner, and when it was almost cut through, then it began to bear plenty of fruit.”1 [Note: J. Hamilton, Works, ii. 186.]
A teacher of music, speaking of his most promising pupil, said, “She has full control of her voice, but she lacks soul. If only something would break her heart, she would be the greatest singer in Europe.”2 [Note: J. Smith, Short Studies, 178.]
The True Vine
Abbey (C. J.), The Divine Love, 246.
Benson (R. M.), The Final Passover, ii. (pt. ii.) 1.
Bernard (T. D.), The Central Teaching of Jesus Christ, 209.
Blackwood (A.), Christian Service and Responsibility, 46.
Bourdillon (F.), The Parables of our Lord Explained and Applied, 289.
Davies (D.), Talks with Men, Women and Children, 3rd Ser., 522.
Hamilton (J.), Works, ii. 169.
Hoare (E.), Fruitful or Fruitless, 1.
Holdsworth (W. W.), The Life of Faith, 41.
Jerdan (C.), Gospel Milk and Honey, 120.
McClelland (T. C.), The Mind of Christ, 51.
Mackennal (A.), The Life of Christian Consecration, 32.
Maclaren (A.), Expositions: John xv.–xxi., 1.
Matheson (G.), Times of Retirement, 134.
Murray (A.), The Mystery of the True Vine, 15.
Pike (J. K.), Unfailing Goodness and Mercy, 89.
Ross (J. M. E.), The Self-Portraiture of Jesus, 195.
Smith (J.), Short Studies, 173.
Telford (J.), The Story of the Upper Room, 155.
Vaughan (J.), Sermons (Brighton Pulpit), ii. No. 330.
Westcott (B. F.), Peterborough Sermons, 50.
Westcott (B. F.), The Revelation of the Father, 119.
Williams (T. Ll.), Thy Kingdom Come, 17.
Christian World Pulpit, xiii. 235 (Mackennal); x. 196 (Roberts); lv. 171 (Body).
Church of England Pulpit, xxxviii. 292 (Reid); lvi. 211 (Hitchcock).
Churchman’s Pulpit: Holy Week, vi. 401 (Farquhar); Mission Work, ii. 245 (Copleston); Harvest Thanksgiving, ii. 241 (Bevan).
Homiletic Review, xlvii. 357 (Hughes).
(2) Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away.—The two chief duties of the vine-dresser, cutting off all fruitless tendrils, and cleansing those that bear fruit, supply illustrations of the training of human souls by the Divine Husbandman. We are not to interpret these words, as they frequently have been interpreted, of the unbelieving world, or of the Jews; but of Christians in name, who claim to be branches of the true vine. These the Husbandman watcheth day by day; He knoweth them, and readeth the inner realities of their lives, and every one that is fruitless He taketh away.
And every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it.—Better, he cleanseth it. (Comp. Hebrews 1:3.) This means in the natural vine the cutting off of shoots which run to waste, and the removal of every excrescence which hinders the growth of the branch. It means in the spiritual training the checking of natural impulses and affections, and the removal of everything, even though it be by a pang sharp as the edge of the pruner’s knife, which can misdirect or weaken the energy of the spiritual life, and thus diminish its fruitfulness. A vine which has been pruned—here a tendril cut off, and there one bent back—here a shoot that seemed of fairest promise to the unskilled eye unsparingly severed by the vine-dresser, who sees it is worthless—here a branch, in itself good, made to yield its place to one that is better, and itself trained to fill another place—such is the familiar picture of the natural vine—such, also, to a wisdom higher than ours, is the picture of human life.
(3) Now ye are clean.—Better, Already are ye clean. The pronoun is emphatic. “Already are ye, as distinct from others who will become clean in the future.” (Comp. Note on John 13:10.)
Through the word which I have spoken unto you.—Better, on account of the word which I have spoken unto you. The word was the revelation of God to them, and by reason of its moral power they had been cleansed. We are not to limit the reference to John 13:10, but are to understand it of our Lord’s whole teaching. (See John 5:24; John 8:31-32; John 12:48; John 17:10; and comp. Note on Ephesians 5:26.)
(4) Abide in me, and I in you.—The clauses are here connected as cause and effect. The second is the promise, which will not fail if the command of the first be observed. The union then, and all that follows from it, is placed within the power of the human will. All is contained in the words, “Abide in Me.” He who obeys this command has Christ abiding in him, and is a fruitful branch of the true vine.
As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself.—The branch regarded of itself, apart from (“except it abide in”) the vine, has no original source of life. The sap flows from the vine to branch and tendril and leaf and fruit. The branch of itself is a lifeless organ, and only fulfils its functions when it is connected with the vine. So in the spiritual life, men apart from Christ have no original source of life and fruitfulness. The true life flows from Him to every branch that abides in Him, quickening by its power the whole man, and making him fruitful in good. The man who lives without faith in God may be said to exist, rather than to live, and misses the true aim of his being.
(5) I am the vine, ye are the branches.—The first clause is repeated to bring out the contrast with the second. It has been implied, but not directly stated, that they are the branches. It may be that there was a pause after the end of the fourth verse, accompanied by a look at the disciples, or at that which suggested the imagery of the vine. His words would then continue with the sense, “Yes, it is so. That is the true relation between us. I am the vine, ye are the branches. The fruitful branches represent men that abide in Me . . .”
For without me ye can do nothing.—Better, separate from Me, or, apart from Me. (Comp. margin.) The words bring out the fulness of the meaning of the fruitfulness of the man who abides in Christ. It is he, and he only, who brings forth fruit, for the man who is separate from Christ can bear no fruit. The words have often been unduly pressed, to exclude all moral power apart from Christ, whereas the whole context limits them to the fruit-bearing of the Christian life. The persons thought of all through this allegory are true and false Christians, and nothing is said of the influence on men of the wider teaching of God, the Light of the Logos ever in the world. A moral power outside the limits of Christianity is clearly recognised in the New Testament. (Comp., e.g., Romans 2:14-15, Notes.)
(6) If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch . . .—The thought passes from the fruitful to the sterile branch, from the man who abideth to the man who will not abide in Christ. In the natural vineyard such a branch was cast forth, and then withered, and was gathered with others into bundles, and burned. The vivid picture illustrates the fearful history of a man who willeth not to abide in Christ.
And they are burned.—Better, and they burn. The tenses of this verse should be carefully observed. The burning of the withered branches of the natural vine suggests the final judgment, and the whole is thought of from that time. Hence the earlier verbs are in the past, and the later in the present tense.
(7) If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you . . .—He is now passing from the figure, which recurs again only in John 15:8; John 15:16. We should have expected here, “and I abide in you” (John 15:4); but His abiding in them necessarily accompanies their abiding in Him. The abiding of His words in them is the means by which, and the proof that they do abide in Him. (Comp. John 14:15; John 14:23-24.)
Ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.—The reading is not certain, but the first verb should probably be imperative, “Ask what ye will . . .” The promise in all its width is the same as that in John 14:13-14 (see Note there), and it is attended by the same condition, for they who abide in Christ, and in whom Christ’s words abide, cannot pray otherwise than in His name.
(8) Herein is my Father glorified.—This clause is generally understood of the words which follow as it is taken in our English version, but the rendering is liable to the objection that it gives a forced meaning to the word “that” ( ἱυα), which is properly used to express purpose. We may here (as in John 4:37; John 16:30) take “herein” to refer to the words which have gone before. By so doing we give a natural meaning to the words, and get a satisfactory sense for the sentence. The thought then will be, “In this doing whatever ye ask, my Father is glorified, in order that ye may bear much fruit, and that ye may become my disciples.”
So shall ye be my disciples.—Better, and may become My disciples. The pronoun is strongly emphatic. The living union with Christ, which made all their prayers, prayers in His name, and prayers which He would answer, and made them abound with fruit to the glory of God, was the characteristic which marked them as His true disciples.
(9) As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you.—Better, As the Father hath loved Me, I have also loved you. He had passed from the thought of their discipleship to the foundation of their union with Him and with God. It was in the eternal love of the Father, ever going forth to the Son, and from the Son ever going forth to all who would receive it. The Father’s love and presence was ever with the Son, because the Son ever did those things which were pleasing to Him. (Comp. Note on John 8:31.) The love of the Son is ever present wherever willing heart of obedient disciple is open to its power.
Continue ye in my love.—Better, abide ye in My love. The word “continue” misses the connection with the context. By “My love” is meant, not “love to Me in your hearts,” but, “My love towards you.” The one produces the other. “We love Him because He hath first loved us;” but that which is prominent in the thought here is His love to the disciples, which He has just compared to the Father’s love to Himself.
(10) If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love.—Comp. John 14:21; John 14:24. keeping of His commandments is the outward proof of love towards Him; so that the love of the human heart towards Christ, which itself flows from Christ’s love to us (see Note on previous verse), becomes the condition of abiding in that love. While we cherish love for Him, our hearts are abiding in that state which can receive His love for us.
Even as I have kept my Father’s commandments . . .—Comp. Note on John 15:9 and reference there. This is again an appeal to His perfect sinlessness, and willing subordination as Son to the Father. We should notice also that the keeping of the commandments is not an arbitrary condition imposed upon human love; but a necessary result of love itself, and therefore as true in the relation of the Son to the Father as it is in our relation to Him. Because the Son loved the Father, therefore He kept His commandments, and in this love He abode in the Father’s love. Because we love God we necessarily keep His commandments, and in this love is the receptive power which constitutes abiding in the divine love.
(11) These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you.—The better reading is, . . that My joy may be in you. The joy thought of is that which Christ Himself possessed in the consciousness of His love towards the Father, and of the Father’s love towards Him. The brightness of that joy lit up the darkest hours of His own human life, and He wills that it should light up theirs. In the consciousness of their love to God, and of God’s love to them, there would be in them, as part of their true life, joy which no sorrow could ever overcome. They were as men with troubled hearts. He has told them of the true source of peace. His own peace He has given to them. He tells them now of the source of joy, and has spoken the word that they may possess the very joy which was the light of His own heart.
And that your joy might be full.—Comp. the words of the Intercessory Prayer in John 17:13, and the same phrase in John 3:29; John 16:24; 1 John 1:4; 2 John 1:12. The state of which He has spoken to them—the loving and being loved of God—is the ideal perfection of human life. It supplies satisfaction for all the deepest desires of our being. The capacities of the whole man are fulfilled in it, and the result is fulness of joy. They have learnt little of the true spirit of Christianity whose religion does not impart to them a joy which sheds its light over the whole of their lives.
(12) This is my commandment.—Comp. Note on John 13:34. In John 15:10 keeping of His commandments was laid down as the means of abiding in His love. He now reminds them that that which was specially the commandment to them was love to one another. Love to God is proved by love to mankind. The two great commandments of the law are really one. “If a man love not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?”
(13) Greater love hath no man than this.—Better, . . . hath no one than this. (Comp. Note on John 10:18; John 10:29.) Nothing greater is conceivable in the thought of love. He has spoken of His own love for them as the measure of their love for each other. The thought of this verse dwells upon what His love really was and what theirs should also be. (Comp. especially Note on 1 John 3:16.)
That a man lay down his life for his friends.—Better, that any one . . . For the phrase “lay down his life,” comp. John 10:11. The term “friends” is here used because those whom He is addressing were His friends. There is no opposition between this passage and Romans 5:6 et seq. The point dwelt upon is the greatness of the love, and the highest reach of love is the self-sacrifice which spares not life itself.
(14) Ye are my friends . . .—Stress is to be laid upon the pronoun, “Ye are My friends . . .” “Ye are those of whom I have just spoken, and for whom I am about to give the greatest proof of love.”
If ye do whatsoever I command you.—Better, the things which I am commanding you, (Comp. John 14:21; John 14:23.)
(15) Henceforth I call you not servants.—Better, I call you no longer, or, I do not still call you, servants. (Comp. John 14:30.) For the word “servant,” as applied to them, comp. John 12:26; John 13:13. It is used again in this discourse (John 15:20), but with reference to an earlier saying. In John 20:17, he calls them brethren. The word here rendered “servant” means literally “bond-servant,” “slave.” He will not apply this to them, but the foremost Apostles felt that His service was perfect freedom, and it became the common title which they applied to themselves. (Comp., e.g., Romans 1:1; James 1:1; 2 Peter 1:1; Revelation 1:1.)
For the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth.—The part of the slave is mechanical obedience, without any principle of love between his master and himself. He knows nothing of the purpose or aim of his master, and although he sees the deeds which are done, he knows not what his master doeth. There is no occasion to read the word “doeth” as though it were “will do” (future), which has not unfrequently been accepted as the explanation.
For all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you—i.e., He had treated them as friends and sharers in their common work. He has revealed to them the character and attributes of the Father, and kept back from them no truth of which they could understand the meaning. There is no contradiction with John 16:12. The reason He had not told them more was not on His part, but on theirs. They could not then receive more, but in the future He would by the Holy Spirit declare to them all truth.
(16) Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.—Comp. Luke 6:12 et seq., and in this Gospel John 6:70; John 13:18. The thought of His love for them, which had exalted them from the position of slaves to friends, from fishermen to Apostles, is made to remind them again (John 15:17) of the duty of love to each other. In John 15:20 he reminds them of the words which accompanied His own act of humility in washing their feet (John 13:15-16). The chiefest Apostle owed all to His gift and election, and should be ready to sacrifice all for his brethren, as He Himself was.
And ordained you.—The word “ordained” has acquired a special sense in modern English which is here misleading, and it will be better, therefore, to read appointed.
That ye should go and bring forth fruit.—Comp. Matthew 13:44; Matthew 18:15; Matthew 19:21, for the idea of going away and doing something. It implies here the activity of the Apostles as distinct from that of Christ. Each one as a branch ever joined to Christ was to grow away from Him in the development of his own work, and was to bring forth his own fruit. The margin compares Matthew 28:19, probably, with the thought of their fulfilling the Apostle’s missionary work. This view has been commonly adopted, but it gives to the word “go’” a fulness of meaning which is scarcely warranted.
And that your fruit should remain.—Comp. Note on John 4:36; and see 2 John 1:8, and Revelation 14:13.
That whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father.—Comp. Notes on John 15:7-8.
(17) These things I command you—i.e., the things of which He has spoken from John 15:1 onwards, and especially from John 15:12-16. After speaking them He comes back to the purpose from which this section started, “that ye love one another.”
We must beware of the not unfrequent mistake of interpreting “these things” of the words which follow, as if it were, “I command you this, viz., to love one another.” The thought is, “I am giving you these precepts that you may love one another.”
(18) If the world hate you.—He has spoken of their close union with Himself, and of their love to each other. He proceeds in the remainder of the chapter to speak of their relation to the world. There is a striking contrast between the “love” in the last verse, and the “hatred” in this. There was the more need for them to be close bound to each other, and to their Lord, on account of the hatred which awaited them in the world.
Ye know that it hated me before it hated you.—It is better to take the first word as an imperative, “Know that it hated . . .” The very hatred, then, is a bond of union with their Master, and this thought should supply strength to meet it, and joy even when suffering from it (John 15:11). (Comp. 1 Peter 4:12-13.)
(19) If ye were of the world, the world would love his own.—The force of the expression indicates the utter selfishness of the world’s love. It would love not them, but that in them which was its own. (Comp. Note on John 7:7.)
I have chosen you out of the world.—Comp. John 15:16, and Note on John 7:7. There He had told them that the world could not hate them. The very fact of its hatred would prove a moral change in them, by which they had ceased to belong to the world, and had become the children of God. Both thoughts are repeated in 1 John 3:13; 1 John 4:5.
(20) Remember the word that I said unto you.—Comp. John 13:16, where the saying is used in a different sense; and Matthew 10:24, where it is used in the same connection in which we find it here.
If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying . . .—The meaning is exactly that which is expressed in the rendering of the English version. The two things are necessarily united, as Christ and His disciples are united. His word is their word. The relation of the world to the one would be that which it had been to the other.
(21) But all these things will they do unto you.—These words are themselves an interpretation of the previous verse. They suppose the persecution and hatred to take place, and find the true consolation in the fact that this would be done to them as representing their Lord. The Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles are a commentary on this text. (Comp., among numerous passages, Acts 4:17; Acts 9:14; Galatians 6:17.)
Because they know not him that sent me.—The hatred is here traced to its true cause, which is ignorance of God. The Apostles were those sent by Christ. He Himself was the Apostle of the Father. They would hate His messenger, and hate Him, the messenger of God, because they knew not God.
(22) If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin.—In this and the following verses (John 15:22-25) our Lord shows the sinfulness of the world’s hatred, because it was in the face of His revelation to them by both word (John 15:22) and work (John 15:24). Apart from this revelation, their sin would have belonged to the times of ignorance, which God overlooked (Acts 17:30-31). It would have been the negative evil of men who know not. It was now the positive evil of men who, knowing the truth, wilfully reject it.
But now they have no cloke for their sin.—Better, as in the margin, they have no excuse for their sin. The Greek phrase occurs only here in the New Testament. The word “cloke” as used with sin is familiar to us from the exhortation in the Book of Common Prayer. The idea is rather to cover up, to hide as with a garment, so that they may not be seen; whereas here the idea is of excuse for manifest sin.
(23) He that hateth me hateth my Father also.—Comp. Note on John 5:23, and John 15:18 in this context. Again the darkness of the world’s hatred is drawn in the successive degrees of sin. Hatred against the disciples is hatred against the Master whom they represent. Hatred against the Son is hatred against the Father whom He represents. Hatred of the Father! There can be no greater darkness. The sinfulness of sin has in this thought reached its limit. God is love. The heart that can hate love has hardened itself, and cannot be loved.
(24) If I had not done among them the works.—Comp. Note on John 15:22, and for the evidence of our Lord’s works, see John 5:36; John 9:3-4; John 9:24; John 10:21; John 10:37; John 14:10. They met the evidence of works by the assertion that He was a sinner, and possessed a devil. Their hatred led them to ascribe the highest good to the power of evil. To such hearts there are no channels by which goodness can approach. (Comp. especially Notes on Matthew 12:31-32.)
(25) But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled . . .—The words in italics are not found in the original, but they rightly complete the sense. For the phrase, “might be fulfilled,” comp. Notes on John 12:38; John 13:18.
That is written in their law.—Comp. Note on John 10:34.
They hated me without a cause.—The passage immediately referred to is probably that of the Messianic Psalm (). The words are found also in Psalms 35:19 (see marg. ref.), and less distinctly in Psalms 109:3; Psalms 119:161. (Comp. especially Note on the quotation from this same Psalm in John 2:17.)
The words, “without a cause,” rightly express the meaning of the Hebrew word in the Psalm. The Greek follows the LXX., which expresses the thought “to no purpose,” or “in vain.” This is, however, not the idea of the context here. They had no reason for their sin, and therefore they hated Him without a cause. True were these words of many an earlier sufferer; but they were in their fulness true, they were “fulfilled,” only in the one sinless Sufferer.
(26) But when the Comforter is come.—Better, But when the Advocate is come. (Comp. Excursus G.)
Whom I will send unto you from the Father.—Comp. John 14:16, and Note on John 15:26. The pronoun is here emphatic. “Whom I will send . . .” The mission by the Father in answer to the Son’s prayer, and the mission by the Father in the Son’s name, and the mission by the Son Himself, are thought of as one and the same thing.
Even the Spirit of truth.—Comp. Note on John 14:17.
Which proceedeth from the Father.—The force of these words is to give weight to the witness which the Spirit shall bear of the Son. He is the Advocate whom the Son will send from the Father, but He is also and emphatically the Spirit of Truth proceeding from the Father, and His witness therefore will be that of the Father Himself. These two clauses (“whom I will send unto you from the Father,” “which proceedeth from the Father”) are to be regarded as parallels; and both of them probably refer to the office of the Holy Spirit. The Vulgate renders the verb in the latter clause by the word “procedit,” and the older expositors generally understood it of the person of the Holy Ghost. The Eastern Church, from the days of Theodore of Mopsuestia downwards, have claimed this text as proving the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father only, and have quoted it as decisive against the addition of the “filioque clause” in the Nicene Creed. The Western Church, comparing it with John 16:15, and such texts as Romans 8:9; Galatians 4:6; Philippians 1:9; 1 Peter 1:11, have held that it includes the procession from the Son. If it refers to the person of the Holy Spirit, it must be granted that the ipsissima verba of our Lord are in favour of the interpretation of the Greek Church; but if it refers, as with much greater probability it does, to the office of the Holy Ghost, then these words have no bearing upon the doctrinal question at issue. The student should read on this subject, Pearson On the Creed, Art. viii., more particularly his invaluable collection of notes.
He shall testify of me.—Better, shall bear witness of Me. (Comp. Notes on John 1:7 and 1 John 5:6).
(27) And ye also shall bear witness.—The tense is present, and ye also bear witness; or, and ye also are witnesses. (Comp. Notes on Luke 24:48-49.) The Apostles themselves distinguished between their own witness of things which had come within their own experience and the witness borne by the power of the Holy Spirit, of which the Day of Pentecost was the first great instance. (Comp. Acts 5:32.)
Because ye have been with me from the beginning.—Comp. John 1:7; and Notes on Acts 1:21-22. The “beginning” of course means the beginning of the Messianic teaching and works of which they were to be witnesses.
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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on John 15". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany