Jesus is pleading with His disciples today to stay connected to Him. He uses the word “abide” eleven times in our short reading. I’m pretty sure He means it then.
He tells His disciples that there are benefits to abiding in Him. The very first one is the ability to bear fruit. Without being connected to the vine the branches are dead and certainly bear no fruit. I have blackberry bushes all over my property. I chase them back every year in one area or another. One thing I have learned from them is that one vine on its own does not produce berries. I also don’t get fruit from branches that aren’t connected to the plant any longer. If I cut a branch, even if it has existing berries, there will never be another fruit produced from that branch. It is dead and only good for helping in the fire. They burn REALLY well.
I have also noticed in my berry bushes that if I don’t pull out the dead branches the plant struggles. The dead branches take up room where healthy ones could grow. They also make it harder to reach the ripening fruit. The dead branches become a barrier to anyone or anything trying to reach the plant. Their thorns are more painful than any of the live ones. They HAVE to go!
Another benefit Jesus points out for abiding is being able to ask of Him whatever we wish. I’m going to have to abandon my berry bush in favor of a tree at this point. Berry vines share a central root but have many long reaching arms where the fruit resides. A tree has one central body and the limbs, branches, leaves and fruit come from that source. My apple tree’s heart provides what the rest of the tree needs. Without being directly connected to the trunk, none of the other parts can get the nutrients they need. They too wither and die. I have also noticed that when a lot of pruning is done the branches need time to simply receive from the heart of the tree before they can bear fruit again. And that fruit is better than what they were previously producing. The harder the pruning the longer between new fruit. But the branch can rest secure in the knowledge that as long as it is connected to the tree it will have it can have whatever it needs from its source.
A third benefit Jesus shares with His disciples is joy. Knowing that Jesus is pleased by my conduct is beyond wonderful to me. I know I don’t always make Him happy but I do know He always loves me. That fact alone is worth singing about! And because He loves me my heart is filled with His joy. Do I always act happy or joyful? No. That’s because the world’s happiness and joy are circumstance driven whereas the joy Jesus supplies is relational based. His joy is a secure KNOWING that I am loved by Him and that that fact will never change, no matter what. It is certainty and security. It is freedom from fear.
Jesus then commands His disciples to act of the blessings they receive from abiding. They are to pass on the love they receive from Him to everyone else. Jesus loved them without condition or reservation. That is how they are to love in return. Jesus didn’t put conditions on them when He accepted them as His own but neither did He allow them to stay as they were. As a result of His love, they chose to change. He didn’t force them but He loved them right into walking the path He had for them.
He still does this with each of us. We are loved in EVERY bit of our imperfect condition. But we are not left there. If we love Him and stay connected to Him we can’t help but change. Our “want to” will begin to line up with His wishes. Then and only then can we begin to bear fruit and to receive the joy He has promised us. Only by staying connected will we receive life.
Lord Jesus, I’ll take whatever pruning is required to keep me connected. Just please don’t ever cut me off. I know because of Your promises that if I am truly a part of You that I won’t be cut off; no matter how badly I mess up. Thank You that I don’t have to be afraid at every turn and wonder if God is waiting there with the “axe” in hand. I welcome the small and medium scissors because they have a promise waiting at the end of their use. I can hardly wait to see where You take me next!