Abide in Me- John 15:1-8

In this passage, Jesus uses the analogy of a vine and its branches to describe the relationship that is to exist between He and His disciples. He begins here with the last of His “I Am” statements in the Gospel of John. The term “I Am’ here is ego eimi in the Greek, and His use of it is very significant in the Gospel of John. In Exodus, Moses asks God what His “name” is, and God tells him that His name is “I Am”. In the Greek language, the subject is included within the verb itself. In other words, the normal way to say “I am” in Greek is simply with the word eimi, the ego is not needed, and is added intentionally, because ego eimi is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Yahweh (I Am), God’s holy Old Testament name. By referring to Himself as ego eimi, Jesus is making the claim to Godhood. This is clearly understood by the Jewish leaders in John 8:58-59, in which they pick up stones to stone Jesus (for blasphemy) immediately after He refers to Himself as ego eimi. He first tells them here that he is God in the flesh, and then that He is the “true vine”. This is in contrast with Israel, which is referred to in the Old Testament as a vine, but Israel is a vine which has failed to bear fruit, and He is the true vine, the vine through which His disciples would bear much fruit. He then tells them that His Father is the gardener, the one who tends the vine and sees that it will bear fruit. He does so in two ways: first by “lifting up” some branches and second by “pruning” others. The term translated as “cut off” in the NIV is the Greek airo (from which we drive the English word aerodynamics), and it comes from a root meaning “to lift”. It is sometimes translated as to lift up and other times as to take away. The analogy itself here tells us which use Jesus makes here, for the whole idea is of the Father seeing that the branches bear as much fruit as possible. On a vine, any branch which contacts the earth will not bear fruit, and is “lifted up” off the ground by the gardener, often tied to another branch, and will begin to bear fruit when it no longer is in contact with the ground. The analogy is then obvious here, Jesus referring to believers too much in contact with the world (earth) and failing to bear fruit because of their attachment to the world. These are lifted up by the Father, “cut off” from contact with the world so they will bear fruit. The branches that do bear fruit are “pruned”, the “dead” parts which hinder fruit bearing are trimmed away so they can be more fruitful. The disciples have accepted (believed) Jesus’ words to them (verse 3) and are already being “pruned”. Jesus then gives them the command to “remain” in Him, and then He will “remain” in them. The Greek word remain here is meno, to abide, and Jesus here uses the analogy of a vine and its branches to try to describe what He means by abiding here. The picture is of an intimate union between the vine and the branch. The sap from the vine provides life to the branch, and this life from the vine through the branch enables the branch to bear fruit. The branch must remain connected to the vine in order for it to be truly “alive” and through being alive, bear fruit. Jesus uses the phrase abide in me here as a metaphor for eternal life, which He defines shortly after as to “know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent” (John 17:3). The Greek word “know” there is ginosoko, the knowledge of an intimate personal relationship, and abiding in Him here refers to the growth of a relationship, a growing intimacy with the person of Jesus Christ. Those who abide grow to know Him more and more intimately, and those who don’t abide will not. Just as a branch must remain attached to the vine in order to bear fruit (which is the purpose of a branch), Jesus disciples must continue to grow in eternal life, continue to grow into a deeper knowledge of Him, a more and more intimate personal relationship with Him. Jesus then, in verse 7, provides us with the “key” to abiding in Him, to deepening the intimacy of our relationship with Him, and it is through His words remaining in us, us abiding in His words. It is primarily through our interaction with the written Word (the Bible) that we grow in intimacy with the living Word (Jesus Christ). It is through time spent in His word that His word begins to abide in us, that we grow to know His heart and mind and “show ourselves to be His disciples”, to be those who follow in His footsteps, thinking like He thought, speaking like He spoke and behaving like He behaved. It is as we do so that we will bear much fruit, and our next post will examine the remainder of Jesus metaphor of the vine and branches, in which Jesus tells us exactly what “bearing fruit” means in our lives.

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