I once tried to train a vine to cover the front entrance to my house. I was not a master gardener – for Pete’s sake, I once let a cactus die for lack of water. But I did learn something. When trying to train a vine, you work from the center out. The vine is the part directly connected to the rootstock, and the branches, or tendrils, bear the leaves, flowers, and fruit. The vine gives the branches everything they need to produce. I think you know where this is going.
In Jesus’ final I AM statement He declared “I AM the True Vine . . .” (Jn 15:1). For you non-horticulturalists: Jesus is the Rootstock of the Church. The branches? That’s you and me. The Gardner? No less that the Father who certainly knows His way around a plant. There is so much to this passage (Jn 15:1-11). A good preacher could spend a month or more digging out treasures. But we’re going to settle into one idea here – or one word that the Spirit highlighted for me. Remain. Abide. Dwell. Stay. Live. You don’t have to be a biologist to know that a disconnected branch will wither and die. A disconnected believer will suffer the same fate. The connection is vital – it is our literal lifeline.
Jesus defined exactly how that works. He said, “Remain in me,” “let my words remain in you,” and remain in my love” (vs. 7, 9). Stay connected. The branches of a healthy vine – and Jesus had in mind a grapevine – may spread out, but they remain attached to their source of nourishment. They don’t try to force their way down to the dirt to set up their own root system. They are not to become independent of the vine.
What strikes me is not just the command to remain in Him, but His promise to remain in us. And that is key because the branch doesn’t draw the nutrients and water out of the vine, the vine pumps the nutrients and water into the branch. Joseph Henry Thayer described it as “something [that] has established itself permanently within my soul, and always exerts its power in me.” (from Thayer’s Greek Lexicon – blueletterbible.com). When we remain in Him, in His Word and in His love – He does the work, and the fruit is a natural byproduct of Him. We are just the bearers.
The healthy Christian is a connected Christian. A connected Christian is a fruitful, happy, blessed Christian who is filled with Joy (v. 11). You were made to flourish, Beloved. Stay connected and bloom in Jesus, His Word, and His love.