Read John 15:1-17
1"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2He 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. 3You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4Remain 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.
5"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. 6If 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. 7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
9"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. 11I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command. 15I 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. 16You 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. 17This is my command: Love each other. (NIV)
Jesus was a master at telling a story using common things the people dealt with all the time. Vineyards were one of the common images used by Jesus along with sheep. The people knew what Jesus was talking about when he talked about branches and pruning. Those who had vineyards knew the painstaking process of pruning away the vines that were not producing fruit and thus taking nutrients away from those that were producing. Without the pruning, one’s crop would not be as great as it could.
The people could see that this is true in our lives. We need to be pruned of the things that are keeping us from being the best we can be. But to be the best, we must be connected to that which gives the greatest life and that is Christ. And I love that Christ reminds us that God’s intention for us is to not just be fruitful, but to be very fruitful. God wants us to succeed in life, to shine in what we do.
We must learn that it is our connection that matters. This is why Christ came, to restore that connection back to God. Sin is what breaks that connections and thus leads to death. Without this connection, we whither and become completely useless.
Jesus then transitions to who this connection is maintain, love. And not just any love, but what the Greeks called “agape” love. It is a self-giving love. It is a love that serves, that gives, that doesn’t expect anything in return. It is the purest form of love. This is who Jesus loved us. He gave us everything he had of himself, down to his own life.
Jesus said this kind of love transforms us from someone who is under bondage to another to a fried of another. And Jesus told them he chose them to be his friends. Jesus calls us from the very beginning of our life. He does not stop calling until we come to him or die. This is who much he loves us. And this becomes the new commandment, to love one another as he has loved us. It is our how we share the gospel. It is how we live and grow together. It is how we become community. It is how we bear fruit.
What does it mean to love on another? How do we love those we disagree with? How does love connect us to God?
Blessings and Peace