In John 15:1-17, Yeshua continues to speak with his disciples after sharing their last meal together. His words are once again heavy with layered meaning as he imparts more to them before they would enter this most confusing and difficult time as their Messiah would be led away to his death.
As devout Jewish men, they were intimately acquainted with the Temple – the center of worship in Jerusalem. The Talmud (Middot 3:8) says, “A golden vine stood at the door of the Sanctuary trained on poles, and anyone who offered a leaf or a grape or a bunch used to bring it and hang it there. Rabbi Eliezer bar Zadok said: on one occasion three hundred priests were commissioned [to clear it].” Josephus and Tacitus also speak of this golden vine over and around the large doors to the Sanctuary of the Temple that had massive gold grape clusters.
These large, golden grape clusters were symbols of the bounty that the spies brought back from the land. Their presence was a reminder of G-d’s gift to the Israelites of a bounteous and fruitful land. They were also a reminder of the forty years of wandering in the desert because they didn’t have faith in G-d to face the giants in the land. The golden grapes and vine of the Temple held great significance to all who saw them and on the night before his death, Yeshua said, “I am the true vine.” (John 15:1) Perhaps they could see the shimmering gold vine and grapes from the place where they ate their last meal together.
Yeshua continued to connect the truth of who he was to the symbols that the disciples had grown up with. “Apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5b) Our reliance on him is necessary to face the giants. “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit.” (John 15:5a) There is an abundance promised to us if we follow Yeshua HaMashiach – an abundance of life and fruitfulness. There is also joy. “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11) The joy of Yeshua is within our grasp – a joy that is incomprehensible and will fill us.
Then Yeshua circles back to what he spoke of in chapter 13, his commandment to love one another as he had exemplified for his disciples for the last three years. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) This is the ultimate fruit that we are to bear – the chesed that has been modeled for us. From our acts of love and kindness to one another flows the abundant life and joy that Yeshua promises to us.
As we are approaching Tisha B’Av, a time of mourning so many tragedies in our history – the first of which was the bad report from the ten spies, and also the destruction of Solomon’s Temple and the Second Temple – let us not make the same mistake as the spies. Let us not shrink from perceived roadblacks because we are not feeling capable. As disciples of Yeshua there is an abundant, fruitful spiritual life to be had and the ability in Messiah to face down giants and take hold of our spiritual inheritance.
“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7) Yeshua is not granting us genie wishes in this verse, but he is granting us spiritual power that can only be grasped when we exchange the ways of this world for the ways of G-d. When we love others as he loved, when we rely on his power to face difficult or impossible circumstances, when we empty ourselves so we can be filled with his joy, that is when we gain access to the heart of G-d and the power to face giants and bear abundant fruit.