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 trims clean 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; and 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 to you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourself to be my disciples.
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 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.
(John 15:1-17, NIV)
Today’s verses are a part of Jesus’ “Upper Room Discourses” which followed the Passover meal, the washing of the disciples’ feet, and Judas’ decision to leave the meal in order to betray his leader. Jesus uses this final meal before his arrest and trial to explain to his disciples the unfolding of God’s plan. He encourages his disciples by promising them the Holy Spirit who would be their “Counselor.” He also gives his followers the gift of peace, a peace the world could not give. Although Jesus knew the traumatic events that they will face beginning that same evening with his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, he says to the Twelve: “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 lived in an agrarian society where vineyards were commonplace, this is a graphic illustration. The central theme was this: if the disciples believe in Christ, they will bear fruit; if they separate from Christ, they will not. Being productive is directly related to one’s relationship with Christ. This profound statement is exactly opposite from the way most of us think. Christians often judge the results of their work in order to determine the quality of their relationship to Christ, rather than trusting Jesus’ words that they will be fruitful – despite how it may look to them – if they abide in him.
Having just given the disciples the gift of peace, Jesus tells the Twelve that they will be successful peacemakers, successful fruit-bearers, if they are faithful to his commands. Jesus also tells them that their fruit bearing will bring glory to his Father.
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 had chosen 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 Christ as Lord and who follow his commands will bear fruit as agents of his reconciling love. They can practice peacemaking in the confidence that their labors are not in vain.
Creator God, we praise you as the “gardener” of the “true vine.” Your overwhelming love for us was evident in the gift of your Son who died for our sins. We rejoice in the fact that you have chosen us to be bearers of good fruit that will bring glory to your name. Help us to rest in the confidence that our actions as reconcilers will be of value because you are working through us. Amen.