I was in Jerusalem in March 2014 for a summit meeting of DAVAR Partners International, the Audio Bible people. One time we visited the Upper Room where Jesus celebrated His last Passover supper with His disciples. That room was of course destroyed by the Romans in the year 70 after Jesus’ birth, together with all of Jerusalem. But the reconstruction still shows the original building blocks close to the foundation of the old building. What I did not know is that this Upper room was built over the grave of King David.
The building is located in the highest part of the old city, and when looking Eastward from the roof over the Temple Mount one sees the Garden of Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives in the Kidron Valley. An intense emotion struck me when we went on the roof of the Upper Room; it was as if I experienced some of Jesus emotions when He went there after supper.
Think about it for a moment; soon Jesus and his disciples will start off toward Gethsemane some three kilometers walking distance away, mostly downhill. He and the disciples have just finished the Passover supper, commemorating the deliverance of Israel’s first born males by the blood of a Passover lamb applied to the lentils of the doors into their homes, and the deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt. But now Jesus will allow Himself to be the only real Passover Lamb of God, laying down His life for the world and for this motley bunch of disciples. Imagine, they have now been discipled by Jesus for three years, taught to lay down their lives and take up their cross to follow Jesus, and just a short while ago they were still fighting about who would be the most important in the Kingdom of God; and none would even wash the feet of the others, so Jesus had to do it. Judas, always a thief, has already left to betray Him; He will meet him in two hours time at the Garden, allowing him to plant a hypocritical betrayer’s kiss on His cheek; and that for just some 30 pieces of silver. Before morning Peter will tell everyone that he does not even know Jesus, and the other ten will all flee for their lives. After these three years with Jesus, having so often been amazed when they saw God’s power at work through their Lord, they still do not trust Him or understand what He is all about. Was He really their Messiah? Or did it look so promising to them, to become rulers here with Jesus, but now He is failing them, and they are disillusioned.
He looks toward Gethsemane where He will do His last pleading with His Father to not have to go through with this. The tension is unbearable; His Father wants Him to take the sins of all the world on Him, and so become rejected by His Father; and that also for this motley bunch of disciples? What will become of these dear friends without spine? After three years they still betray Him and will flee away. He looks up to heaven; how can His Father’s Kingdom now come? And all He sees are the grapevines that hang above His head to give shade the the building during hot summer days. His friends are just like branches that are removed from the vine; if they do not remain connect to Him they can do nothing; everything will fail. And then He speaks to them one more last time; it is like a farewell speech:
"I am the true Vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as this branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it remains connected to the vine, so you cannot unless you abide in Me.”
Question to Discuss
- Does this make sense to you, when Jesus first talks about pruning of branches so that they will bear more fruit, and then He suddenly says: “You are already clean”?
- Or could Jesus mean that people also can be pruned? And if so, how?
- Is it possible that Jesus here is thinking of the removal from our hearts those parts that do not belong to God and that hinder us from bearing much fruit for our Father God?
- What kind of parts in us will hinder God from working through us?
We read further:
"I am the Vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me and I in him, bears much fruit; because without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and will wither; and they gather them and throw them into a fire. If you remain in Me, and My words remain in you, you will ask whatever you desire, and it shall be done for you.”
Questions to Discuss:
- How do we abide in Jesus, remain in Jesus?
- Through God’s Word?
- Through prayer?
- Through listening to God?
- Through staying closely connected with Him in His love for us?
We read further:
“By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's will and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, so that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My desire, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than to lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I instructed you to do. No longer do I call you servants, because servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have told you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another.”
Qustions to Discuss
- Jesus is speaking here with great confidence and authority. Is He aware that He is the last and eternal King from the family of David?
- What kind of king will He be? Of Israel? Or will He receive all authority from His Father of heaven and earth?
- What is more important, hot theological argument or gentle discussion in love of each other?
Jesus’ last words about the Vine show His true Godly kingship and to underscore this He appears to have chosen the Upper Room for His last Passover Supper with His disciples, the very place underneath which King David is buried. Jesus appears to be identifying Himself here with His forefather, the great prophet and King David, the man after God’s own heart. And His Father had indeed promised King David that one of his descendants would be on the throne of Israel forever. Jesus soon will indeed be that final and lasting King; He will receive all authority in heaven and on earth from His Father. He will be truly King over all of His Father’s creation like Adam once was, but also King of all heavenly places, a servant King who is a Shepherd who will never push, but only invite His sheep to follow; His real sheep will know His voice and they will want to follow.
We read further in John 15:18:
"If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet, because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father. But this happened so that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law: 'They hated Me without a cause.' But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, He will testify of Me. And you also will be a witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.”
Questions to Discuss
- Are we any different from the disciples? Will we flee and leave Him alone when our life is in jeopardy?
- Did you hear well? If you want to serve Jesus and bear fruit, will that give you an easy life?
Jesus lived a very simple life without a home of His own, or a regular place where to sleep because He needed to be able to do His father’s work. How would you feel about living a comfortable and luxurious life while Jesus lived a life among the poorest people of Galilee? Do we morally not owe Him our all?
What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear.