Don’t Be Useless

“I am the vine; you are the branches” – John 15.5

Jesus uses an allegory of the relationship between a vine and its branches to help the disciples understand their relationship to him as their Lord.  Henry Alford points out that: “The Vine and branches stand in a much nearer connexion than the Shepherd and the sheep, or the lord of the vineyard and the vines; and answer to the Head and members in Eph. 5:23, 30; Col. 2:19, linked together by a common organization, and informed by one and the same life.”  The disciples are beginning to see the close, vital, inseparable link between themselves and Jesus.

Not that there isn’t any accrued benefit for being attached to Jesus as the vine.  Jesus gives four things that the disciples can expect when they are linked inseparably to him [and one warning to becoming unlinked].

  1. They will bear much fruit (vs. 5)—If they abide in Christ then they will bear much fruit.  What is the fruit that they will bear?  Jesus doesn’t say so it must have been obvious.  One assumes that he means work that is done by his disciples to further the kingdom and spiritual growth that will take place in their own lives and in the lives of those whom they instruct [Henryk Sienkiewicz does a good job of painting the portrait of Peter and Paul being fruitful in his novel: Quo Vadis?].

  2. They will have the ear of their Father —“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7, ESV) Now, before you get all “I’m praying for a new Ferrari” on me, dear reader, notice that Jesus inseparably connects answered pray to abiding in him and bearing fruit.  Somehow I’m thinking that if you are bearing fruit for eternity, not to mention having an inseparable link to Jesus, that your visions of grandeur in regards to owning a chalet in Switzerland with an Apple Mac Pro and a 32″ Sharp 4k Ultra HD LED Monitor AND a red Ferrari, will vaporize faster than snow in July.  That is all stuff that will ultimately be burned up and useless, it has nothing to do with eternity or with Jesus’ mission to save sinners from the consequences of their propensity to sin and be evil.  I like to think of it in this way: When we abide in Jesus, we will have the ear of his Father and our Father, and that is a pretty good ear to have.
  3. The Father will be glorified—“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” (John 15:8, ESV) When we bear much fruit we prove that we are Christ’s disciples and this glorifies his Father.
  4. They will receive Christ’s love—“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” (John 15:9, ESV) Before we jump right into a steaming pile of heresy here, we do not mean to say that Jesus is saying that when they do the right stuff they will then receive his love, and not until that time.  Not at all.  Remember that Christ has just told them that they are already clean (vs. 3).  They have followed him and believed that he is the Messiah.  What Jesus is saying here is that when his disciples abide in him, they will enter into the relationship that he has with God the Father, and that relationship is marked by love.

The warning to not abiding in Jesus as the vine: “If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” (John 15:6, ESV)  That person is fit only for burning on the compost pile.  Dried up grape vines couldn’t even be used in cooking fires because they burned to hot and would therefore cook too quickly.  They were truly useless.

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