I am not a gardener! In fact, I don’t even pretend to be one. I know that growing things for fun is a cherished hobby for many people but I just can’t get into it. I started a garden once with my daughter. I had visions of grandeur. Tomatoes bigger than a softball. Enough eggplant to feed an army. Strawberries so sweet they would make your lips pucker. But the garden failed miserably when all the plants either died or the crop was eaten by our local squirrel population. I must be honest though. Outside of watering my garden, I gave it no attention at all. Had I remained faithful to the upkeep of those plants, I would have produce a crop.
Jesus gives us a similar analogy in John chapter 15…
“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. 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.”
I love the example Jesus uses here of us being a part of a vine. We each are a branch responsible for producing our own fruit, but all branches are connected to the vine (Jesus). All those that remain in Christ will produce results in the world for his glory. In fact, he even reminds us that if we stay true to him, we may ask whatever we wish from God. Of course, in order to further his kingdom, we would not ask for things just to benefit ourselves. We would desire traits and fruits necessary to do the work of God.
Then, Jesus continues his analogy by telling us how we can remain in him…
“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. 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.”
So how do we remain in Christ and be productive “branches?” We obey his commands and love others. Jesus is telling us that we should follow his example. He obeyed the Father and remained in his love. We should do the same. This is also the first time in Jesus’ ministry that he refers to his disciples as friends. He has taught them for three years. They have worked together, fellowshipped together, and Jesus has grown to really love these men. So he leaves them with this command…Love each other.
Today we can be fruitful by remaining in Christ. We can allow him to prune us in his image so that we may care for others, letting them see the love of Christ through our love for them.