As we have seen in previous essays, God has given us the strength and ability through the enabling power of the Holy Spirit to be his agents of peace in our broken world. We also need to be reminded that Jesus’ commands on the subject of living out the “gospel of peace” are clear: Go and Do! The Bible has many practical instructions about what it means to live as a peacemaker and we will highlight some of these in the next few weeks. This week we will reflect on the amazing promise of Jesus to his disciples on the night of his betrayal.
The celebration of Easter week with the momentous events leading up to Jesus’ betrayal, trial, crucifixion, and resurrection are a highlight in the year for me and for many of you. I have always been so moved by the conversion that takes place in the Upper Room on the night of Jesus’ betrayal by Judas. Jesus pours out his heart to his disciples, his closest friends, knowing that they will not fully understand what he is telling them until after his resurrection.
In John 15: 1-17, which I encourage you to read, Jesus explains to his disciples the unfolding of God’s plan. He tells his followers that the Holy Spirit will come and be their “Counselor.” He also gives his disciples the gift of peace, a peace the world can not give. Jesus, knowing the traumatic events that they will face beginning that same evening with his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, says to them: “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).
After sharing these thoughts, Jesus declares himself “the true vine,” a word picture often used in the Old Testament as a symbol of Israel. For the disciples who live in an agrarian society where vineyards are commonplace, this is a graphic illustration. The central theme is this: if the disciples believe in Jesus, they will bear fruit; if they separate from Jesus, they will not. Being productive is directly related to one’s relationship to Jesus.
This profound statement is exactly the opposite of the way many of us often think. We use the results of our Kingdom work to measure the quality of our relationship to Jesus. I know I struggle with this. But God’s ruler is different than ours. What we should be doing is trusting Jesus’ promise that we will be fruitful – despite how things may look to us – if we follow him.
Having just given the disciples the gift of peace, Jesus then tells them that they will be successful peacemakers, successful fruit-bearers, if they are faithful to his commands. Jesus also told them that their fruit-bearing would bring glory to his Father. In other words, there will be both earthly and heavenly results – two for one!
In the emotion-filled closing moments of this last gathering before his death, Jesus calls his followers “friends” and explains “everything” he has learned from his Father. He reminds his disciples that God chose them and commissioned them to bear fruit – “fruit that will last” (v. 16). The strategy of the God of love is now revealed: those who believe in Jesus as Lord and who follow his commands will bear fruit as agents of his reconciling love. We can practice peacemaking in the confidence that our labors are not in vain.
- The peace that “the world can not give”: Have you experienced this at troubling times in your life? What do you remember about it? Are there lessons to take away from these times?
- While we don’t totally understand God’s “ruler,” can you think of something in your life or in the life of a friend where, using our “measuring stick,” we might see it as negative, but over time we look back and see positive results? Can this be helpful at times when we see nothing good in a situation?
- How can Jesus’ promise about fruit-bearing encourage you?