Many years ago during a Wednesday night youth service, we talked about John 15 and it stood out to me. Then a few weeks later it was brought up again in a small group discussion. A few months later it would become the scripture focus on our youth mission trip. As I have said before when a verse or an idea keeps showing up it is normally a message the God wants you to hear. From that time on, I have always felt drawn to this passage, and still, to this day it holds a special place in my heart. It is for that reason that I chose this scripture to look at on a deeper level in this week's blog post. Below I break each verse down and reflect on its importance by itself as well as as a collective scripture passage.
1“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.
It starts with the introduction of the relationship the Father and Son have. Jesus tells us that he is the true vine and the only pure connection to the Father. The Father is the gardener that provides us with all of the nourishment that is needed to thrive. He grounds us in His ways and gives us the sun (son) to look towards for nourishment and guidance.
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.
Just as a gardener watches over his vines, God is constantly looking over us. When we begin to go the wrong direction, He prunes us and cuts off the bad branches so that we can grow stronger in the right direction. Although this process hurts it leads to a stronger branch that is capable of bearing more fruit.
3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.
Jesus has made us pure by His sacrifice on the cross and by the word He spoke in His ministry. This is the invitation to be in community with God and to become a part of the true vine.
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.
Have you ever seen a branch laying on the ground in full bloom? No, of course not! In order for a branch to be able to produce anything, it must be attached to its source of life. The same is true for us,unless we are attached to the source of life (God) we will not be able to produce any fruit. Only through a deep connection and relationship with Jesus can we begin to bear fruit.
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.
Jesus is reiterating what He said in the previous verses as well as reminding us that no one comes to the Father except through Him, which He had told us a chapter earlier in John 14:6. He also tells us that without Him we can do nothing. Many may argue that nonbelievers can have success and although that is true, it is important to know that worldly success will not fulfill our deep need for God. They will still feel empty as they strive to fill the hole in their lives with things other than God.
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.
This verse answers the question, “what if I don’t remain in Jesus”? Those who don’t follow the ways of the Lord and believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are subject to be burned in the fire here on Earth and in eternity. They will be cut off from their source of life and wither away without the correct nourishment that comes from God.
7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
If you remain in Him and keep to everything He has taught us then we can ask in prayer whatever we want. This sounds a lot like having a magic genie but if we are truly abiding in Him we will not ask selfishly or for worldly possessions. The desires of our hearts will be focused on the service of God and others.
8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
We show our true intentions in the fruit we bear. Galatians 5: 22-23 tell us, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Take a minute and think about the true believers in your life. Even in the toughest of situations, they are filled with confidence in God, joy, peace, and patience. We ask ourselves, “how can they be so strong”? The answer is that they remain in God and He gives them the strength to carry on.
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.
Take a moment and reflect on the love God has for His son. Reflect on the love your parents have for you. If you are a parent yourself, think about the love you have for your children. That is the same love Jesus has for us! Perfect, unconditional and forever. We should also remember the love God has for us, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16.
10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.
It is much easier than it seems. If you keep the commandments you will remain in God’s love. If we look at the example that Jesus set when He was on earth, He suffered but it was not a struggle to keep the commandments. He kept the commandments and remained in the love of God even when things were difficult. We are called to do the same and use the example of Jesus as our road map to the Kingdom of God.
11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
SIGN ME UP! I want the joy of Jesus! If we look at His ministry, Jesus was never overwhelmed. Though the worst of times He remained joyful. So let's all listen closely to what is about to be said so that we can have the joy of Jesus.
12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
Joy is found in love! The kind of love that Jesus gave the sinners He ate with and the soldiers to crucified Him. Luke 23:24, “Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.” Although it may seem crazy to forgive and love the people who killed you, that is what Jesus did and that is what we are called to do. Love without concern about what the other person thinks or feels about you.
13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
News alert: Jesus is the ultimate display of love! He loves each of us so much that He laid down His life for us on the cross. So on top of loving our enemies, we are also called to love our friends so deeply that we are willing to give our life for them. With Memorial Day being this weekend, this verse makes me think of all the soldiers who laid down their life for us.
14 You are my friends if you do what I command.
We show our friendship to Jesus by listening to what He is teaching us and living a life of love and devotion to Him and to others. Jesus wants a real friendship with you, the kind of friendship where you talk daily and share your life with that person. In we are being honest we also want that kind of friendship, but this is a whole new level of love and friendship because Jesus will never let you down the way human friendships will.
15 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.
Although believers are servants of God we are also friends of God because He keeps nothing from us. He gave us the way, the truth, and the life through Jesus (John 14:6). We are provided with all we could ever need in God.
16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.
God knew our heart even before we had a heartbeat. (Psalms 139:13-14) We were chosen by Him to live in this world for the purpose of the Kingdom. Although many think that we as humans make the decision to follow God, long before then God chose us first, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 2 Peter 2:9.
17 This is my command: Love each other.
He leaves us with a simple command to love each other. So simple but we make it so hard. Why? Because of greed, selfishness, bias, the broken world, etc. I challenge you to let go of all of that and make room for love. Choose love over hate even if it is difficult. In doing so you will begin to see others how God does, like family, not enemies.
Now that we have broken down the scripture passage verse by verse let's look at it as a whole. This passage teaches us about the dynamic relationship between God and Jesus as well as Jesus and us as believers. He gives us the key to living in the vine and having a fruitful life. The key is love, but not a surface-level love but a deep sacrificial love. In order to have that kind of love, we must strive for a deep relationship with Jesus and study all of His ways. We should be so tightly intertwined with Jesus that the world is unable to tell where Jesus ends and we begin. When we focus our time and effort on becoming more like Jesus we find loving others is easier.
So there it is, the secret to life is love!