John 15:1-8 — (Jesus said), “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”
(…continued) These words of Jesus are all about being connected. Jesus uses the image of branches being connected to a vine. He describes himself as the vine, and we are the branches that are connected to him. There is both a promise and a command in this image.
The promise is this: God has made you, he has given you your life, he sent Jesus to save you from your sins, and he has promised you eternal life in his heavenly home. God has, in Christ Jesus, connected your life to his.
“Abide in me,” Jesus says. The word ‘abide’ appears eight times in these eight verses. The word abide, or, ‘remain’ in some translations, implies that we are already there, already with God. “You are my friends,” Jesus will say a few verses later (v. 14). Jesus is not inviting us to take hold of something, he is not telling us to work toward a distant goal, he is not holding out something for us to try to attain. He is describing a relationship already given. “Abide in me,” he said, asking you to remain in the relationship he made with you.
In C. S. Lewis’s image of hell, everyone is free– and they use that freedom to get away from everyone else. Their suffering is in the loneliness that they have freely chosen. Jesus one time said, “You did not choose me; I chose you.” What we need most in life are connections, these relationships, and Jesus here says that the most important connection is already taken care of; we are connected to God— if we will allow it to continue.
So now, says Jesus, “abide in me.” That is a promise, and it is also a command. Abide. Remain. Stick around. Keep in touch. Do not betray, desert, abandon, forsake, ignore or trifle with the God who has given this relationship to you. Stay connected to Jesus.
How do we do that? Well, in all the old usual ways– by prayer and Bible reading and worship. Do you have any other better ideas? The weekly Sunday morning gathering isn’t just something to do if there is nothing else going on. It is by this connection with God that we have received life itself and the promise of eternal life. “Abide in me,” says Jesus. Weekly worship is the way people have been ‘abiding in Jesus’ throughout the ages. Even Jesus went to worship, ‘as was his custom’ (Luke 4:16). This is how we keep alive the relationship that God gives us and stay connected, until the time comes when we are with Jesus in person.
Do not severe that connection, Jesus commands, because “If you do not abide in me, you will wither” (verse six). Branches that are connected can receive nourishment and life, and will thrive. But the branch that is cut off receives no nourishment, and cannot survive.
Abide in Jesus. As Paul says in Colossians 2:6-7, “Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught.” (continued…)
A Prayer of St. Richard of Chichester (1197-1253):
Thanks be to you, our Lord Jesus Christ,
for all the benefits which you have given us,
for all the pains and insults which you have borne for us.
Most merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother,
may we know you more clearly,
love you more dearly,
and follow you more nearly,
day by day.