Every year, many people come to Messina Hof vineyard for a John 15 tour. John 15 is a chapter in the Bible that teaches life’s lessons through teaching how to care for a vine. These notes are a living document. With each tour, as additional examples are shared or new information is revealed, the notes are updated.
Please feel free to use the notes, and if you have additional examples or applications you would like to share, send to email@example.com.
-Merrill Bonarrigo, Co-Founder of Messina Hof Winery
John 15 Notes
Bringing the family back to the table is now a popular “new concept” but the dining room table has been the grounding root that binds families for generations. The kitchen and the dining room table allowed families the time to communicate. It was a time of laughter and sharing. It was a classroom for the history of forefathers, the science of cooking, the grace of conversation, and family values.
My grandmother’s favorite recipe to recite was the easiest one to make and the one appreciated most. It was equal parts of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. Later, I learned that these were really the fruits of the spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23. Planting and tending the vineyard at Messina Hof gave me even greater insight to the source of these special fruits.
John 15 describes the age old tradition of preparing the grapevine for quality fruit production in order to assure a bountiful harvest and the role of the Father and family in that process. Ultimately, John 15 is a beautiful chapter about love.
Consider the stage. Christ is with His family of disciples around the table at the Last Supper prior to the crucifixion. This is part of His farewell discourse. He knows what is to happen. The disciples know that something is to happen but not sure what. “I have told you all this to guard you against the breakdown of your faith. They will ban you from the synagogue; indeed, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will suppose that he is performing a religious duty. They will do these things because they do not know either the Father or Me. I have told you all this so that when your time comes for it to happen you may remember my warning. I did not tell you this at first, because then I was with you; but now I am going away to Him who sent Me.” John 16:1-4
He knows that He has charged His disciples with taking the gospel to the world. They do not know that He will not be humanly with them. They will see Him tortured and killed and will be filled with fear, doubt, and even deny Him. He already knows this and wants to tell them that He will be with them in Spirit always. He uses the vine and the Vinetender to tell them how He and His Father will always be with them, what love looks like, and how they will be persecuted because they love Him. “If the world hates you, it hated me first, as you know well. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, because I have chosen you out of the world, for that reason the world hates you.” John 15:18-19
Think about that. Jesus foreknows all that He will suffer but in His extraordinary love He is more concerned about His family. He wants to help prepare them for the trauma He knows they will feel. Can you imagine the thoughts that are going through their minds knowing that they had followed this man for 3 years, vowed to take His message to the world and follow Him anywhere? He knew they would fear they had made a mistake, that they would doubt His purpose, that they would question their mission on earth.
The Lord uses practical analogies that are easy to understand. People in those days
gardened to survive and most grew grapes. When travelling in Republic of Georgia, I saw house after house that looked to me the size of home we would call patio homes with very small walled backyards. Each yard was filled with gardens, vineyard, cow or goat, chickens, etc. There were no leisure areas. The entire space looked like a living pantry for that family. It occurred to me that this is what the homes in Jesus time must have looked like.
The disciples understood what it meant to care for the vines and the purpose of pruning. John 15 gives us a unique perspective on life in many circumstances. It shows us the role of the Father in training, protecting, and guiding our lives, making every provision necessary to sustain us. We lack for nothing.
The Vinetender’s Perspective
“The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the nation of Israel, and the people of Judah are the vines He delighted in.” Isaiah 5:7a
“You transplanted a vine from Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground for it, and it took root and filled the land. The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches. Its branches reached as far as the sea, its shoots as far as the river.” Psalm 80 8-11
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the Vinetender.” In His first line of John 15, Jesus acknowledges His Father as His authority. It speaks to His respect for His Father and all that He does for us and speaks to the way He takes care of everything and helps us grow so that we may ultimately produce good fruit and thereby glorify the Lord. It immediately brings to mind “Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…” What are we commanded to do? The first and greatest command is “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind…” (Matthew 22:38) Christ exemplifies this in putting His Father, the Vinetender first.
Different bible versions of John 15 use terms like gardener or vinedresser. Vinetender has always spoken to me so sweetly because it speaks to the tender love that our Father has for us as well as to the loving care a good vinetender has for his plants.
You can tell much about the vineyard and the potential quality of the wine to be produced by the Vinetender’s footprints that you see in the rows. Great wine comes from great grapes. The Vinetender must guide, protect, and oversee every aspect of the grape production from budbreak each year through harvest. The caring Vinetender is in the vineyard continuously. “Sing about a fruitful vineyard: I, the Lord, watch over it; I water it continually, I guard it day and night so that no one may harm it.” Isaiah 27:2-3 The New English Bible Version “On that day sing to the pleasant vineyard, I the Lord am its keeper, moment by moment I water it for fear its green leaves fail. Night and day I tend it…” Moment by moment speaks to every moment of every day and night.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people.” Gal. 6:9 It is a good reminder that we are called to a mission and expected to work. Vinetending is work. He provides all that is needed, opens doors and hearts if we are faithful to work.
The Vinetender plants the vineyard and knows each vine. “My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well”. Isaiah 5:1-2 He hedges, builds walls, and cultivates.
He gives the vine the necessary support and makes sure that the vine gets water, fertilizer, and protection from weeds, pests, and disease. He selects a fertile field, digs it up and removes the stones before He plants it. He makes sure that the ground will be the best for His vine to produce the best fruit. “But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the Word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” Mark 3. He puts a hedge to protect from outside threat and builds the watch tower in order to be able to see in the distance of what threats may be coming or what areas of the vineyard need most attention.
A new vine is a stick propagated from a vine. The stick is put into a nursery where the Vinetender gives it special attention and nourishment to prompt its growth and development. The stick begins to develop roots and leaves. Once the roots have hardened, the baby vine is then transplanted into the vineyard. This is a constant reminder that the Father and Son are one. The new vine is actually a clone of the original vine.
Here the Vinetender trains the vine up to the trellis wire, watering, pruning, and protecting it until it is large enough to stand on its own. Then the vine is allowed to produce branches.
Unpruned branches become wild and fruitless over the years. Only careful pruning by the Vinetender allows the branch to mature and maximize its fruit production. An unpruned branch can try to produce so much fruit that it will wither and die and the fruit will never ripen. The Vinetender prunes each branch differently dependent on need and potential. There are many different types of training depending on the location and circumstance of the vine. The Vinetender knows each branch. He knows us by name.
“He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” John 15:1-2 Vines have many branches – some bear fruit; others do not. In order to maximize quality, we prune productive branches to stimulate growth. Only a Father that truly loves us takes care of us like a Vinetender cares for his vines and allows us to “face trials of various kinds in order that we develop perseverance.” He does this that we might be “mature and complete, not lacking anything” like a father does for his children.
Unfruitful branches are pruned away and even fruitful branches are pruned to stimulate more and better fruit production. Non-productive branches and Bull Canes are removed. There are bullies in the vines as well as in life. “Bull Canes” not only sap unproductive energy from the vine and the neighboring branches, but they aggressively overwhelm nearby vines shading their branches making them less productive. Small weak branches are pruned more severely. Larger more productive branches are pruned just enough to increase but not overly stimulate frivolous growth. The Vinetender even chooses the position of the branch in the vine in order to maximize its access to the sun. If branches are too crowded, the weaker branches are removed in order to allow the stronger branches to be more productive.
Even branches that are too shaded to produce good fruit can be repositioned and repurposed by the vinetender to receive more sunlight and hopefully be more productive. Yes, branches are given second chances. (And sometimes 3, 4, and 5…)
Each of us are vinetenders in our lives in some way. Parents, grandparents, aunts, friends, teachers, doctors, police, etc. are all charged with caring for or providing for someone. In the Father’s vineyard, He is in charge. In the roles the Lord has put us, we are responsible. We are charged with setting the tone and the values for our charges. It is by following the Lord’s example that we can do this to His glory. “…The Son can do nothing by Himself. He can only do what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son does also.” John 5:19
“You have already been cleansed by the word that I spoke to you.” Fruit that comes from “clean wood” means that it comes only from clean, disease free, healthy vigorous vines. “Clean” grapes for harvest are disease free. The Father provides such an environment for that – we are clean because we have been cleansed by Christ. “Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the Word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” Ephesians 5:25-27.
Disease in the branch or vine blocks the movement of the nourishing liquid. It prevents the necessary “living water” from getting to fruit thereby limiting fruit production or the quality of fruit produced. Ultimately, it results in death of the branch or vine.
Free to Love author Bill Loveless calls this Soulical Plaque. He writes false beliefs, unbelief, woundedness, judgements, taking offense and self-protection all restrict the Holy Spirit in our lives. “Our soulical plaque not only blocks us from loving others, it also prevents us from receiving God’s love.”
Wild yeast grows on the skins of every grape. It is only when the grape is cracked open that the yeast inoculates the juice inside of the grape and fermentation begins.
The Vine’s Perspective
I am the True Vine… Many ask about “True”. There are others referred to as vines like “Joseph is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine near a spring, whose branches climb over a wall..” Genesis 49:22. Or “Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house…” Psalm 128:3 But, Christ is the only True vine.
Dwell in Me, as I in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself, but only if it remains united with the vine; no more can you bear fruit, unless you remain united with Me.” John 15:3-4
Growth comes from the energy and nourishment of the vine. The fruit is actually a product of the nourishment from the vine through the root and not of the branch alone.
“I am the vine, and you the branches. He who dwells in me, as I dwell in him, bears
much fruit; for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5 It shows the Son as the nourishment that indwells us, supports us, and is the source of all things. We are the branches. As long as we are attached to the vine and the vine remains in us, we are cared for, growing, and provided all that we need to produce fruit. The bible makes it clear that we have volition in this process. We choose to remain in him and to allow him to remain in us. This volition is reiterated several times.
“Whoever serves Me must follow Me; and where I am, My servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves Me.” John 12:26
If a branch is removed from the vine it withers and can produce no fruit. “He who does not dwell in me is thrown away like a withered branch. The withered branches are heaped together, thrown on the fire, and burnt.” John 15:6 Withered branches are dead wood and can harbor disease if left in the vineyard floor. This disease and can infect healthy branches so it must be removed as soon as possible and burned.
What exactly is the branch? It is a conduit through which all nourishment flows to the leaf and the fruit. The leaf provides the solar panel for the chemistry necessary to sweeten the grape. The sunshine is imperative for good sweet fruit. The vine provides the water from the ground through the branch into the fruit sacs that grow on the branch. A healthy vigorous branch will allow all the water and the nourishment it carries to go to fruit. A weak branch inhibits that flow.
Just as the branch does not produce its own fruit with the water from the vine, we are not the ones who produce good fruit from our efforts. It is the Holy Spirit within us and living water flowing through us that produces good fruit in our lives. “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” John 7:38
Like we have thirst and seek water, the vine will wither without water. The living water of the Holy Spirit quenches our thirsty souls. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” Matthew 5:6
“If you dwell in Me, and My Words dwell in you, ask what you will, and you shall have it. This is My Father’s glory, that you may bear fruit in plenty and so be My disciples. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Dwell in My love. If you heed my commands, you will dwell in my love, as I have heeded My Father’s commands and dwell in His love.” John 15:7-10
The second command in Matthew 22:38 is to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
The Vine is mentioned at the beginning of time, “Noah, a man of the soil, began the planting vineyards.” Genesis 9:20 It is part of the Lord’s coming, “He will tether His donkey to a vine, His colt to the choicest branch; He will wash His garments in wine, His robes I the blood of grapes. His eyes will be darker than wine, His teeth whiter than milk.” Genesis 49:11-12
The fruit of the Vine is mentioned at the end of time, “On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples a banquet of aged wine – the best of meats and the finest of wines…” Isaiah 25:6
In the Vinetender’s vineyard, He is in charge. The Vinetender sets the tone and the values of the family. “…The Son can do nothing by Himself. He can only do what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son does also.” John 5:19
Even old vines with barren areas on the trunk can still produce in unexpected places and unexpected ways. When Block 3 of our Vineyard in Bryan turned 33 years old there was still an original vine growing behind the Vintage House restaurant. It had been barren for years except on the very ends of the cordons. Branches still grew there and produced much beautiful fruit. At the age of 33 it had a cracked trunk at the place where the trunk divided into 2 cordons – like the top of the cross. Unexpectedly that year a new bud emerged from that cracked area to create a strong branch that bore fruit.
As we get older, the Lord continues to use us and to prune us and to use us in new ways. Barren cultures where Christ has been banned can re-emerge with new energy and fulfill the Lord’s plans. People who have denied Christ for most of their lives can still be saved and find His love.
The branches are actually one with the vine and as the vine ages and branches mature, it is difficult to see where the vine ends and the branches begin. The longer we abide in Christ and He in us the more others will see Him in us. We are not just linked to Him; our identity and existence are bound up in Him.
There are many types of training of the vine depending on the Vinetender’s plan. The cordon trained vine reminds us of the “Old Rugged Cross” with its rugged bark and its trunk perpendicular to the ground with arms (cordon) that radiate from the trunk perpendicular to the trunk. Its cordons support the branches which are fed from the roots that bring nourishment and water from the earth.
Yet in those early years when the branches are small and weak, fruit production is minimal and the quality of fruit is poor. Weak branches are pruned more severely to increase the productivity and barren branches are removed in order to give the stronger branches more of the vine’s energy.
The branch in early spring is tender and susceptible to wind, hail, animals eating the leaves, freeze, insects, etc. As the branch grows it is trained up on the trellis. This keeps the branch straight and secures to a system that will help protect it (like truth for us) and positions it to be in maximum sunlight (son light). In the spring when the branches are 1-2 feet long they are all stretched up to the sky. I call this the hallelujah season. Looking over the vineyard it seems that all the branches are excited and praising God reaching to heaven. “If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7
As the season continues the weight of the burden of fruit on the vine begins to pull the branches down toward the ground rather than toward the heavens. Is that not like us? We get distracted by the details and burdens of life and it pulls are eyes and praise away from the Lord.
The trellis also provides the place for the branches tendrils to cling. It helps support them when the burden gets heavy. A branch will cling to whatever is the closest object for stability and security. If the branch is not trained, it will blow in the wind, get hit by equipment, and grab hold of the next branch, the wall, the weed, etc. (I say that these free spirited and disobedient branches are like teenagers). Each threat makes it vulnerable to breakage. Just as we stray from God’s word and disobey His commands, we are susceptible to being deceived by the enemy.
Branch tendrils are also used to hold wayward branches close to the vine. It almost seems as those branches that grow straight up, just as they are supposed to, try to reach out and embrace those wayward ones to bring them closer to the vine. Even if branches grow away from the trellis, they can be brought back by fellow branches.
“You did not choose me, but I chose you.” John 15:16. Not only are the original branches selected but many times branches can actually be grafted into the vine. Both of these processes are the Vinetender’s way of selecting us, drawing us close to him. It makes no difference when or how we come to be one with Christ. “If you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you.” Romans 11:17-18
“If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers.” Branches removed from the vine can do nothing. They have no source of life. They can produce no fruit. They wither and if there was fruit on the branch when it is removed, the fruit also would wither. Seeing a branch separated from the vine is a good reminder that “God helps those who help themselves” is a worldly lie.
“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” …. “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love.” …. “You are my friends if you do what I command.” We choose to remain part of the vine in obedience or to be cut off from the vine. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” John 15:9
“Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” John 14:21
“If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” John 14:23
How is that fruit of the spirit exhibited in our lives? “But say things which fit sound doctrine, that older men should be temperate, sensible, sober minded, sound in faith, love, and in patience: and that older women likewise be reverent in behavior, not slanderers nor enclaved to much wine, teachers of that which is good; that they may train the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sober minded, chaste, workers at home, kind, being in subjection to their husbands, that God’s word may not be blasphemed. Likewise, exhort the younger men to be sober minded; in all things showing yourself an example of good works; in your teaching showing integrity, seriousness, incorruptibility, and soundness of speech that can’t be condemned…” Titus 2
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23
And as we forgive one another, the Holy Spirit is revealed. Think of the how the vine just keeps giving and giving – never taking back. The water from the roots goes up the vine into the arms and branches into the fruit. The branches just take the water and use it to produce the fruit the vine has charged it to produce. The branches never give back. So we are to give and give without expecting anything back. “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:21-22
The Seasons of the vineyard
“See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come; the cooing of doves is heard in our land. The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.” SOS 2:10-13
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”
The vineyard has a rhythm of its own. Each season is different. Spring brings rain and softened days to gently stimulate the growth that will come to full maturity the vibrant warmth of summer. Summer tests the vine with heat, pest, weed, and disease. Autumn is the time for harvest and water replenishment from autumn rains, and winter brings a much needed rest. Without this rest, the vine would not be strong enough to go through the cycle again to harvest.
“See how the farmer waits for the land to produce its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains.” James 5:7
What are God’s seasons for our lives?
- Spiritual baby to maturity
- Moving from self-reliance to God reliance
- Confronting challenges to enjoying gifts
- Being called God’s friend
“I have spoken this to you, so that My joy may be in you, and your joy complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you. There is no greater love than this, that a man should lay down his like for his friends. You are my friends, if you do what I command you. I call you servants no longer; a servant does not know what his master is about. I have called you friends, because I have disclosed to you everything that I heard from my Father. You did not choose me: I chose you. I appointed you to go on and bear fruit, fruit that shall last; so that the Father may give you all that you ask in My name. This is my commandment to you: love one another.” John 15:11-17
Please share with me any revelations you see in John 15 or from the vine that I might add to this living reminder of His love.
Merrill Bonarrigo, 979-820-1238; firstname.lastname@example.org
Last updated: 11-29-19
To schedule a John 15 tour, call Teri Ryan at Messina Hof Winery at 979-778-9463 Ext 234.