When you think of the Christian life, does the word ‘rest’ come to mind? Jesus does promise rest to those who come to Him (Matthew 11:28). And Saint Augustine famously said that our hearts are restless until they rest in God. But for many Christians, rest is the last thing they think of in being a Christian. For them, the Christian life seems to be a lot of trying, a lot of hard work, and a lot of performance. They do not experience the rest that Jesus promises anyone who comes to Him.
I discovered a verse of Scripture that really helps me live into Jesus’ promised rest. We read Jesus’ words in John 15:4: “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.”
Jesus’ rest is experienced in daily life as we “abide” in Him. Jesus so wants to live close to us, and us close to Him, that He invites us to share life with Him. This warm, reassuring invitation is found in that portion of Scripture in which Jesus compares His relationship with us to that of a grapevine to its branches. We are to Jesus as the branches are to the vine. The next time you look at a grapevine, see if you can distinguish where the grapevine ends and the branches begin. You can’t because they are one, just as we are with Jesus, sharing all of life with Him. There is interdependence as the life of the vine flows into the branches, as the resurrection life of Jesus flows into us. In our shared life with Jesus, we actually draw on His life energy in nurturing our new life.
“Abide in me as I abide in you.” The keyword here is “abide”, a translation of the Greek meno. The word “abide” has the idea of remaining or dwelling where you are. This is a word variously translated in the New Testament as “dwell”, “stay”, “remain”, “continue”, and “tarry”. It is the word used in John 1:38-39 when two disciples of John the Baptist ask Jesus, “Where are you staying?”
‘Abide’ is the word Jesus uses here, inviting us to live and remain in Him. Jesus came into the world longing for oneness with us, wanting to make His home in us, and us our home in Him. Jesus has promised to always dwell in us, and asks us to dwell in Him. Jesus becomes our burden-bearer and the one who gives us His rest. We find our strength in Him, drawing our life from His life like a branch draws life from the vine.
This is the shared, vibrant life that the apostle Paul talks about in Galatians 2:20: “I no longer live but Christ lives in me, and the life I live, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” Jesus promises that as we abide in Him we will naturally bear fruit in our lives. “Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine. Neither can you, unless you abide in me.” We have all probably heard sermons exhorting us to bear fruit. Notice that Jesus does not put His emphasis on bearing fruit, but rather on us abiding in Him!
A fruitful life is simply the manifestation of abiding in Christ. The fruit here is the “Fruit of the Spirit” described in Galatians 5:22: “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” All of this ‘fruit’ comes, not by trying harder or being more dedicated, but, by living our life and resting in Jesus.
As I write, an old hymn comes to mind that wonderfully expresses the transforming power of resting in Christ:
Jesus, I am resting, resting(Jean Sophia Pigott)
in the joy of what Thou art
I am finding out the greatness
of Thy loving heart.
Thou has bid me gaze upon thee,
as Thy beauty fills my soul,
for by Thy transforming power,
Thou hast made me whole.
Name and reflect on the thoughts and feelings today’s reading stirs in you. Take a few moments to talk with God about them.