We come now to the seventh and final “I Am” statement of Jesus, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the keeper of the vineyard (John 15:1). When the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt, the Israelites asked Moses the name of Him who had sent him. The answer God gave Moses was: “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you’” (Exodus 3:14). The expression 'I Am' translates the Hebrew word YHVH, vocalized as “Yahveh," translated into English as LORD. It was the personal name by which God revealed Himself and is found over 6000 times in the Old Testament. The meaning of YHVH is not completely clear to biblical scholars, but many believe that the name means, "I am who I am, or, I will be who I will be."
When Jesus spoke the "I Am" name in front of the words, The True Vine, He was saying to His disciples that He would be the source of all blessing to those who trust in the God of Israel. This vocalizing of the ‘I Am’ statements by Jesus angered the Pharisees to the point of trying to stone Him for blasphemy (John 8:58-59). They understood, correctly, that Jesus was saying that He is the same YHVH that delivered the Jewish people from slavery. Here in this passage, the Lord tells them that He is the True Vine. What did He mean?
Jesus spoke this passage after the disciples left the Upper Room of the Last Supper. As they walked to the Garden of Gethsemane, they could likely see the golden grapevine hanging across the four columns at the entrance to the temple. Each of the clusters of the grapes was the size of a man. The Mishnah, a book embodying the oral tradition of Jewish law, says that people made a freewill offering to God by purchasing a golden leaf, berry, or cluster, which the priests would then attach to the vine. Jewish people who gave generously to the Temple had their names inscribed on the golden leaves. The idea of a vine or vineyard was a well-known symbol of the nation of Israel in the Scriptures.
The Lord Jesus said that God is the Gardener and that He had planted His covenant people to testify to His Name. He looked for a crop of good grapes exhibiting justice and righteousness (Isaiah 5:7), but it yielded only bad fruit (Isaiah 5:2). When Jesus depicted Himself as the True Vine, He was perhaps contrasting Himself with the artificial vine hanging on the temple, suggesting that if the disciples came into covenant relationship with Christ, the result would be abundant spiritual fruit. Jesus came to establish the prophesied New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31).
He came to be the source of eternal life to all who believed in Him. As branches are connected to a life source such as the vine's trunk, Jesus Himself would be the True Vine. The time has now come for both Jews and Gentiles to be grafted into the true Vine. Just as Christ was “One with the Father,” He knew that the only way the people of God could produce fruit was for them to come and be spiritually connected to the source of life, Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6).
Jesus came to give you His life. Only through His substitutionary death could we be grafted into the Vine of the life of God. Keith Thomas
Josephus, Antiquities 15. 395.