Jul 27 2011

Bearing Fruit

Jesus frequently used nature as a teaching device.  The best known examples may be his charge to “consider the lilies” and “consider the birds.”  Both Matthew and Luke record these words of Jesus intended to elicit faith and combat worry in our lives.  In the fifteenth chapter of John’s Gospel we find another one of Jesus’ references to nature.  Here he said, “I am the vine; you are the branches.” (v. 5)  Jesus used this illustration from the natural world to explain a number of vital truths.

 In verse 4 Christ noted the obvious—“No branch can bear fruit by itself.”  If a branch from an apple tree is cut off it will no longer be able to produce apples.  It has to remain connected in order to live and bring forth fruit.  In the same way, Jesus insisted, his followers must “remain” or “abide” in him.  He said, “Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” (v. 4)  In verses 4-10 Jesus used the word “remain” ten times.  He wanted to make sure that his disciples did not miss the point that staying connected to him was critical.  We simply cannot live the Christian life in our own power or strength.  We have got to stay attached to Christ.

Jesus’ call to “remain” in him implies a close communion or fellowship with himself.  This communion brings us much joy and peace.  Its purpose, however, goes far beyond this.  This communion is also the source of our strength and enables us to fulfill our purpose of bearing fruit.  Jesus said, “If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (v. 6)  In v. 8 he adds that by producing fruit we bring glory to God and reveal ourselves to be his disciples.

 There can be no denying that Christians are called to bear fruit but in this passage we are never explicitly told what that “fruit” is.  Over the years I have heard numerous suggestions offered.  Some say the fruit of a Christian is another Christian.  Others point to the “fruit of the Spirit” mentioned by Paul in Galatians 5.  Both suggestions may be implied but it seems to me that in this context what Jesus was referring to was love.  In the latter part of John’s Gospel Jesus speaks often about the priority of love and calls repeatedly for his followers to love one another in the same way that he has loved them.  By pointing to the example of vines and branches Jesus let it be known that the only way we will ever be able to love in this way is if we stay connected to him.  My own personal experience validates this.  I know all too well that I cannot love as I should on my own.  I need help. 

I am convinced that each of our lives do, indeed, have purpose and meaning.  I also believe that this purpose involves making a difference in our world through acts of selfless love and compassion.  When I see an apple tree, or any other fruit hanging from its branches, I am reminded that if I am going to love the world and those who inhabit it I will, likewise, have to remain attached or connected to the ultimate source of love—my Lord and Savior.

 –Chuck

 (I took the pictures above this morning at one of my friend’s home here in Pikeville.)