John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
One of the wonderful things about John 15:5 and the surrounding context is that Jesus makes our fruitfulness all about abiding in Him. In a culture that has become obsessed with “results,” Jesus’ words are blessedly refreshing…He shifts our focus from “bearing fruit” to abiding in Him. The command, the call, the invitation is to abide, not to bear….the bearing will come, but abiding is the heart.
What, then, does it mean to abide in Jesus and for Him to abide in us? There are some hints in the surrounding context (most clearly being verse 7’s implication that for Jesus to abide in us entails that His words–His teaching about Himself–abide in us), but I want briefly to mention one thing in particular that I think will help us understand abiding a bit better.
In the second half of John 6, Jesus teaches on the significance of the feeding of the 5,000. The overarching point of this section is that JESUS HIMSELF is the true bread, the bread that one eats by faith and who–when “eaten” in this sense–satisfies the hunger of the soul (this entire section draws on Isaiah 55:1-3, and Jesus presents Himself as the feast offered therein). However, in verse 51, Jesus introduces a new concept: the “bread” that He gives will be His flesh, given for the life of the world.
The emphasis on Jesus flesh and blood that dominate the following verses (54-58) highlights the fact that the “Jesus” we are to feast upon by faith is not just any Jesus, it is not the Jesus of our own imagination or the Jesus of Messianic fervor, rather, the Jesus whom we must receive is the one who is CRUCIFIED (the point of the flesh and blood language) in love and obedience for us. The True Bread and True Drink for the human soul is to know, receive, believe, and feast upon the slain and risen one as Lord and God and Savior…
The point of it all is this: In John 6:56, Jesus specifically links this feast of faith with abiding in Him. There He says that it is the one who feeds on His flesh and blood (that is, who receives the Crucifed Lord as the saving revelation of God) that abides in Him.
So, back to John 15 and our original question, how do we remain in the Vine? How do we cling to the Son such that we are not cut off and burned in the last day? How do we bear much fruit and so glorify God by proving to be Christ’s disciples? How do we maintain abiding fellowship with God the Son? I would suggest that it is by feeding upon (receiving, believing, trusting, contemplating, treasuring, etc.) the beauty of who God has revealed Himself to be (John 1:14,18) in the crucified (and risen!) Son…