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Jesus calls for his believers to remain in him
John Chapter 15, verses 1-4
“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, 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.
To illustrate what it means to be connected with Jesus in faith and love, Jesus used another I AM passage. As Yahweh, God, Jesus is the vine, and we are branches that grow from the vine. The Father is the gardener. He sent Jesus and acts in our lives in connection with Jesus.
Jesus is the true vine. God used this vine imagery of Israel in the Old Testament (Psalm 80:8-16). But Israel turned into a “corrupt, wild vine” (Jeremiah 2:21). God sent the true vine so we might find life in him.
Branches are useful in bearing fruit. Their source of energy and nourishment depends on being connected to the vine. Even so, some branches appear connected but do not produce fruit because something is wrong with the connection. The gardener cuts off those branches.
Judas Iscariot was one of the types who joined with Jesus but didn’t bear fruit. His actions were contrary to God’s will. We know how he was cut off. Others to this day seem connected to Jesus, but they don’t really believe, and their lives betray this. We may not be aware of it, but the Father is, and he will cut every one of them off in the final judgment.
Everyone who is connected in faith will bear fruit and have potential to bear still more and better fruit. So the gardener will prune those branches to get more. The Father will work in their lives by his Spirit, taking away imperfections to help them grow. The Greek word for prune also means “cleanse,” and pruning is a kind of cleansing.
As he had done before, Jesus moved naturally from his imagery to its application in real life and back again. So he told the disciples they were cleansed (“pruned”) already because of the Word he had spoken to them.
Once again, the key element is the Word. Through the Word Jesus works faith and gives life. Through the Word he nourishes and energizes his disciples to live in faith. Through the Word he cleanses his own followers.
The Word brings us together with Jesus and keeps us together, like a vine and branches. And we bear fruit. But a branch by itself cannot produce any fruit. And we by ourselves, separated from Jesus, cannot produce fruit. So we need to keep listening to Jesus’ Word and stay close to him in order to live the Christian life.
John Chapter 15, verses 5-8
“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.
Jesus told the disciples exactly what his imagery meant. Jesus is the vine. His disciples are the branches. And the truth he spoke applies for his disciples in all ages.
We need Jesus if we will do anything God-pleasing. Without Jesus, we are worthless under God, like a severed branch that dries up and is eventually thrown into the fire and burned. Jesus could hardly speak more clearly or emphatically: apart from him, we can do nothing.
With Jesus, however, we can do anything. When we remain in Jesus and his words remain in us, we can ask for whatever we wish, and it will happen. This promise is the same one Jesus gave earlier (14:13). It depends on our knowing and believing the teachings of Jesus.
Through his words, Jesus shapes our wills to coincide with his. That shaping will show in our prayers and in our works (“fruit”) to the glory of the Father. So Jesus makes us his disciples through his words, and we show ourselves to be his disciples by our works.
Jesus repeated his thoughts in a way that reinforced vital truths at a time when the disciples needed them most. We might think again of his thoughts spiraling and being reinforced for his disciples.
John Chapter 15, verses 9-13
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed 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, that he lay down his life for his friends.
At the root of the amazing truth that allows us to be united with Jesus as branches to a vine lies the incomparable love of God. It’s the love the Father has had for the Son from the beginning. It’s the love that prompted the Father to send the Son (3:16) and prompted the Son to do his Father’s will. As the Father loved the Son, so the Son loved his disciples and has invited them to remain in his love. All, then, are his disciples who by faith remain in his love.
Our Savior gives us his own example of what it means to remain in his love. It means keeping God’s commandments as a show of that love at work in our lives, just as Jesus kept all of the Father’s commands. The fruits of our faith will demonstrate the faith in our hearts.
When that happens, the Lord rejoices. Yes, it brings joy to God when we live in his love by faith and produce fruits of faith. At the same time, we can experience no fuller joy than to live this way in the Savior’s love.
Christ’s love for us produces love in us. So Jesus could again summarize the commands of God in this single command: “Love each other as I have loved you.” We can show that love in many ways, but none greater than to give up our lives for our friends. Real love will make the ultimate sacrifice for others, as Jesus was about to do the next day.
John Chapter 15, verses 14-17
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 and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other.
The truth Jesus was teaching was constant, but at each turn he showed another side to it. When we do what Jesus commands us to do, we not only show that we are dwelling in his love, but then also he calls us his friends.
It seems presumptuous to think of being Jesus’ friends when we don’t even deserve to be his servants (literally, “slaves”). Still, as his disciples, we serve Jesus and are rightly called his servants. Furthermore, he has taken us servants into his confidence as friends and revealed all the things he had heard from the Father.
We are friends of Jesus. That is a thought to ponder. But don’t think about how we deserved it. We didn’t. Think of his great love in choosing to make us his friends. We did not choose him. He chose us.
Once again Jesus’ words disallow calling for unbelievers to choose Jesus. That’s not how people become Jesus’ friends and disciples. He does the choosing.
And Jesus chooses us with a purpose. He expects us to bear fruit and has appointed us to do so—fruit that will last.
What fruit will last more than to share Jesus’ love with others? What command of Jesus has more lasting results than his Great Commission to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19,20)? What assurance is more comforting than to know that whatever we ask the Father in Jesus’ name he will give us? What better way to show we are chosen by Jesus than to love one another?
When through faith in Jesus we bear fruit, we have access to the Father in Jesus’ name for whatever we want. For the third time now Jesus promised this. And, again, he explained that he expects us—who follow his commands—to love one another.
Jesus warns of persecution to come for his followers
John Chapter 15, verses 18-21
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.
When we believe in Jesus and live our faith, we don’t endear ourselves to the world that doesn’t believe. The unbelieving world hated Jesus and plotted his death. The unbelieving world will hate Jesus’ followers too.
We can get along with the world, and unbelievers will like us, if we join them in their ways. But Jesus has chosen us from the world. We no longer belong to the ways of unbelief. When that becomes evident, the world turns on us just as it did on Jesus.
The general truth again applies, as Jesus had said before (13:16; Matthew 10:24): “No servant is greater than his master.” As servants and friends of Jesus, we can expect others to respond to us as they do to Jesus. Those who would persecute him will persecute us. We don’t have to look far to see the evidence of that truth.
Likewise, those who hear and keep Jesus’ Word will keep our word because we, as Jesus’ servants, bring them his Word.
All these things happen because of Jesus’ name. Those who do the hating and the persecuting don’t know Jesus because they don’t know the Father who sent him. People cannot know the Father without the Son nor the Son without the Father. Those who were about to put Jesus to death just didn’t know God.
John Chapter 15, verses 22-25
If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’
Jesus’ enemies had—and have—no excuse for their ignorance and unbelief. He didn’t hide who he was. He didn’t leave them without witness. He shined his light into their darkness, but they turned back to the dark. He came to them. He spoke with them. He did miracles unlike any other had ever done—deeds that backed up his words. We still have the testimony here in John’s gospel.
They saw but were not impressed. They hated Jesus and his heavenly Father. If Jesus had not done these things, they would not have been guilty of rejecting him, though they would still be in their other sins. But now they had no excuse of any kind.
We should not be surprised. The Old Testament Scriptures, which would have prepared them for the Christ, predicted that they would, without cause, scorn God’s gift to them. As David said in Psalm 69:4, “Those who hate me without reason outnumber the hairs of my head” (see also Psalms 35:19; 109:3). The words foreshadowed Jesus’ suffering.
As always, God fulfilled his Word and worked out all things for the good of his chosen people.
John Chapter 15, verses 26-27
“When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.
Once again Jesus promised to send the Counselor to help his disciples. This time he said he would send the
Spirit of truth. Earlier he said the Father would send the Spirit (14:16,26). The words reinforce the oneness of the Father and the Son. They witness to the three persons who are one God.
Through the Spirit, who would come from the Father and the Son, the disciples would learn about Jesus as they had never learned before. The Spirit would testify to them about Jesus, calling to mind and giving meaning to all he had done among them. Then, as those he had chosen as his apostles, they would testify about Jesus. From the day he called them to follow him, he was preparing them for that work.
That special outpouring of the Spirit happened on Pentecost. It was miraculous and unique and signaled the beginning of the Christian church as the disciples testified to the truth of the Savior.
The process to this day is essentially the same, though less spectacular. Through the witness of the apostles, the Spirit comes to us and shows us Jesus. Then we bring the witness to others, and the sequence repeats. So God has preserved and extended his church through the ages.