John 15:1-11: Face to face with the Vine

“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 bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.”  (John 15:1–2 NASB)

If a branch is not productive, the vineyard owner sends out workers to prune away any branches that are sickly or unproductive. When one prunes a branch, it is removed. It can no longer get nutrients, water, etc. When it no longer abides in the vine, it dies. To live, the branch must remain attached to its source. 

Before we dive into John 15:1-11, let’s read through prophet Isaiah’s parallel parable of the vineyard (Isa. 5:1-5, 7, 13). The “beloved” is the owner of the vineyard, and the vines are the tribe of Judah. The vineyard owner does everything He can so the vines will produce good grapes to make good wine but the fruit is lacking. How are they lacking? 

“Therefore My people go into exile for their lack of knowledge;…” (Isaiah 5:13 NASB)

Let’s read Psalm 80, which is a psalm of Asaph. Here the people of Israel are compared to a vine that God removed from Egypt and transplanted in a new land. There’s a refrain that is repeated three time and is amplified and intensified throughout the Psalm. 

“Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.” (Psalms 80:3 KJV)

When the heart turns to God, God’s face turns towards the repentant person. When God shines He face, he is showing His favor and salvation. Vines thrive with sunlight and need the sunlight to grow. 

“It came about when Moses was coming down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the testimony were in Moses’ hand as he was coming down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because of his speaking with Him. So when Aaron and all the sons of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him…the sons of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone. So Moses would replace the veil over his face until he went in to speak with Him.” (Exodus 34:29–30, 35 NASB)

Moses was speaking to God face to face and God’s glorious residue remained on Moses’ face even when he left God’s direct presence. The Hebrew word here is קָרַן qaran (Strong’s lexicon No. H7160), which literally means “to display horns.” The mechanical translation of qaran as to have horns in the Latin Vulgate translation led Michaelangelo to depict Moshe has having two horns in the famous statue. Fortunately, the KJV followed the Septuagint and rendered qaran as glory in Exodus 34. Think of it as the light shooting out like rays of light. 

The other important word here is face, which in Hebrew is פָּנִים panim (H6440). The continual petition for God’s “faceshine” on the commonwealth of Israel is embodied in the Aaronic blessing (Nu. 6:24–26). When God’s face is not there, there is no knowledge, no connection anymore.

Have you lost a connection with a high school or elementary school friend and then met them again many years later? The reconnection might have been very awkward because you have grown so far apart over the years that you don’t really know each other anymore. 

This is what happened to the northern tribes of Israel and the southern tribes of Judah. The northern and southern kingdoms had drifted so far away from God that they were estranged to each other and from God, too. 

But amid the long devotional prayer of Psalm 119 is the connection of God’s faceshine bringing understanding of God’s statutes:

“Make Your face shine upon Your servant, And teach me Your statutes.” (Psalms 119:135 NASB)

God wants to have the same connection with you that you have with your children, that you teach your children about the world and He wants to teach us about Him. God’s face shining is not about getting money or material blessings from God about learning God’s ways and longing to live the way God wants us to live. 

When Ezra and Nehemiah returned from Babylon, they had very little knowledge of God and they were thirsty to know Him. That is how revival came to the Jewish exiles returning from Babylon. 

The reason the children of Israel had been sent into exile is because they didn’t acknowledge God. They didn’t care to be with Him at all. The Prophet Daniel’s prayer for the end of the exile and restoration of God’s embassy in Yerushalayim included an appeal to “let Your face shine on Your desolate sanctuary.” It was desolate because when the people would come there, they worshipped Him with their tokens and their lips but not with their hearts and minds. 

The Tabernacle without the Panim, the “face” or “Presence” of God, is just an elaborate tent, and the Temple without the Panim is just a beautiful building. 

Yeshua said several times in John 6 that He was the “bread that came down from heaven,” which was referring to the “daily bread” God provided Israel between the Exodus and entering the Land. Yeshua was the face of God. 

“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John. 1:14 NASB)

The connection between Yeshua and the faceshine of God for Israel is pictured again in the vision of the “Mount of Transfiguration,” where Moshe also was shown (Mt. 17:12–13), and the introduction to the “Revelation of Yeshua the Messiah” (Rev. 1:16).

Did the Jews in the first century know more about God than the people who were exiled to Babylon? Not really. The literalist Sadducee’s were specifically rebuked by Yeshua for their lack of knowledge of God’s word, but the charismatic Pharisees didn’t really know God well either. They were more concerned about the forms and rituals and separating themselves from “contamination” than about showing love, mercy and justice to their fellow man. 

What is the veil? What is the real issue we see in 2Cor. 3:1-4:6?:

“For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” (2. Cor. 4:6, NASB) 

Moses’s face shown, not because he had the tablets but because he was in God’s presence. With Christ, there is no condemnation (Rom. 8:1), so there’s no reason to consider being in God’s presence something to fear but something to look forward to (Heb 10:19–20, 34–36; 1 John 2:28–3:1; 3:19–22; 4:15–19). This is the great hope of all the prophets is that no one would be scared to be in the presence of God but would long for it. 

Part of remaining in the vine is wanting to be connected to the vine, wanting to be connected to God and being in His presence. That is our great hope: to know God and be known by Him. It’s a return to Eden and no longer being ashamed.

Speaker: Jeff. Summary: Tammy. 


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