John 15:1-16a — “(Jesus said), “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 because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also 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 you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are 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 done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you…”
In John 15:5 Jesus says to his followers to us, “I am the vine, and you are the branches.” In other words, we might say that we are ‘connected’ to Jesus. In the very next sentence Jesus goes on to say, “If a person remains in me and I in him, that person will bear much fruit, but apart from me, you can do nothing.” Being connected to Jesus brings both a wonderful promise and a stern command.
The promise is this: God has made you, he has given you your life on this earth, he has sent Jesus to save you from your sins, and he has promised you eternal life in his heavenly home. God has, from the moment of your baptism and in that baptismal promise, connected your life to his, in Christ Jesus. You are connected like a branch to a vine. This has been done for you. Being connected to Jesus is a wonderful gift and promise.
But these same words of Jesus also contain a command which cannot be missed. Along with the promise of being connected, in verse four Jesus says, “Remain in me.” In other words, stay connected. Do not sever that connection, because, says verse six, “If you do not remain in me, you will wither.” In verse nine the command again given, as Jesus says, “Remain in my love.”
“You are clean,” says verse three, saved and connected already. Why? Not because of anything we have done, but because God says so. Jesus says in verse three, “Because of the Word I have spoken to you.” Later on, in verse 16 Jesus says, “You did not choose me, I chose you.”
You are chosen. God’s Word is to you. The promise is given and received as you hear it. But, says Jesus, now remain in me. Do not refuse, ignore, or trifle with such a gift as this. Do not fail to remain in Jesus. Do not break off this connection made by God’s loving grace.
Branches that are connected can receive nourishment and thrive. But the branch that is cut off receives no nourishment and cannot survive. So do not cut yourself off from the source. Jesus said. “I am the vine, and you are the branches; remain in me.” That word ‘remain’ appears eight times in these eight verses. The word remain implies that we are already with God.
“You are my friends,” Jesus says in John 15:14. Jesus is using the image of branches and vines, but he doesn’t leave it at that. He is really talking about human relationships. The connection Jesus is talking about here is our connection to him, our Brother and Friend, as well as our Lord and Savior and God. God initiates and gives that relationship. Jesus isn’t commanding us to take hold of something, he isn’t telling us to work toward something, and he isn’t holding out something for us to try to attain. He is describing a relationship already given. (continued…)