In John 15:1, Christ says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser” (ESV).
The word “true” is the Greek work alēthinos, which means "that which has not only the name and semblance, but the real nature corresponding to the name.”
When I read this, I wondered what that meant. Why “true” vine? Why use the word true in a sentence like one would say, “pure gold?”
Beyond the simple analogy of bearing fruit and pruning dead branches, it seemed to me that there was much more that Christ was saying. If Christ was saying He was the true vine, then He clearly was referencing something, because He never said anything out of turn.
The prophet Zechariah wrote his book after the Jew’s return from exile to Jerusalem. From the book of Ezra, we know that Zechariah, along with Haggai, helped encourage the people to rebuild the temple and look for God’s promises. Among those promises the exiles waited for was the coming Messiah who would save them and bring Jerusalem to glory.
In a dream, Zechariah saw Joshua standing in God’s court wearing filthy garments that symbolized Israel’s sins. An angel removed the garments and clothed him in pure vestments, taking his iniquities away. Then the Lord said to him in Zechariah 3:8, “Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who sit before you, for they are men who are a sign: behold, I will bring my servant the Branch” (ESV).
The Branch is the Hebrew word ṣemaḥ and refers to the branch of Jesse’s tree – the Messiah coming out of the house of David prophesied through Jeremiah (vv. 23:5; 23:5; 33:15) – the very promise that the people returning from exile were waiting for.
The Lord continues speaking in Zechariah 3:9-10:
“For behold, on the stone that I have set before Joshua, on a single stone with seven eyes, I will engrave its inscription, declares the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day. In that day, declares the LORD of hosts, every one of you will invite his neighbor to come under his vine and under his fig tree” (ESV).
When I read this, my heart actually leapt! “In that day, every one of you will invite his neighbor to come under his vine and under his fig tree.”
That completely puts John 15 in a bright new light for me. The disciples knew Zechariah’s words, they knew his prophecies, and they clung to those promises waiting for the Messiah. As Christ spoke to them, preparing them for His impending arrest, He was reminding them what they already knew. That He (who is also The Branch referred to in the beginning of God’s statement) is the TRUE vine. He is the promised Messiah. It is through Him that the iniquity is removed, it is through Him that we can be clothed in righteousness.
And it is to HIM that we will invite our neighbors to come and rest in His presence.
Hallee Bridgeman is a USA TODAY bestselling and award-winning author of Christian romance and romantic suspense focusing on realistic characters who face real-world problems.