I have always loved the image of the vine and the branches which Jesus speaks of in John 15. Jesus describes Himself as what I can only imagine as a lush, green and thriving vine growing in a well pampered garden. He describes God the Father as the gardener, who I see tenderly and lovingly caring for His garden. Jesus invites us to be “connected” to Him as branches, growing and stretching forth, spreading out to cover the world. Through Him we receive life, and through us good fruit can grow. But the bearing of fruit is the key, the point of decision regarding how we will respond to what we’ve received. Fruit is food for new life, seed for the next generation of life. Without the bearing of fruit, life has no meaning, no purpose. Existing simply to exist takes us nowhere, serves no purpose.
Jesus tells us that every branch that does not bear fruit will be cut off, and that every branch that does bear fruit is pruned so that it will bear even more fruit. This may sound like a lot of cutting, and perhaps even painful. But bearing fruit is clearly of utmost importance. Without fruit life has no purpose, life has no future, and life cannot continue. God cuts off that which bears no fruit because it takes without giving. God prunes those who bear fruit to make them healthier and stronger, cutting away that which saps our strength and distracts from true living. God wants for us a life worth living, a purpose driven life that is satisfying and fulfilling.
Unfortunately, there are many who seek to find satisfaction and fulfillment in life on their own terms and centered only on themselves. Jesus warns that we cannot bear fruit by ourselves. No matter how hard we try, no matter what we may accomplish, we will still feel empty, longing for something that is missing. What is missing is the good fruit that both nourishes life and brings forth new life.
Jesus instructs us saying, “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” (John 15:4). Remaining in Christ is about staying close to Christ, seeking to be near Him, walking and talking with Him often. When we do this He can guide us, keeping us on a path that will be fruitful. When we do this He can strengthen us, empowering us to produce good and lasting fruit through us.
But Christ also warns us saying, “apart from Me you can do nothing” and that we will be “like a branch that is thrown away and withers” (John 15:5, 6). We have all trimmed dead and withering branches from our trees and shrubs. They have died and withered because they have lost their “connection” to their source of life because it has been broken or damaged. Perhaps, just as storms and strong winds can break and damage the branches of trees, the storms and distractions in life can break our connection with the Lord. But we are more blessed that trees and shrubs. We can choose to reconnect and God has promised to help us. He can graft us back into the source of all life.
We must also “re-member” that we have been given the “freedom of choice” in staying connected, and a “responsibility” to bear fruit. The grace and life that flows from God is not intended for us alone but for us to share, pass on to others. When Jesus tells us to “ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (John 15:7), He is not offering to be our magic genie who grants our every wish. No, because He knows that if we are “connected” to Him, what we will ask for will not be for our glory but for the glory of God. This becomes clear when Jesus adds, “This is to My Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be My disciples” (John 15:8). When we are “connected” to Christ, we want what Christ wants. We want to glorify God by taking the life He has given us and making it count, bearing good fruit that gives glory to the One who gives us life.
Your fellow servant in Christ,