[I am the true vine.] We may take these words in opposition to what is spoken concerning Israel. Israel is called a vine, Psalm 80:8; Isaiah 5:7; Jeremiah 2:21, &c. In Vajicra Rabba, the parallel is drawn between Israel and a vine; and the similitude is carried on to sixteen particulars, for the most part improper and unsuitable enough.
But that which is principally to be regarded in this place is this, that hitherto, indeed, Israel had been the vine, into which every one that would betake himself to the worship of the true God was to be set and grafted in. But from henceforward they were to be planted no more into the Jewish religion, but into the profession of Christ. To which that in Acts 11:26 hath some reference, where the disciples were first called 'Christians,' that is, no longer Jews or Israelites.
Our Saviour, as we have said before, discoursed these things immediately after that he had instituted the holy eucharist: while he was ordaining that holy sacrament he had said, "This is the new testament in my blood"; and from thence immediately adds, I am the true vine: so that for the future the church is to be under the administration of a new testament, and not, as the Jewish church, under that of the old; and from henceforward I am the true vine, into which all the branches of the church must be ingrafted, and not into the Israelitish vine any more.
3. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
[Now ye are clean.] Christ having discoursed of the vine and of the branches, these words seem to have an allusion to that law concerning the circumcision of the tree when first planted, Leviticus 19:23. For the first three years the fruit was to be accounted as uncircumcised, unclean, and not to be eaten; "But you, O my branches, now are clean through my word; that word which I have been preaching to you for these three years."
4. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
[Abide in me.] Indeed, a true fixing and abiding in Christ is by a true faith. But may we not suppose our Saviour here more peculiarly warning them against apostasy, or falling back from the gospel into Judaism, a plague likely to rage exceedingly in the church?
6. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
[As a branch.] See Ezekiel 15:2, where D. Kimchi paraphrases in this manner: "O Son of man, I do not ask thee concerning the vine that beareth fruit (for so it ought to be accounted), but concerning the branch which is amongst the trees of the wood, unfruitful, even as the trees themselves are." Where, by branch (for so it is commonly rendered), we are to understand the wild vine. So R. Solomon in loc.: "I do not speak (saith God) of the vine in the vineyard that bears fruit, but of the branch of the wild vine that grows in the woods." So that the sense of the prophet is, "O son of man, what is the vine tree more than any tree?" viz. a branch of the wild vine which grows amongst the trees of the forest, which is unfruitful, even as they are.
And this is our Saviour's meaning; "Every branch in me that bringeth not forth fruit is cast forth like the branch in the vine that grows wild in the forest, which is good for nothing but to be burned"...
12. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
[That ye love one another.] "Every sabbath they added that blessing towards that course of priests who, having performed their service the last week, were gone off. Let him who dwells in this house plant among you brotherhood, love, peace, and friendship."
Our Saviour once and again repeats that command, "Love one another": he calls it 'a new commandment,' chapter 13:34: for their traditions had in a great measure put that command of loving one another out of date; and that particularly by very impious vows they would be making. We have a little hint of it, Matthew 15:5, and more in the treatise Nedarim. See also Matthew 5:43, "Thou shalt hate thine enemy": this rule obtained in the Jewish schools. And upon that precept, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself," let us see the mighty charitable Gloss in Chetubb. "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself," that is, decree him to an easy death: namely, when he is adjudged by the Sanhedrim to die.
When you consider the frequent repetition of this precept, "Love one another," consider also that passage, Matthew 10:34, "I came not to send peace, but a sword": and then having reflected on those horrid seditions and mutual slaughters, wherewith the Jewish nation, raging with itself in most bloody discords and intestine broils, was, even by itself, wasted and overwhelmed, you will more clearly see the necessity and reasonableness of this command of loving one another, as also the great truth of that expression, "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."
15. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.
[But I have called you friends, for all things, &c.] Thus is it said of Abraham the 'friend of God,' Genesis 18:17.
16. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
[Ye have not chosen me.] For it was a custom amongst the Jews that the disciple should choose to himself his own master. "Joshua Ben Perachiah said, 'Choose to thyself a master, and get a colleague.'"
22. If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin.
[They had not had sin.] So also verse 24: in both places the passage is to be understood of that peculiar sin of rejecting the Messiah: "If I had not spoken to them, and done those things that made it demonstrably evident that I was the Messiah, they had not had sin, that is, they had not been guilty of this sin of rejecting me. But when I have done such things amongst them, it is but too plain that they do what they do in mere hatred to me and to my Father." Our Saviour explains what sin he here meaneth in chapter 16:9.