It was a whirlpool of emotions on that momentous night that Jesus spent with the disciples. Jerusalem was overrun with Jews from near and far, present for the biggest celebration of the year -- Passover. Roman soldiers were on every street corner, on high alert lest there be a disturbance. Keeping the peace was the priority.
Jesus also had a priority, a loftier one and also something to do with peace, but his would be true peace. Counterintuitively, it would mean taking the lowest road of all. He announced to his disciples that he was going to show them “the full extent of his love” (John 13:1 NIV).
He washed their feet. He was betrayed. He broke the bread into pieces and poured out the cup of wine, in anticipation of his body being mangled and blood oozing from his back, scalp, hands, feet. Within a few hours he would succumb to death on a cross, but somehow he was able to say on the eve of his impending demise, “Don't worry! Take heart! I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33). And truly he did: he came back to life on the third day!
Most unexpectedly, Jesus announced that it was time for him to leave his disciples. But why? Why so soon?! Only three years, and they were just beginning to understand him and his mission. He said, “It is for your good I am going away” (John 16:7). No, no, impossible!
Jesus walked on planet earth in a single human body. But somehow, by leaving, he would be able to walk this earth not as one body, but many. How in the world would that be possible?
The answer: it’s life-giving water, even Maple Syrup!
Jesus explained that he was a vine and his followers were branches. Only if they remained attached to him could his life flow through them. And what’s more, in his absence the Holy Spirit would take over, providing all that his followers would need in order to deal with life on this planet.
It’s true of trees, grapevines, and lots of plants. The sap that flows from the roots all the way to the leaves and fruit is necessary for life. It’s the living water of vegetation. Without the sap, which is primarily water but includes dissolved sugars and mineral salts, no life is possible. When the sap of maple trees is tapped and the water is boiled off, it’s the best of all.
So it is for Jesus’ followers. When we remain connected to Jesus, his life can flow through us. For the original disciples, Jesus was a single vine, and as long as he was present, they could be connected to him.
For the rest of us disciples, however, the Holy Spirit enacts Jesus’ presence in our lives, and the Spirit can be present in an unlimited number of disciples all at once. All of us can be connected to Jesus via the Holy Spirit. So it was indeed an advantage for Jesus to go away.
It’s an endless supply of living water, sweeter even than maple syrup. As is clear in the text for today, the Holy Spirit plays significant roles in the lives of disciples, from guiding us into the truth to convicting us of sin.
Life Application Questions
Many early disciples experienced the brutality revealed in Jesus’ words: “…As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” (John 15:19b).
Animosity sent, received and understood bruises my soul. Being told, “I don’t like you and neither does anyone else!” hard to take. This reality, as precisely delivered truth from the wisdom of Jesus, is a sobering insight into the potential life of a disciple. As readers of Jesus’ words, we should always consider the first hearers.
However, should we automatically grant that our Lord meant these words to be all inclusive? Will “the world,” always hate every disciple in each generation? Our reply to this question resides not in the accuracy of Jesus but in our understanding of “the world’s” identity.
Our brother Paul may have been grappling with this issue. He explained, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). If “the world” is our demonic opponent, then yes, each disciple in every generation shall be hated.
Fortunately, disciples are not expected to live in solitary cells. We are called to community, not isolation. Even those of us with the tendencies of introverts, ought always to engage in discipleship with community support. Disciples are not called to the Lone-Ranger lifestyle in which we gallop through life as if we were in the Outback, or a western scrubland without companions.
https://wlgbc.com/41cb3433-66cd-46e7-899d-d34c7a02a5cc" alt="" width="170" height="96" />The community of the King exists. When operating faithfully she provides appropriate resources even when disciples are being challenged to the point of martyrdom (Revelation 6:9). This is true in spite of the fact that many disciples have suffered from the attacks of both non-believers as well as disciple-dressed-antagonists who fancy themselves as doing righteous things. The challenge can be profound (Luke 14:28).
Are there prayerful actions you can take this week to sustain the believing community you know best?
Why is “love” repeated four times in this title? You may be familiar with the song, a round:
Love, Love, Love, Love, the Gospel in a word is love,
Love thy neighbor as thy brother, Love, love, love.
Musically the repetition works nicely. And the message is clear… the GOOD NEWS of the gospel is love.
In John 15:9–17 Jesus taught the disciples about love by teaching about four directions of love. Like the round and the compass, the four directions of love teach us perspective.
First, the Father loves his Son, Jesus. The depth of this love is difficult to imagine. A perfect holy God loves his perfect holy Son. This is perfect love in its purest form.
Second, Jesus taught the disciples that just as God loves Him, He loves them. So, the perfect holy Son, loves the imperfect, unholy disciples “just as” God loves him. Paul describes the vast love of God as he prays in Ephesians 3:17-19
. . . so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
“Amazing Love, how can it be? That Thou, my God, should die for me.”
Third, Jesus told them that He himself abides in His Father’s love. We read in the gospels that Jesus often went off by himself to pray. And after that He did the Father’s will. So, He took time with the Father to bask in His love and receive his marching orders for the day. This abiding in the Father’s love gave Him strength and direction.
Fourth, the disciples are to love one another. Love is an action word. Love does. Romans 12:9-21 provides a dissertation on love in action for fellow believers. The list is clear – not optional, and not easy unless we are abiding in our Savior’s love. Love . . .
>> sincerely, >> with devotion, >> honoring one another above ourselves, >> practicing hospitality, >> blessing those who persecute us (yes, even fellow believers can feel persecuted by one another), >> live in harmony, >> don’t be proud but willingly associate with those of low esteem, >> don’t be conceited, >> don’t repay evil for evil, >> live at peace with all men as much as it lies within us, >> don’t take revenge – God will repay, >> don’t be overcome with evil but overcome evil with good.
The list of actions defines how loving each other is done.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love…This is my command. Love each other.” (John 15:9,17)
Life Application Questions
The question, where do you live, asks for a response and we recite our address to our home. Where do you live (abide)? Where we abide or live can be very different from our address. Many live in pain. We may live at work or be considered the life of the party. We may live to be outdoors or live for the weekend or the day we retire. In John 15, Jesus addresses how we live or abide. The word abide is a favorite of John’s, as we read his gospel and epistles, and it means to live, dwell, lodge-sometimes with the connotation of remaining or continuing.
Read John 15:1-11, in the ESV translation, how many times do you see the word abide? This key word is used eleven times. When you abide in Christ you produce fruit, (John 15:2) and have prayers answered (John 15:7). The abiding relationship is natural to the branch and the vine, but it must be cultivated in the Christian life. So the question remains; Where do you live (abide)?
The context of Jesus words in John 15 is crucial. On the night before his death (John 13), Jesus has the rapt attention of his closest eleven followers. What would you want to tell your family and friends if you knew your death was imminent? How would you direct them to live? We are often focused on the issues that dominate our lives, like career paths and family and health. We are not so different from the disciples; they wanted political relief and religious freedom and hope. The disciples hung on Jesus every word as they waited for Jesus to tell them what was next. Would it be a call to battle? Would they receive prestige and become Jesus right hand kingdom men? Would Jesus lay out a strategy for a political or religious revolt-a revocation of the status quo? In the decisive, pivotal moment, Jesus commanded “Abide in my love” (John 15:9) The love of God in Jesus is the soil from which everything germinates, grow, and flourishes. “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 ESV) What would your life reveal about the vine that you are abiding in?
The branch cannot produce its own life; it must draw from the vine. It is our own communion (abiding) with Christ through the Spirit that makes fruit bearing possible. Seat yourself at the Passover table with the eleven men in the upper room. Lean in and absorb some of Jesus’s last words spoken to you at the end of his journey to the cross. Jesus calls his disciples and us-to “abide in His love”. Jesus knew the hearts of each disciple, their proclivity to doubting, their impetuous nature, their failures and future; and he knew without a doubt that this intimate, abiding, relationship with our Abba was intended to be the lifeblood of our journey with Him. As the lamp casts shadows on the walls and sputters, as you rest at the table sprinkled with the bread crumbs of communion and Jesus voice fills the room: Where will you abide?
Jesus, the eternal Logos of God, knew His love was everything and our enough. What are you hanging on too, focusing on, or abiding in that is keeping you from taking an all-embracing step toward the abiding love of God in Jesus Christ? The Jesus, of John 15 and the upper room, is very near. He longs for communion and intimacy with us, his branches. “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love, abides in God, and God abides in Him. (1 John 4:16 ESV)
I have never had the proverbial "green thumb." I love beautiful landscapes and the end result of the work of those who know how to create them. Each spring, I get excited about going to the nursery to select the plants and flowers for the season. But no matter what I buy and plant, it never looks like the pictures on the tag or in my Better Homes and Gardens.
On the other hand, my neighbor has an amazing green thumb!! Each year, I tell her how much I appreciate and enjoy her beautiful hanging baskets, annuals, and perennials. And I usually apologize that our plantings don't afford her the same pleasure.
Gardening is difficult. Not only does it take hard work, but the gardener needs to know what kind of soil, sunlight, water, and fertilizer each plant, tree, flower, or shrub must have to produce the best results. ...and then there's the big matter of pruning and deadheading, which are key when it comes to any plant producing the best fruit or flowers.
The bottom line is you can't just plant something and walk away, expecting it to look beautiful or produce fruit unless you take care of it all season.
Jesus used the gardening metaphor when he explained to his followers in John 15 what it takes to produce fruit in his vineyard. The gardener (God, the Father) knows exactly what I (the branch) need to become a healthy, fruit-producing part of the vine (Jesus). Fruit-bearing is possible only if I am a part of the vine. He will cut away (prune and deadhead) the old attitudes and actions so I can produce new and good fruit.
When my "green thumb" neighbor looks at the fruit hanging from my life, what does that fruit look like? Thoughts, attitudes, or actions that glorify God? The fruit from our lives is how God receives his honor on earth. Jesus said, "By this is my father glorified, that you bear much fruit" (v. 8). You bear inner fruit when you allow God to nurture in you a new, Christlike quality (Gal. 5:22). You bear outward fruit when you allow God to work through you to bring him glory (2 Cor. 9:8).
I repeat: The bottom line is you can't just plant something and walk away, expecting it to look beautiful or produce fruit unless you take care of it all season. Pastor Tim Sprankle put it this way, "Our life with Jesus extends beyond worship services, prayer retreats, and early morning Bible studies. Life with him consists of eating and drinking, working and resting, praying and joking, praising and fishing, writing and reading, dancing and napping" (1 Cor. 10:31; Col 3:17).
What kind of fruit does your life produce? Is there evidence that you are “remaining” in Jesus, the Vine?