The Purpose of Branches- John 15:9-17

In this passage, Jesus has used the metaphor of a vine and its branches to describe for the disciples the nature of their relationship with Him. The purpose of a branch is to bear fruit, and it only does so as it remains united with the vine, and they would only bear fruit as they remained in Him. In other words, they would only fulfill their purpose by abiding in Him. He then explains to them a little about His relationship to the Father and how their relationship with Him is to be similar to it. In verse 9, Jesus tells them that He has “remained” in His Father’s love by doing nothing apart from His Father. Jesus Himself was a “branch” who remained attached to the vine, who did nothing apart from His Father, and in so doing fulfilled His purpose and bore much fruit. Jesus tells them here that the same is true of them. They are to remain in Him, abide in His love, growing to know Him more and more intimately and growing to know His heart and mind, growing to know His “commands” (verse 10). Jesus uses the term commands here in the context of an intimate personal relationship, as growing to know the heart and mind of the Father, growing to know His will and desire in all situations, growing to “learn obedience’ (Hebrews 5:8) just as Jesus did. Those who do so will have “joy” that is complete (verse 11). The Greek term “complete” here is pleroo, used here as “to fulfill”, and carrying the idea of purpose. What Jesus is telling us here is that, just as a branch fulfills its purpose by abiding in the vine and bearing much fruit, Jesus’ disciples (and us) will discover the true meaning and purpose of their lives through a deepening intimacy with Christ, and doing so is the source of true and complete joy. Jesus then gives them His only “command”, that they love one another “as I have loved you”. They will only be able to do so as they abide in Him, and as they do so He will show them how to “love one another”, what love means and what it requires in any and every circumstance they encounter. Jesus then tells them (verse 13) that to love truly means to “lay down your life” (soul), to place your life, your entire soul, at the disposal of another. This is what Jesus did for His Father and what we are to do for Him, placing all of ourselves at His disposal, letting Him love others through us, His life flowing through us and producing the fruit of love like a branch bears fruit as the life of the vine flows through it. Jesus then refers to the disciples through use of the more intimate term “friends” rather than the less intimate “servants”, because friends grow to know the master’s “business”, they grow to know how he operates, how he thinks and what he desires from them in any circumstance. Jesus Himself here “learned” from the Father in this manner (verse 15), growing to know His Father’s “business”, and he tells us here that our relationship with Him is to be just like His with the Father. As we abide in Him (and in His word), we grow to know Him more intimately, and growing to know Him will produce the fruit of joy, meaning and purpose in our lives just as it did in Jesus’ life. He then tells them, in verse 16, that He chose them, that the vine chooses the branches, the vine “keeps” the branches and the vine will produce fruit through the branches, they will have all they need to fulfill the meaning and purpose of their lives through the growing intimacy of their relationship with Jesus Christ. The branches bear fruit (fulfill their unique purpose) by abiding in the vine, and Jesus tells us here that we will each fulfill our unique purpose in life (bear fruit) only by abiding in Him, only by getting into His word and getting His word into us, only through growing to know Him more and more intimately. God has “chosen” each of us, He has a unique purpose and plan for every one of our lives, and the discovery of that purpose and the living out of that plan are what will bring true joy, meaning and purpose to our lives. It is only as we “abide” in the true vine that this will become reality in our lives, it is only as we grow to know Him that we will truly begin to “know” ourselves, and help others begin to know themselves as well (verse 17).

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