Just hours before going to the cross, Jesus spoke to his disciples about their need to be intimately connected to him if they wanted to continue growing in their faith and being part of what God was doing in the world. Listen to these powerful words:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 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. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 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.
5 “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. 6 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. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:1-8 NIV)
The disciples understood what it meant to follow Jesus physically, by simply going where ever he went and staying by his side. After his death, resurrection and ascension, they would have to learn a new way to follow Jesus, by being deeply rooted in his teaching and way of living.
Jesus used the image of a vine and its branches to help them understand what it is like to stay connected to him. They were all familiar with vines and had probably even seen them being pruned and cleaned. Jesus pointed out that his students must maintain their connection to him as a branch must remain connected to the vine. Our source of life is Jesus Christ and if we become disconnected we are dead already, though we may not see it for some time. A branch that is cut off still looks alive, but its source of live is actually removed and it is dying. Jesus makes our need crystal clear – remain in me!
The reason that Jesus calls disciples is to engage them in the work that he and the Father are doing in the world. It is the purpose for which we were all created, to be made in the image of God and doing the work of God. Jesus calls this state of God working with and through us “bearing fruit,” It is why vines are planted and tended so carefully – to produce their fruit. When we remain in Jesus and our lives become fruitful we are blessed and everyone around us can receive those blessings that flow from God through our lives.
Imagine this: your life can be so intimately connected to Jesus that you become fruitful, a source of blessing to others, and God will receive glory because of you! This is what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.
- Kenny Payne