On the Gospel of John, Part 37: The True Vine and the Tree of Life

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On the Gospel of John, Part 37: The True Vine and the Tree of Life

In our last presentation of this commentary on John chapter 14 we discussed The Way as we saw in verse 6 of the chapter that Christ had declared that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. So we made the assertion that the way of Christ leads to the tree of life, which, to put it simply, is Christ Himself. Then, because He had also said in verse 15 of this chapter that “If ye love me, keep my commandments”, an admonition which He repeated several times throughout His discourse on this evening before He was crucified, we may discern that the keeping of the law represents the way to Him. As we also explained, this is the significance of the cherubs which, as it is described in Genesis chapter 3, were at first set to “keep the way of the tree of life”. So the cherubs had protected that path to Christ, as they were later seen aside the mercy seat which was atop the Ark of the Covenant wherein the tablets of the law were kept. That mercy seat represented the ultimate judgment seat of Christ, where Paul wrote in Romans chapter 14 “for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.”

In Proverbs chapter 7 we read: “1 My son, keep my words, and lay up my commandments with thee. 2 Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye. 3 Bind them upon thy fingers, write them upon the table of thine heart.” The wisdom of Solomon which was inspired by God, Christ Himself had followed on His Own earthly walk, as Paul of Tarsus had informed his readers in chapter 4 of his epistle to the Galatians that Yahshua Christ was born in accordance with the law, and He also kept the law, so that He could redeem those who were under the law. We know that He kept the law because in Hebrews chapter 4 Paul had informed his readers that Christ was without sin, where he wrote: “15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” Again, Paul wrote likewise where he had spoken of God in reference to Christ, in 2 Corinthians chapter 5: “21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” Therefore, as an example to men, Christ Himself had walked that same path which He also encourages men to follow. Yet Christ is also the path itself, or the Way, because He is One with the Father who had authored that same law. For that same reason, in the opening chapter of his gospel, John had called Him “the Word made flesh.”

The symbol of the cherub was also found among the other nations of Mesopotamia, and especially in the iconography of Assyrian kings. Cherubs of various sorts, all quite similar to the cherubs which have been discovered by archaeologists in ancient Israel, were found in the ancient ruins of Assyria. The Assyrians used them as symbols representing spirits which guarded the tombs, thrones and palaces of their kings. We would interpret this as a cultural parallel, where the Assyrians, descending from common ancestors, had in their own myths some of the elements of things which were also recorded in the Genesis account. Of course, there are also many other parallels in the myths of the related tribes of Mesopotamia and the Levant. As we shall see when we begin John chapter 15, Christ being the root and branch of Jesse, the root and offspring of David, the Tree of Life is a family tree, and Adam was its first branch.

Now we shall resume our commentary on John chapter 14, but first we must recall that Christ was preaching a lengthy discourse to His disciples just before they departed from the house wherein they had shared their famous so-called Last Supper. As we have also seen, Judas had already departed from the group, evidently to go to Jerusalem so that he may lead the officers of the temple back to where he knew that Christ would be, thereby consummating his act of betrayal.

In the last verses which we presented from this chapter, Christ had informed His disciples that He was going to depart from them, and that where He was going, they could not follow. Then in order to console them, He promised them another comforter, or as we have translated the Greek term, an Advocate, which is certainly a reference to the Holy Spirit. Doing that, He once again informed them that He is that Spirit, as He made the promise that “18 I shall not leave you fatherless”, where the King James Version has comfortless, and He exclaims, “I come to you”, so He is certainly one and the same with that promised Advocate. We did not note it then, but where the King James Version has “I will come”, the verb in the text is actually in the present tense, “I come”. I would interpret this to indicate that His coming to them as the Advocate, or Comforter, would be immediate. Finally, we left off where Christ had explained that they would see Him again, and that once they did see Him, they would “know that I am in My Father and you in Me and I in you.” In other words, they would understand that He is God, that the Spirit of God is in Him, and that they also shared that same spirit.

Having the understanding that Christ is Yahweh God incarnate, as the apostle Thomas had declared that He is God upon realizing the fact of His resurrection, the apostles later came to understand that the understanding itself could help them to identify of the children of God. So John wrote in his first epistle, in chapter 4: “1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: 3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.”

Writing that, John was speaking not of disembodied spirits, but of embodied spirits, and during the time of His ministry, Christ had declared that “Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.” They shall be rooted up, because not every spirit is born of God. In the garden of Genesis, there was a Tree of Life, but there was also a Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which is a tree of bastards and corruptions. The angels that sinned had strayed from the path, as Peter had said in his second epistle, they had “forsaken the right way [the knowledge of good part], and are gone astray… For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them [the knowledge of evil part].”

From a Messianic prophecy in the 16th Psalm, we read in words attributed to David: “8 I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. 10 For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. 11 Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” So keeping the Way expressed in the commandments, as well as loving one’s kindred neighbor, is the only way to abide in the good graces of God and find the path to the Tree of Life, as Christ now continues to explain, returning to where we had left off in John chapter 14:

21 He having My commandments and keeping them is he who loves Me. Then he who loves Me shall be loved [P75 has ‘kept’] by My Father, and I shall love him and make Myself manifest to him.”

This is the original message of the Old Covenant, found throughout the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy. For example, in Deuteronomy chapter 5: “9 Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations” and then again in chapter 11: “13 And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, 14 That I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil. 15 And I will send grass in thy fields for thy cattle, that thou mayest eat and be full.” Yahweh displays His love by providing for His children. The ancient Israelites failed to keep the commandments of God, and for that they were put off in the punishment of the captivities.

So later, in another Messianic prophecy from the 78th Psalm, in words attributed to Asaph, who was a prophet of the captivity, we read: “1 Give ear, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth. 2 I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old: 3 Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us. 4 We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done. 5 For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: 6 That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: 7 That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments: 8 And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with God.” As it is recorded in Matthew chapter 13, Christ cited this passage in reference to Himself. The purpose of Christ is to grant mercy upon Israel for their sins, and to call the children of Israel, the generation of the future which was described by Asaph, to return to obedience to Yahweh their God, and to keep His commandments.

Earlier Christ had told His disciples that He is departing from them, but He promised them that they would see Him again, in verse 19 where John wrote “Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.” But here Christ appears to be promising those who would keep His Word and His commandments another sort of manifestation, which is transcendental, although Jude interprets this promise of manifestation literally:

22 Iouda (not Iskarioth) [D has ‘(not he from Karuotos)’] says to Him: “Prince, [א, W and the MT insert ‘and’; the text follows P66, P75, A, B and D] what comes to pass [D has ‘what is it’] that You are going to make Yourself manifest to us and not to Society?”

This must be Jude the apostle, the author of the epistle by that name, and the brother of the elder James, and both men were half-brothers of Yahshua Himself, through Mary their common mother. We see both James and Jude mentioned where Christ was speaking in parables in a synagogue in Nazareth, as it is recorded in Matthew chapter 13, and the people who witnessed it were incredulous, responding “55 Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?” In the list of the twelve apostles given in Luke chapter 6 we read of “James the son of Alphaeus… and Judas the brother of James”, where it also becomes evident that later in life, after the birth of Christ, Mary had another husband besides Joseph of Nazareth. Paul had referred to these men, James and Jude, as the “brethren of the Lord” apart from Kephas, or Peter, and “other apostles” in 1 Corinthians chapter 9.

Yahshua now indicates that He was indeed speaking of a transcendental visitation, and not of a literal appearance, but later Christ does once again refer to a literal appearance, and Jude was confused between the two.

23 Yahshua replied and said to him: “If one would love Me he shall keep My word, and My Father shall love him and We [D has ‘I’] shall come to him [P66 has only ‘shall enter”] and We [D has ‘I’] shall make an abode with him. [Our text follows P75, א, A, B, W, 060 and the MT.]

This is the indwelling of the Spirit of God which Paul later described, in Romans chapter 8, where he was also writing of the struggle that each man has with his fleshly desires: “5 For they who are in accordance with the flesh, strive after the things of the flesh; and they who are in accordance with the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 Indeed the purpose of the flesh is death, but the purpose of the Spirit, life and peace. 7 Because the purpose of the flesh is hostile to Yahweh, then to the law of Yahweh it is not obedient; neither is it able to be; 8 and they that are in the flesh are not able to satisfy Yahweh. 9 However you are not in the flesh, but in Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of Yahweh dwells in you; and if one has not the Spirit of Christ, he is not of Him: 10 but if Christ is in you, indeed the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit alive because of righteousness. 11 Moreover, if the Spirit of He who raised Yahshua from the dead dwells in you, He who raises the Anointed from the dead will also produce alive your mortal bodies through His Spirit that dwells in you. 12 So then, brethren, we are obligated not to the flesh, to live in accordance with the flesh; 13 for if in accordance with the flesh you live, you are about to die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 Indeed as many as are led by the Spirit of Yahweh, these are sons of Yahweh. 15 Therefore you have not taken on a spirit of bondage anew to fear, but you have taken on a spirit of the position of sons, in which we cry: Father, Father. 16 That same Spirit bears witness with our Spirit, that we are children of Yahweh. 17 And if children, then heirs: heirs indeed of Yahweh, and joint heirs of Christ; if indeed we suffer together, that also we will be honored together.”

Where Paul had said “16 That same Spirit bears witness with our Spirit, that we are children of Yahweh”, we see that there is the spirit which Yahweh instilled in the Adamic man, which is also described in the Wisdom of Solomon, in chapter 2 where we read: “23 For God created man to be immortal, and made him to be an image of his own eternity.” If Yahweh God is a spirit, then His image is spiritual, and Genesis 1:26 and 5:3 attest that the Adamic man was made in the image, as well as the likeness, of God. If a man has that spirit, then choosing to be obedient to God, God can dwell with him. So Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians chapter 6: “16… For you are a temple of the living God; just as God has said, 'I will dwell among them, and I will walk about; and I will be their God, and they will be my people.'”

This teaching of the indwelling Spirit is not new with the coming of Christ, but rather Christ was teaching something to which the pious men of Old Covenant times also attained. This same indwelling of the Spirit of God was described in Isaiah chapter 63, speaking of Moses: “11 Then he remembered the days of old, Moses, and his people, saying, Where is he that brought them up out of the sea with the shepherd of his flock? where is he that put his holy Spirit within him?” Several times it is said of Daniel, in the Book of Daniel, that in him was “the spirit of the holy gods…” for an understanding of which we should refer to the 82nd Psalm. In the 51st Psalm, while begging mercy for his sins, David had asked God not to depart from him, where he wrote “11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.” So we may conclude that while each Adamic man has his own individual spirit which is in the image of God, that man is not complete, and has not lived to his full potential, unless he chooses obedience to God so that the Spirit of God may dwell with him. Only then are the children of God recognized as His children, which is the so-called adoption, or position of sons, of which the Scriptures speak.

Christ continues his admonition:

24 He not loving Me does [D has ‘shall’] not keep My words. And the [D has ‘My’] word which you hear is not Mine but is of the Father who has sent Me.

As He Himself had professed, Christ had come to fulfill the law and the prophets, so He could do nothing which was not written in the law or the prophets, otherwise He would not have fulfilled them. As John explained in the opening chapter of this gospel, Christ is the Word made flesh, the Word which was with God in the beginning, so Christ is also the embodiment of the Word of God which we have in the writings of the Old Testament. Therefore His words were the words of God, as He is also a manifestation of that same God.

Citing another passage from the law, another exhortation to keep the commandments, we read in Deuteronomy chapter 7: “9 Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations; 10 And repayeth them that hate him to their face, to destroy them: he will not be slack to him that hateth him, he will repay him to his face. 11 Thou shalt therefore keep the commandments, and the statutes, and the judgments, which I command thee this day, to do them.” So in the Old Testament as well as the New, rejecting the commandments of God is tantamount to hating God Himself, and those who hate Him will ultimately be destroyed. However it is also the purpose of God that all of Israel is ultimately obedient, as He said in Isaiah chapter 45: “23 I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.” Then a little later in that same chapter: “25 In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.”

Christ once again promises a coming Advocate, or Comforter, which He has already explained would be He Himself:

25 I have spoken these things to you abiding with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, which the Father shall send in My Name, He shall teach you all things and shall remind you of all things which I have told you.

In the last of our commentaries on this chapter, Part 36, which was titled The Way , we strove to explain that the apostles underwent a progression in their understanding from this time until the time when they had written their surviving epistles, and we substantiated that explanation by comparing the attitudes which they reflected in John’s accounts here with the learning that they revealed in their later epistles. Here Christ tells His disciples that once He no longer abides with them, He will come to them in the form of the Holy Spirit, and now He tells them that this Holy Spirit will teach them all things. So it should be evident that after His departing from them, they did make that progression, and that it did take many years for them to complete it.

Beginning in Ephesians chapter 2 Paul spoke of a people who had been “alienated from the civic life of Israel” and had become “strangers and sojourners” because they were “dead in transgressions and in … sins”, and these are references to the ancient people of Israel taken into the captivities and put off in punishment by God. So he also told them that “Yahweh, being rich in compassion, because of that great love of His with which He has loved us, and we being dead in transgressions, are made alive with the Anointed [or perhaps, with Christ].” The prophets had promised that the children of Israel would be reconciled to God upon the coming of a Savior, which is Christ the Messiah. Paul explained in Romans chapter 4, and in a different way in 1 Corinthians chapter 10, or in Galatians chapters 3 and 4, that his readers were indeed the nations of the promise to Abraham, that his seed had already become many nations, and that was fulfilled in the children of Israel up to and during their time of captivity.

So in Ephesians chapter 3, Paul wrote: “1 For this cause I, Paul, captive of Christ Yahshua on behalf of you of the Nations, 2 if indeed you have heard of the management of the family of the favor of Yahweh which has been given to me in regard to you, 3 seeing that by a revelation the mystery was made known to me (just as I had briefly written before, 4 besides which reading you are able to perceive my understanding in the mystery of the Anointed,) 5 which in other generations had not been made known to the sons of men, as it is now revealed in His holy ambassadors and prophets by the Spirit, 6 those Nations which are joint heirs and a joint body and partners of the promise in Christ Yahshua, through the good message 7 of which I have become a servant in accordance with the gift of the favor of Yahweh which has been given to me, in accordance with the operation of His power. 8 To me, the least of all saints, has been given this favor, to announce the good message to the Nations - the unsearchable riches of the Anointed, 9 and to enlighten all concerning the management of the household of the mystery which was concealed from the ages by Yahweh, by whom all things are being established.” Therefore it should be evident in those words that the apostles were taught by the Holy Spirit after the departure of Christ, and that what they were taught is also found in the words of the prophets. Then we also see here one important aspect of what they were taught: which is the identity of the nations that were of the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” for which Christ had come, the “household of the Faith” which is the same House of Israel for whom the New Covenant was promised in the words of those prophets, so that the words of the prophets could be fulfilled.

When Christ had first begun this discourse, at the beginning of John chapter 14, He spoke for their encouragement where He said “Your hearts must not be troubled”, and now he continues to encourage them:

27 I leave you peace. My peace I give to you. Not as Society gives do I give to you. Your hearts must not be troubled nor afraid.

Saying this, Christ continues to comfort them. The peace of the world is always an artificial, temporary peace. On more than one occasion in the words of Yahweh in Jeremiah, in chapters 6 and 8 “the prophet even unto the priest every one [that] dealeth falsely”, the scribes and wise men of the people, are chastised for their sins, and we read “They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.” Real peace is to have peace with God, as we have just cited Paul in Romans chapter 8 and he said that “the purpose of the Spirit” is “life and peace”. That peace is obtained only by keeping the commandments, as Paul also said in chapter 7 of that epistle that “we know that the law is spiritual”.

In the book of Job, a young man named Elihu, of the kindred of Ram from the tribe of Judah who was also an ancestor of David, rebuked Job and his three friends for their impiety. In that rebuke, Elihu describes two classes of men: the wicked who are not preserved, and the righteous who may choose obedience, or disobedience for which they face chastisement.

This we read in Job chapter 36: “5 Behold, God is mighty, and despiseth not any: he is mighty in strength and wisdom. 6 He preserveth not the life of the wicked: but giveth right to the poor. 7 He withdraweth not his eyes from the righteous: but with kings are they on the throne; yea, he doth establish them for ever, and they are exalted. 8 And if they be bound in fetters, and be holden in cords of affliction; 9 Then he sheweth them their work, and their transgressions that they have exceeded. 10 He openeth also their ear to discipline, and commandeth that they return from iniquity. 11 If they obey and serve him, they shall spend their days in prosperity, and their years in pleasures.” That is the peace of God, and if men are obedient and keep the commandments of God, even sinners who repent, then they may have the peace of God.

For that same reason, upon the birth of the Messiah, it was announced to the shepherds in the fields around Bethlehem: “10 … ‘Do not fear, for behold! I bring to you a message of great joy which is for all the people: 11 That today there has been born to you a Savior, who is the Anointed Prince, in the city of David. 12 And this is a sign for you, you shall find an infant swathed and lying in a feeding-trough.’ 13 And suddenly there were with the messenger a multitude of the heavenly army praising Yahweh and saying: 14 ‘Honor to Yahweh in the heights, and peace upon the earth among approved men.’” That last verse is very poorly translated in the King James Version. It is not “on earth peace, good will toward men” but “ peace upon the earth among approved men”, or perhaps “men of good will”. As the Word of Yahweh says in Isaiah chapter 48, “ 22 There is no peace, saith the LORD, unto the wicked.”

Thus we read in the 34th Psalm, in words attributed to David: “14 Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it. 15 The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry. 16 The face of the LORD is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. 17 The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles. 18 The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. 19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all. 20 He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken. 21 Evil shall slay the wicked: and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate. 22 The LORD redeemeth the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate.”

Now Christ once again speaks of His departure, and of His coming to them:

28 You have heard that which [here I have read ὅ τι rather than ὅτι] I said to you: I go and I come to you. If you have loved [D has ‘If you love’] Me you would have rejoiced that [the MT inserts ‘that I said’; the text follows א, A, B, D and 060] I go to the Father, because the [א and the MT have ‘My’; the text follows A, B and D] Father is greater than Me.

Here I am persuaded that Yahshua Christ sets an example, that even though He is God incarnate, He is also a man, and God the Father is greater than any man. He came not to live as God on earth, but to live and die as a man that, like any man, has a Spirit which would return to God once He died. Likewise in Ecclesiastes chapter 12 we read of the body and the spirit at death: “7 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” However Christ, being God, could also return to His disciples as an Advocate, or Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit as He said “I come to you.” Furthermore, being God He was able to lay down His life and take it up again, as He said in John chapter 10.

In the second sentence of verse 28, the conditional particle “if” and the aorist verb rendered “you have loved” do not indicate that they did not love Him, but rather, He is only explaining the condition necessary for the next part of His statement. The imperfect tense verb translated here as “you would have rejoiced” may have been better rendered “you would rejoice”, and they certainly did rejoice once they understood all of the implications of what He was describing. Therefore, writing in the opening chapter of his first epistle of the salvation which is in Christ, Peter said “6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: 7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: 8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: 9 Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.”

29 And now I have spoken to you before it happens, in order that when it should happen you shall believe.

As we have also explained earlier in our commentary on this chapter, the apostles did not understand everything which was occurring as the events unfolded, even though He had told them beforehand many of the things that were going to occur. This is clear in the interaction between Christ, Judas Iscariot, and the rest of His disciples as they celebrated their last supper. But here He tells them that He is saying these things so that once they do happen, then they may realize and remember what He had said to them, and for that reason they would believe. So now He gives them a warning of imminent danger:

30 No longer shall I discuss many things with you, for the ruler of Society [or ‘the Society’] comes, and he does not have anything in Me!

The phrase “ruler of Society” may have been “ruler of the Society”, where the King James Version has “Prince of this world”. In the Greek text there is a definite article, but there is not a pronoun. Where it says “and he does not have anything in me”, our translation is quite literal except that anything is literally nothing, where in Greek the double negative is an ordinary negative. However that clause may have been better if it were translated idiomatically “and he has no part with Me.”

Here Christ is warning that “the prince of this world cometh”, and it was the high priest and his cohorts and officers who were being brought by Judas, who had appeared a short time later. So it is apparent that the “prince of this world”, or “ruler of the society”, is simply a reference to the high priest. Paul of Tarsus used the phrase in that same manner in 1 Corinthians chapter 2 where he wrote of that wisdom which is from God and he said “6 Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world [the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees], that come to nought: 7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: 8 Which none of the princes of this world [the Pharisees and Sadducees who killed Christ] knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”

31 But in order that Society [or ‘the Society’] would know that I love the Father, then just as the Father has given a command to Me [א, A and the MT have ‘just as the Father commanded Me’; D has ‘just as He commanded Me’; the text follows P75 and B], thusly I shall do….

The command which Yahweh gave to His Christ, the Messiah, is made evident in the prophets in several places. For example, in Daniel chapter 9 it is said that the Messiah would be “cut off, but not for himself”, and here in John chapter 15 Christ says “A greater love than this no one has: that one [P66, א and D have ‘he’] would lay down his life on behalf of his friends.” In the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah chapter 53 we read in part, “4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

Another example of the command of which Christ speaks is found in the 22nd Psalm, where we read: “6 But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. 7 All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, 8 He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him. 9 But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother's breasts. 10 I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother's belly. 11 Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help. 12 Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round. 13 They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion. 14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. 15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. 16 For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. 17 I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. 18 They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture. 19 But be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, haste thee to help me. 20 Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog.” All of these prophecies and others reveal what was the commandment given to Him from the Father, and they were all fulfilled in the final days of the ministry of Christ, who was ultimately delivered “from the power of the dog” in His subsequent resurrection.

Concluding verse 31, and chapter 14 of the Gospel of John, Christ exclaims:

31 … Arise, we must go from here.

Now we shall begin our commentary of John chapter 15. Christ and His disciples are now leaving the place where they had shared their last supper together before the Crucifixion, which was not really the Last Supper, as it is popularly called, since Christ ate again with His disciples after the Resurrection, as it is recorded in John chapter 21 and in Luke chapter 24. Now He starts another long discourse which occurs either as they walk to the Mount of Olives, or perhaps once they had arrived there. This discourse is recorded through three chapters of John’s gospel. Then in John chapter 18, it is recorded that they cross the brook Kedron, or Cedron, and enter into a garden which is called by the other disciples Gethsemane, which means oil-press. So beginning this long discourse, Christ exclaims:

XV “1 I am the True Vine and My Father is the Planter.

We have already made the assertion that Yahshua Christ is the first Light created in Genesis 1:3, and that Light represented the first manifestation of God in His Creation. Therefore, speaking of John the Baptist and then of Christ in the first chapter of his gospel, for that reason John wrote “8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.” So John the Baptist was sent to bear witness of Christ, whom John the apostle was describing when he wrote a few verses later that He: “9... was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.”

So if the world was made by Christ, as both John and also Paul of Tarsus had professed, then Christ is also Yahweh come into the world, as Christ is both the True Vine and the Creator, which is the Father who is the Planter. God the Father is the Planter, and God the Son is His manifestation in the world, the True Vine, and therefore the Tree of Life, as He was in the midst of the Garden of Eden with Adam. In relation to that, after the transgression of Adam, we read in part in Genesis chapter 3: “8 And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.”

In spite of any interpretation of what things Christ had said as examples or as instructions for men, He is God the Father manifest as God the Son, or else He was not really the Creator, because in all of the Old Testament Scriptures it is clearly and explicitly Yahweh who created the world. But the New Testament words of Christ and His apostles are certainly not telling us that the Old Testament is wrong. Rather, they uphold the Old Testament writings consistently. This is a paradox that is difficult even for most Identity Christians to understand, but He and His Father are One, and not two out of three, and as He attested in John chapter 14, He is also the Comforter, or the Advocate, which is also called the Holy Spirit, so all three of them must be One.

Furthermore, Christ could only claim to be the True Vine if He is Yahweh, as Yahweh created Adam and as we learn in Luke, Adam is the son of God, not the son of Christ. If Adam is not the son of God, and if Christ is not God, then Christ could not have been the root of Jesse, or the root of David, and Christ could not be a root at all, having been born many generations from Adam, unless Christ is God. Yahweh God is the Father, Christ is the root, the True Vine, and Christ is born of His own people, thereby also being the branch of Jesse. Christ, being both God and man, can thereby claim that He is root and branch. When He created Adam, He was present in the garden with Adam, and knowing that He would have to come as one of His Own creation, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, the Tree of Life was planted on earth. Now Christ, the root of the Tree of Life, speaks of the hand of God the Father upon His branches:

2 Each branch in Me not bearing fruit He takes it, and each bearing fruit He cleanses it, in order that it would bear more fruit.

The verb for cleanse is καθαίρω (Strong’s # 2508) and here it is translated literally, where speaking of plants, as Liddell & Scott affirm, it may have been interpreted as prune. Likewise, Adam was given the task of tending the Garden, which we read in Genesis chapter 2: “15 And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.” If man was to multiply and fill and have dominion over the earth, and if Adam the patriarch was to tend a garden, we cannot imagine that he was only meant to prune grapes and figs, but perhaps this is a metaphor for the cultivation of a society.

Later, Yahweh would lament the sins of Israel in Isaiah chapter 17 and declare the resulting punishment which would come upon them: “10 Because thou hast forgotten the God of thy salvation, and hast not been mindful of the rock of thy strength, therefore shalt thou plant pleasant plants, and shalt set it with strange slips: 11 In the day shalt thou make thy plant to grow, and in the morning shalt thou make thy seed to flourish: but the harvest shall be a heap in the day of grief and of desperate sorrow.” Likewise, Yahweh lamented the sins of Judah, and in the Word of God in Jeremiah chapter 2 we read: “21 Yet 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? 22 For though thou wash thee with nitre, and take thee much soap, yet thine iniquity is marked before me, saith the Lord GOD.” A later warning came in Jeremiah chapter 6, where we read “ 8 Be thou instructed, O Jerusalem, lest my soul depart from thee; lest I make thee desolate, a land not inhabited. 9 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, They shall throughly glean the remnant of Israel as a vine: turn back thine hand as a grapegatherer into the baskets.” Christ was referring to Israel, and in His words here, to the history of the relationship between Yahweh and Israel.

Ultimately, Israel and Judah would be cleansed in their period of captivity, where we read from Amos chapter 9: “ 8 Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from off the face of the earth; saving that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, saith the LORD. 9 For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth. 10 All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, which say, The evil shall not overtake nor prevent us.” So this is the cleansing of the branches to which Christ refers.

But now, in reference to those who would receive the gospel and keep the commandments, among which His disciples are first, He says:

3 You are already clean through the word which I have spoken to [P66 has ‘among’, or literally ‘in’] you.

As they partook of their meal that evening, as it was described in John chapter 13, Yahshua had washed the feet of His disciples and said “He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all.” The reference to “ye are clean, but not all” was a reference to Judas Iscariot, who was ostensibly an Edomite because he would not be cleansed by the Word of God. Yahweh had promised to cleanse all of the sins of the children of Israel, as we read in Micah chapter 7: “19 He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.” Again, in Jeremiah chapter 33, not long after the promise of a New Covenant: “7 And I will cause the captivity of Judah and the captivity of Israel to return, and will build them, as at the first. 8 And I will cleanse them from all their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against me; and I will pardon all their iniquities, whereby they have sinned, and whereby they have transgressed against me.” If Judas were an Israelite, he would have been cleansed in Christ, but he could not be clean so evidently he was not truly of Israel. In the historical context of first century Judaea, he must have been an Edomite, like most of the rest of the Jews who rejected Christ, as his name and the name of his father, Iscariot, also serves to demonstrate.

The disciples of Christ were cleansed through His Word. John the Baptist had baptized with water. Here Yahshua Christ had attested that He baptizes, or cleanses, with His Word. He being the Holy Spirit, as He also attested here, we read in Acts chapter 1: “5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” Later in this same discourse, we read in John chapter 17 in a prayer of Christ which is an appeal to God: “17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. 18 As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.” After the apostle Peter preached the gospel to the household of Cornelius, he realized that they received the Holy Spirit before he had a chance to baptize them with water. So, in the progression of his knowledge, he made a profession as to the consequences of that realization in Acts chapter 11: “16 Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.” Later he would write in chapter 3 of his first epistle, making an allegory of water baptism and the flood of Noah: “21 The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ”.

So baptism is through the Word of God in Christ and a knowledge of the Resurrection of Yahshua Christ. This is also evident in Romans chapter 6 where Paul asks “3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?” It is again evident in Luke chapter 12 where Christ speaks of His coming crucifixion and resurrection and says “50 But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!” So Paul wrote in Ephesians chapter 4 that there is “ 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism,” and in Ephesians chapter 5 he describes that one baptism: “ 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,” where we see that the true Christian baptism is in the Word, and not in water. So in Titus chapter 3 Paul mentioned “the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit”.

The denominational churches, clinging to the ritual of water baptism, are repeating the mistake of Apollos who was corrected by Priscilla and Aquila, as it is recorded in Acts chapter 18: “ 24 And a certain Judaean named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. 25 This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. 26 And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.” Later, in Acts chapter 19, Paul corrected other disciples of John in that same manner. They were not adding the baptism of the Word to the baptism of John. Rather, the baptism of the Word replaced the baptism of John, as Paul had attested that there is but “One Lord, one faith, [and] one baptism”.

4 You abide in Me, and I in you. Just as the branch is not able to bear fruit by itself unless it should abide on the vine, thusly neither do you unless you would abide in Me.

The 3rd century papyrus P66 has the end of verse 4 to read “… thusly also is he who is abiding in Me.”

Without the root, the plant is useless, and will dry up and wither. The same is true of branches without the main trunk. Paul of Tarsus made an analogy in Romans chapter 11 which described the Israelites of the nations who were being reconciled to Christ as wild olive branches which were being grafted in. Then he described the disobedient Israelites of Judaea, those for whom he prayed would accept Christ, as the natural branches of the cultivated tree which were going to be broken off for their rejection of Christ. But Paul’s analogy was not new, as it was apparently borrowed from Jeremiah chapter 11 where there is a similar analogy by which Yahweh had announced His chastisement for the sins of ancient Israel: “16 The LORD called thy name, A green olive tree, fair, and of goodly fruit: with the noise of a great tumult he hath kindled fire upon it, and the branches of it are broken. 17 For the LORD of hosts, that planted thee, hath pronounced evil against thee, for the evil of the house of Israel and of the house of Judah, which they have done against themselves to provoke me to anger in offering incense unto Baal.” Ostensibly, those broken branches were those wild olives which Paul had later described as having been grafted into the tree upon their acceptance of the gospel of Christ.

Now Christ makes the proclamation once again:

5 I am the Vine, you are the branches. He who is abiding in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you are not able to do anything [again, literally ‘nothing’; D wants the word; P75 and B have ‘not even one thing’].

We read in Genesis chapter 3, after Adam was put out from the presence of Yahweh in the Garden of Eden, “ 22 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever”. If a man must abide in Christ in order to bear fruit, then Christ must be that Tree of Life which the man must take hold of in order to “eat and live forever”, as He is also the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Ostensibly, Adam was the first branch on the Tree of Life, and when the Messiah was proclaimed in the words of the prophets, it was foretold that He would be both a root and a branch of Jesse, the father of David. The vine must represent the race of Adam, as Christ is proclaimed to be the root of His people, and a branch from among their branches. Thus we read in Isaiah chapter 11: “1 And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: 2 And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD; 3 And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: 4 But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.” Paul of Tarsus cited a later verse of this same passage, Isaiah 11:10, in reference to Christ in Romans chapter 15 where he wrote “12 And again, Isaiah says, ‘There shall be the root of Jesse, and He is arising to be ruler of nations: upon Him the Nations have expectation.’” Later, in chapter 5 of the Revelation, Yahshua Christ described Himself as “the Root of David”, and once again in Revelation chapter 22 He declared “I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.”

The only way that Christ could be the root of David, the root of David’s father Jesse, and also a branch from the stem of Jesse and the offspring of David, is that Christ is both the Son of David, and Yahweh God Himself. This paradox is addressed by Christ in a different way, in Matthew chapter 22 in an exchange which He had with the Pharisees: “41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David. 43 He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, 44 The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? 45 If David then call him Lord, how is he his son? 46 And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.” Christ was both David’s son and David’s Lord, the Root and the Offspring of David, because He is also David’s God, and being God, and He is also the Tree of Life.

Now, in relation to broken branches:

6 If one should not abide in Me, he shall be cast outside like a branch that has withered and they gather and they cast them [א and D have ‘it’; the text follows P75, A and B] into the fire and it burns.

Remaining disobedient, one will continue to suffer in this world, to be chastised for one’s sin in this world [see 1 Corinthians chapter 3]. For this same thing Adam serves as an example, where when he himself failed to keep the commandment which Yahweh had given him, his punishment was declared and we read: “17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; 18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; 19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”

Then after the promise of future redemption by clinging to the Tree of Life, we read: “23 Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.” But the path to the Tree of Life was maintained by the cherubim, the guardians of the law and the mercy seat. So that eventually Adam would have a way back to the purpose for which he was created.

So in Revelation chapter 2, in the message to the seven churches, we read: “7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” Then in Revelation chapter 7, of those who suffered the great tribulation and washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb: “17 For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” Finally, in Revelation chapter 22, Christ declares that “13 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. 14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city….” And a little further on: “16 I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.”

Being both the root and the branch, or offspring, and also the true vine, Christ is the tree of life, but His people are already branches on that same tree, being members of that same Adamic race. So we also read in that chapter, which is a description of the City of God, that “2 In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” The twelve manner of fruits must be an allegorical reference to the twelve tribes of Israel, as David and Jesse were also described as branches on that tree. That is why the city has twelve gates, among which are the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. The months cannot be literal, as it says that the city “had no need of the sun, neither of the moon,” so the months must only represent the bearing of fruit by each tribe at an appropriate time. Yahshua is the Tree of Life, but the tree also represents the race which He had created in the beginning, the race of Adam, in opposition to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. For that reason, in the words of the prophets were the children of Israel described as a pleasant plant and a noble vine, among other similar allegories.

The sin of Adam was fornication, but keeping the law and clinging to his own tree, Adam would have redemption at some point in the future. The proof that the sin of Adam was fornication is evident in his punishment, as there was only one law given by God for which the men of his race could have been punished, both he himself in Genesis chapter 3, and later his descendants in Genesis chapter 6, and that law was given in Genesis chapter 2: “17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” From the descriptions in each of those chapters, we know what was meant by the law. In the end, in the last chapters of the Revelation, there is a Tree of Life, but there is no more Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The True Vine and the Tree of Life are one and the same, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is the corrupt vine which resulted from the sin of the devil and his angels. By the end, by the time that Revelation chapter 22 is fulfilled, the goat nations will have all joined the devil and his angels in the Lake of Fire.

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