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Gospel of John 15: 1-8 (NIV)
1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He 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. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also 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 you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
Whereas Jesus’ allusion to bearing “fruit” can be found throughout the Gospel according to Matthew, in the Gospel according to John, Jesus referred to the bearing of “fruit” only in the first sixteen verses of chapter 15. His metaphor regarding “fruit” is clear. Those hearing him would have been familiar with the task of the vinedresser who would prune the vines each year to prepare for the next crop.
Just as no branch can bear fruit once separated from the vine, so the disciples of Jesus are not able to bear the “fruit” which he calls for unless they remain in him. The worst thing that can befall a disciple of Jesus is to be separated from him. He has expressed it starkly: “apart from me you can do nothing.”
Do you find there is a temptation to do things in your own strength, perhaps selecting what to do according to your own agenda, perhaps imagining God will think you praiseworthy because you have exercised your initiative and come up with a plan you think God might not have thought of yet?
Jesus will brook none of that. He has made it clear: “If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”
We can only remain as his disciples if and when we remain in him. There is an additional factor: his words are to remain in us. That means he requires that we know his words, to be familiar with what he taught to his first disciples and what is recorded for us in Scripture as a consequence of that teaching.
Only then are we able to bring glory to the Father by bearing much “fruit”. As branches of the vine which is Jesus, we are to accept the Father’s pruning. We are to ask him to bring us to a state of fruitfulness for his kingdom.