I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 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. You are already clean (pruned) because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
This famous passage, words of Jesus to his disciples just prior to dying on the cross, give us an image of the church, and of ourselves as disciples. There is so much to see and hear in Jesus’ words – but today, I’ll share three observations that seem to be indicated in this text:
- We Can’t Go It Alone
Within a Jesus-centered faith there doesn’t seem to be much room for “going solo” or having a strictly “private faith”. Connectedness seems to be the whole point of this image.
- No such thing as a solo Christian
- No possibility of “Just me and Jesus” / merely private faith
- When connected to the true vine – Christ – you are connected to all other believers.
- If you ARE alone…. There’s NO fruit – nothing can be done. (verse 5)
- None of us are “self-made”. We are all nourished by our connection to Christ.
- Not independent… or self-dependent – but interdependent.
- No hierarchy among the branches… messy, growing, inter-connected and tangled up. But when all connected to Christ – apparently fruitful!
2. Abiding is Active
It’s true that within the words of Jesus are the hint that often our “activity” needs to slow down and come to a halt. Fruitfulness comes NOT from our own efforts and busy-ness – but from our connectedness to Jesus. However, abiding and remaining in Jesus is far from being passive and waiting for something to happen.
- Jesus’ command to “abide in me” is stated in the imperative. At the very least, we are actively choosing to stay connected.
- Abiding involves being pruned… which involves change!
- Change also may involve pain.
- Why prune? Because it all moves toward active fruitfulness.
- No, we ourselves can’t produce the fruit, but we choose to stay connected.
- Our focus is to stay connected… the true vine (Christ) produces the fruit.
- We receive the nourishment and love of Christ, passing it on… in order to bear fruit.
3. The End Result of this Abiding is NOT Me (or self)!
- The whole point is bearing fruit, not some form of self-realization or self-actualization.
- The fruit is NOT for ourselves – NOT for our own nourishment!
- The fruit goes to someone else!
- Our faith is not simply receiving salvation and getting a guarantee of heaven. It is the gift of interconnectedness – receiving love – in order to give love. Blessing others. Remember Abraham and the promise he received? Abraham was to be blessed… in order that Israel could bless the whole world. We are to stay nourished in Christ – in order to nourish and love those around us.
It’s always tempting to focus on the fruit….and wonder how we’re doing? “Look at my fruit!!” …. or “why is there no fruit?” Jesus gently moves us back toward our source of life – himself. As we stay connected to Christ, we not only receive all the life nourishment that we need, but we actually become conduits of love and nourishment to others, bearing spiritual fruit. What guarantees these results? Connectedness. Abiding!