REMEMBER THE CONTEXT: We can't know for sure, but based on the last verse of chapter 14 ("Come now, let us leave"), it's likely that Jesus spoke these words as He and the disciples walked through vineyards on the way from the Upper Room to the Garden of Gethsemane. In the early springtime, the grapes have just been pruned, making a vivid contrast between the remaining branches and those thrown on the burn pile.
v1-3 - If a healthy grape vine is planted in good soil, and is given plenty of sunshine and water at just the right times, it can not help but to bear grapes. It's in its DNA; in a sense, a planted grape vine must bear fruit.
So it is, says Jesus, of His followers: a Christian, planted in the good soil of a church, fed and watered with regular doses of the means of grace (preaching & sacraments), can not help but to bear fruit.
If Christians are not bearing fruit (doing good works), it's a sign that the conditions they're in need immediate improvement.
v4-11 - Technically, vines do not produce fruit, rather they bear fruit, which is the word John uses.
As we saw in the last paragraph, the grape vine doesn't do something to make grapes, rather the grapes passively come naturally.
You are not called to produce good works.
That's what the Pharisees were trying to do: they were actively trying to fabricate works that made them look better.
Rather, you've been called to passively bear the fruit of good works.
In other words, take care to make sure you're planted in the right conditions and being regularly fed with God's Word, and then the fruit will come quite naturally (although often you won't even notice - see the parable of the sheep and goats).
v12-16 - This is the first of two times in this chapter that Jesus commands His followers to love one another.
He points to Himself as the greatest example of love, since at the time He spoke these words He was in the process of laying down His life for His friends.
Jesus makes two bold claims about your relationship with Him here:
You are His friend if you do what He commands;
He chose and appointed you
to be His friend
and to bear the fruit that He commands.
v17-27- Jesus repeats His command to love one another,
but this time He warns that quite often, are love will not be reciprocated.
Many of us are old enough to remember better times in our country, times where most people were at least familiar with godly values.
We should be actively working in our communities to restore these values, but at the same time, remember that the normal condition of things is for the world to hate Christians;
in fact, Jesus promises this in v18-25.
As you see more and more evidence of this in our society, be reminded not only of Jesus' teaching that the world will hate you, but also of His assurance that the Holy Spirit will enable you to hold to your testimony of who Jesus is no matter how the world hates you for it (v26-27).
OLD TESTAMENT REFERENCE: The metaphor of God's people being His vineyard is one that's used often in the Old Testament. Isaiah 5:1-7 is an example of what happens when God's vineyard does not bear the fruit that He expects.
Use the comment box below to discuss one or more of these questions:
EYE FOR DETAIL—From what you recall seeing in this chapter, try answering the following question without looking at your Bible: How did Jesus complete this sentence in this chapter: “If the world hates you,—”? (See verse 18.)
In verses 4–6, Jesus speaks of the utter necessity for us to “abide” or “remain” in Him. Explain whether you think this “remaining” or “abiding” has more to do with faith, more to do with love, or more to do with hope.
Questions taken from The Complete Bible Discussion Guide: New Testament
Follow the AAA Prayer Pattern:
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: God the Father, who loves you (v9)
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that you will keep yourself in good growing conditions, fed and watered by God's Word, so that you will go and bear fruit that will last (v16)
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: "Ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you." (v7 - notice this is the second day in a row this promise has been made to you, so take advantage of it!)