There’s a responsibility here isn’t there? You and I have a responsibility in this relationship. We are to remain in him. What exactly does that mean? It means we remain in faith. We hold firmly to the truth…
“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5, NLT)
This is the last of seven “I AM” statements Jesus made in John’s Gospel and a rich visual for his disciples. Jesus had just shared the last supper and many of his final words with his disciples before his death. He warned them again of what was about to take place and Peter of his denial (13:31-38). He gave them a new commandment to love each other (13:34). He comforted and reminded his friends that he would always be with them. He made a promise to return for them to take them to their heavenly home one day (14:1-3). Jesus encouraged his disciples that the Holy Spirit, the Comforter He promised, would be coming soon and that the Spirit would give them all the power they needed to be his witnesses (14:15-18). He promised that he and the Father would come and actually take up residence in their hearts (14:23). Jesus promised them his peace, lasting peace (14:27).
It may be helpful at this point in John’s account to pause, close your eyes and imagine leaving the upper room and walking with the disciples toward the Mount of Olives. As you walk along the path Jesus stops and calls your attention to a vineyard and one vine in particular and he begins to teach. Allow me to paraphrase. “I am like this grapevine. You are like these branches that are connected to it, to me. My Father is the one tending to us. He inspects the vine and goes to work. He makes a distinction between those branches, those individuals who appear to be believers and those who are truly mine. It’s not hard for the Father to make this distinction between those who belong to me and those who don’t. Those who belong to me obey me and bear fruit. Those who are not truly part of me do not obey me and therefore do not bear fruit. The vinedresser, my Father, cuts offs and throws away those branches that are useless. Then he cuts back those branches that are producing fruit so that they will be able to produce more. It’s my Father’s goal to make all those who are part of me more and more fruitful. This brings him greater and greater glory.”
And then he looks at you and says, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you.” You stop and ponder what this means. It’s crucial and Jesus wants those words to linger in your heart for a moment. Remain… He’s going away… but he wants me to remain connected to him. You don’t understand all the ramifications of his words in that moment but you know somehow that everything hinges on this command. If I remain in Jesus, he will remain in me.
There’s a responsibility here isn’t there? You and I have a responsibility in this relationship. We are to remain in him. What exactly does that mean? It means we remain in faith. We hold firmly to the truth that Jesus is who he claimed to be…God’s Son and the Savior of the world. John would later write, “All who confess that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love” (1 John 4:15-16). Remaining in Christ is remaining steadfast in our faith, believing in Him, who he is and his love for us. Remaining in Jesus means we also continue to do what he says. Jesus said, “Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me” (John 14:21) and “When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love” (John 15:10). We cannot call ourselves disciples and ignore the teachings of Jesus. His commands are not suggestions and his disciples will take responsibility for personal obedience. Remaining in Jesus also means we relate to others in love. He said, “This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you” (John 15:12). Believe. Obey. Love. Jesus said, “But if you remain in me and MY WORDS REMAIN IN YOU, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples” (John 15:7-8). We are responsible to know Jesus’s teachings, his Word, his heart, and to align our hearts with his. When we do this we will pray effectively asking for what God truly wants to grant us because we ask for that which is good.
When we remain in Jesus, He is able to produce much fruit in us, fruit that will last. What fruit are you seeing as a result of your relationship with Jesus? Galatians 5:22 tells us what this fruit looks like – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Is there anything in that list you are not experiencing as a result of your walk with Jesus? Let this be an encouragement to begin to ask God to “prune” or cut away those parts of you, those dead things, that need to go. We have a loving vinedresser already at work in us.
Father, lift us up, clean us continually and cut away what You must. Teach us to remain in Jesus that we might bear much fruit.