Commentators cannot conclude as to why Jesus used the parable of the vine and its branches. This teaching extends over the first half of John 15. The preceding chapter concludes with the words, “Come now; let us leave,” it seems that the Lord and His disciples leave the upper room at this point. They start the quiet walk across the city of Jerusalem down into the Kidron Valley. This journey brought them to the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. If this is the route they took, then they may have passed the great golden vine. It decorated the door of the Holy Place of the temple. It may have been that the vines that grew close to the great walls of the city and stretched along it. This is also not certain. There is one thing we should take under consideration is the fact that the group may have lingered in the upper room after Jesus’ statement. This is something that cannot be proven though. Some commentators have suggested that the vine on the temple may have been visible through a window of the room where they were.
Vines were visible everywhere in Judea. This image had already been widely used in reference to Israel. http://ref.ly/Je2.21 Jesus said, “I am the true vine.” He goes on to teach about the nature of the church and its fruitfulness. This would happen as a result, not of any human achievement, this is one of the seven “I am” statements, which are mentioned in this gospel.
The True Vine
The first point we see of this parable is the “I am” saying itself. The emphasis is upon the word “true.” “I am the true vine,” says Jesus. He is the one perfect, essential and enduring vine. All other vines are shadows. This word is used in precisely this sense elsewhere where Jesus is declared to be the “true light” (http://ref.ly/Jn1.9), the “true bread” http://ref.ly/Jn6.32, and the “true tabernacle” http://ref.ly/He8.2.
As stated earlier, the Old Testament usage of this word refers to the preeminent symbol of Israel. Israel is portrayed as God’s choice vine or God’s vineyard. Isaiah writes “I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well. Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit… The vineyard of the LORD Almighty is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the garden of His delight. And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.” (Isaiah 5:1-2, 7) Jeremiah said Israel had become a corrupt and wild vine. Ezekiel 15 compares Israel to a vine. Ezekiel 19 says the following: “Your mother was like a vine…: it was fruitful and full of branches” (v. 10). Hosea wrote, “Israel was a spreading vine; he brought forth fruit for himself Hosea 10:1. One of the best-known passages is from the Psalms: “You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground for it, and it took root and filled the land. The mountains were covered with its shade, the might cedars with its branches” (Ps. 80:8-10)