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.
I spent the early years of my Christian faith trying hard to be more like Jesus, and failed miserably. I thank God for that aha moment when I discovered that the Christian life is not the imitation of Christ but the participation in His very life. It isn’t in our trying, but in our trusting.
I was led to this fundamental key to life by what Jesus taught us earlier: “You in me, and I in you” (John 14:20). Those seven monosyllables change everything. As Jesus lived by the Father in Him, so we live by Jesus in us. Here is the spiritual mystery of oneness with Christ, a union so complete that the Apostle Paul can say, “For to me, living is Christ” (Philippians 1:20).
To illustrate this vital union with Him, Jesus turns to the grapevine. Jesus uses the grapevine to show that as the branches and the vine live in union with each other, so Jesus and His followers live in union together. The oneness of the branches and the vine were impressed on me recently as I stared at a neighbor’s grapevine. I was trying to distinguish where the grapevine ends and the branches begin. They are one in their life together. What the vine is to the branches, Jesus is to us. We draw all of life from Him. Jesus insists that we “abide” (meno) in Him. This is a word that elsewhere in the New Testament is translated as “dwell” (John 1:38-39; Acts 28:16, 30; I John 4:12, 13, II John 2). I might say to you that I dwell in Scottsdale. That means that I abide or live there. So to abide in Christ is to dwell in Him, to live our lives in Him. The Message translates this as Jesus saying: “Live in me. Make your home in me”. The Oxford theologian and translator Benjamin Jowett remarked that “Some people visit Christ, others abide in him”.
Abiding in Christ means to recognize that we live in Him, and are just as reliant on Him as branches are the vine. It means to rest in Jesus and count on Him for power to do the “greatest works” (John 14:12). For without Him we “can do nothing”.
Bearing fruit means living in close communion with Jesus: that’s our responsibility. Jesus’ responsibility is to produce His fruit in us. A fruitful life is the natural outflow of Jesus’ life within. This is a participation in Jesus’ life and not an imitation of Him.
The fruit that Jesus’ life produces in us is described in Galatians 5:22-23: “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control”. So make your home in Christ, and you will bear fruit without realizing it. You will reveal the Father’s heart.
What are there in Jesus’ words today to know; to feel; to do?