This chapter in the Fourth Gospel is one in which, it seems to me, the broad problem of 'translation' is likely to mislead - by which I mean that we tend to understand the intended meaning in terms of modern meanings and concepts, that are both narrower and (I would argue) distorted by mistaken understandings of Jesus's message.
This isn't a difficult problem, really; if we read the Fourth Gospel in its own terms and in an empathic spirit - understanding what it is telling us when read in isolation of the other parts of Scripture; which is, it seems very likely how the Gospel was intended to be read; assuming (as I do) that the Gospel is believed; and that therefore it was written by Jesus's disciple (Lazarus) shortly after the ascension.
Verses 1-9. I don't want to unpack this extended metaphor of the vine in detail, but my understanding is that Jesus is talking about the loving friendship between and among Jesus and the disciples; and how this mutuality will enable them follow him to resurrected life eternal.
Verse 10 (repeated in 17). "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love".
The problem is 'commandment', when it is taken to mean something narrow and precise, like an order (command) from a military superior; an order that must simply be obeyed. The context should warn us that this is not so. Here the term commandment is broad, and refers to a teaching, and a teaching among a 'netowrk' of brothers or friends - a properly loving way to behave. Keeping commandments means something-like living in a loving way that includes the person of Jesus - as within an ideal family.
I infer this from the fact that a 'bureaucratic' or military-style command to love cannot mean obedience to rules (because love cannot be ordered); and from the way the term is deployed throughout. It is more of an encouragement than an order; or a teaching that those who do this, will attain their goal (of resurrected life eternal). 'Commandment' means that such-and-such is necessary. Hence the mentioning of 'joy' as a clarification. This joy is that of a loving 'family'.
Here Jesus is changing the ideal nature of the 'religious' life: from one primarily of precise legalistic obedience to an hierarchical institution (the church); to a religious life primarily based upon personal relationships - i.e. the 'familial'/ friend (in the sense of adopted family) love between the Christian and Jesus, and among Christians.
These relationships are necessary, are required, are primary - and/yet they cannot be reduced to 'following instructions'.
13. The famous phrase: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
This is a multivalent meaning, which partly relates to Jesus's coming death - but not in the usually understood sense of specifically the crucifixion (which was not, at this point, the certain method by which Jesus would die - Judas, Pilate, Caiaphas, Herod might have chosen differently).
According to this Gospel, Jesus is already divine while mortal, and has already resurrected Lazarus - and has therefore already saved Mankind (or rather, Jesus has already saved all those who love and follow him) - Jesus does not need to die for this to happen, and his death does not need to be crucifixion.
But by incarnating, Jesus took up mortality, and therefore inevitable death (as part of Jesus's own theosis, his full deification as an immortal incarnate); it is the incarnation of Jesus into mortality that is being referenced - not the specific mode of Jesus's death.
14-15. "Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
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."
Here we can see confirmed that command does not mean: 'I give orders and you obey' (superior to subordinate); but instead Jesus is talking about a loving relationship - and that through their love for Jesus, the disciples now know everything they need to know about God the father.
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."
I regard this verse as dubious, a possible insertion (added later as a justification for the institution of the church) that breaks up the flow and meaning of this section. Also, it is not echoed or repeated elsewhere in this Gospel, whereas all the important teaching of the Fourth Gospel are said several times, in similar words (like the command to love one another) or using different 'metaphors' (as with the vine passage).
19. "If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye
are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore
the world hateth you."
I take this to refer to the way that belief in Jesus affects this mortal life. Our faith in the resurrected Heavenly life to come, and that this will come by love of Jesus and among ourselves makes the concept of 'life' qualitatively different. It is living in this new (infinitely expanded) context that changes our mortal life. 'Success' in this mortal life therefore has no meaning taken in isolation- but we need to see this mortal life in context of the 'big picture'.
22-23 etc. "If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now
they have no cloak for their sin.
23 He that hateth me hateth my Father also. If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they
had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my
Sin here means (mostly) death: biological death with loss of the self. Jesus changed the condition of Man, permanently - things were different before and after his advent. Whereas in the past all Men died and went to Sheol - now there is the choice of Heaven. Sheol is no longer a universal default, but a choice. Thus it is not a neutral state. Jesus brought things to this point of decision and divergence, and has been (still is) hated for it.
26. "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the
Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he
shall testify of me."
This sentence may also have been interpolated with 'from the Father' and 'which proceeded from the Father'- since from elsewhere in the Gospel we learn that Jesus 'sends' the Holy Ghost/ Comforter, and that the HG cannot be sent without Jesus ascending - hence that the Comforter is actually the spirit of Jesus. If the HG came from the Father, and was distinct from Jesus; then it would not need to await the ascension of Jesus.
The meaning is that the spirit of Jesus will testify to the reality of Jesus - universally, to all Men - not only the disciples - after Jesus has ascended. And thus the work of Jesus will be finished. After which it will be a matter of choice, of decision, for each Man whether (or not) to follow him.
This section of the Gospel continues into Chapter 16 - but that is enough for now.
John 15. 1. I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
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.
5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
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.
7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.
10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.
11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
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.
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.
17 These things I command you, that ye love one another.
18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.
21 But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, because they know not him that sent me.
22 If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin.
23 He that hateth me hateth my Father also.
24 If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father.
25 But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause.
26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:
27 And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.