John 15: 1-16 Jesus teaches his disciples to remain in him (the Vine) after Judas leaves
A visitor was being shown around a vineyard. There were many rows of vines. As the farmer walked him through the rows they suddenly came across a branch that had fallen from its vine. The fruit was rotten and the leaves shrivelled. It was a sorry sight. The farmer said “Yeah, unfortunately some fruit lost here, but look above you there is a lot where it came from.” Looking up the visitor saw branches above him that were heavily laden with healthy bunches of grapes that gleamed in the afternoon sun. The farmer said “Glorious isn’t it; try some.” So the visitor picked a handful and popped one in his mouth. It was sweet and wonderfully refreshing.
Jesus said “I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit” (5). Of course the opposite is also true; if we disconnect from him our fruit shrivels up and we become a dead stick. Jesus taught this at the last supper. Judas had just disconnected. He left the room with the aim of betraying Jesus. Jesus wanted the others to remain connected so they would continue to bear the fruit of the kingdom.
Jesus said his Father is the farmer and “he cuts off every branch that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” Judas was definitely a cut off branch. Jesus said “It would be better for him if he had not been born”(Mark 14: 21).
Peter on the other hand was a branch that bore fruit but was in need of pruning. Jesus said “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith will not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” But Peter replied “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death” (Luke 22: 31-33). Well, we all know what happened to Peter. He was certainly not ready! At Jesus’ arrest he denied knowing Jesus. It was a dark time for him, but he never stopped following, he remained in the vine, and Jesus restored him, and even commissioned him saying “Feed my sheep” (John 21: 15-19). Pruning complete!
Vines are interesting; their branches have a habit of sprouting sucker shoots that enable the vine to stick to rocks and trees. The suckers are a part of the vines survival mechanism, but if there are too many they dissipate the life that produces fruit. So farmers prune the branches by cutting these suckers off. Then the branches produce more fruit.
Believers also have a habit of producing survival suckers; and their suckers cling to many things. They cling to money, possessions, careers, comfort zones and the world in general. But this clinging dissipates their spiritual life. God wants us to seek his kingdom first and then all other things will be added (Matthew 6: 33). So he comes as a farmer and cuts off our suckers so we can grow the fruits of love, joy, peace and all the other aspects of his character.
Jesus said “Remain in me, and I will remain in you” (4). This is graphically demonstrated in a vine. If the branches remain connected to the vine, the life giving juices will flow through the branches producing fruit. So if we are in the vine, the vine is also in us. If we are in Jesus, the Holy Spirit is also in us and it’s natural to produce kingdom fruit.
Jesus said “No branch can bear fruit by itself” (4). The funny thing is that we try too! We neglect prayer, his word and times of connection; then we try to appear spiritual among the believers! We have no joy but smile as if we do. We have no intimacy with Jesus, but sing and dance so others won’t notice. We haven’t had a time of prayer all week but are full of ‘amen’s’ and ‘hallelujahs’ when the preaching starts.
The thing is, people are not stupid, they notice; falseness can be felt. Paul felt it. He said the believer who is trying to do God’s stuff without love (which comes by connection with God) is just a “clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13: 1). And clanging cymbals are really irritating! Did you ever meet someone who quotes endless amounts of scripture with no sensitivity to the listener? Yup, that’s a clanging cymbal – all word and no Spirit! We need the Holy Spirit to apply the written word prophetically.
Jesus said “Remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love”(9-10). Obedience is a part of remaining in the vine. With a physical vine you are either connected or disconnected, but with a spiritual vine you can be connected or disconnected in various degrees. So more obedience means more connection, and less means less connection.
If we are living in a constant state of sin we should not be surprised that we experience disconnection. People sometimes wonder why they feel disconnected from God, but they are living with someone they are not married to, or they are continually bribing to get business, or they refuse to forgive someone and carrying an ongoing bitterness. To remain connected to Jesus, we must obey Jesus!
Jesus said “I have told you this so my joy may be in you” (11). Joy is an important fruit of the Spirit. It is different from happiness. Happiness is dependent on circumstances, but joy is deeper. You can have it in prison, you can have it when you are flogged, and you can have it when people mock you and spit on you. In fact joy gives you strength for all these things. Jesus and Paul suffered all sorts of rejection, but they remained joyful because they were obedient to the Father.
I have been rejected many times when doing bar evangelism, but I always leave the bar full of joy knowing I was obedient in my testimony about Christ. The joy of the Lord inoculates you against the stabbing. Scripture says “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8: 10). It sure is!
Jesus finishes this part of his teaching saying “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit … fruit that will last.”(16). He was no doubt referring to the fact that he had seen each of the Twelve with their fishing nets or at a tax booth and had said “Follow me.” He chose them. But by dying on the cross for each one of us, he has chosen all of us, and it’s up to us to respond to his call. But he chose us not just for salvation but also to bear fruit.
Fruit is a wonderful description of the things God produces in us. Fruit is tasty. When the unbeliever experiences a believer, they should experience the beauty of the Vine. Do you want to be tasty? Remain connected to Jesus; remain in the Vine!