“Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5)
You Can’t Do Anything Apart From Jesus
I have written reflections on these words from Jesus before. They keep calling me back, pulling me in. (And one or the other of the Church’s lectionaries keeps putting them in front of me.)
Part of me wants to argue with Jesus. I can do nothing apart from you? Really? Can’t I comb my hair or fix myself a sandwich or go for a run without you, Jesus? Can’t I serve somebody or be rude to somebody or be hard on myself without you?
And then I pause, and reflect some more. I think about the prologue to this same Gospel of John. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people… And the Word became flesh and lived among us… From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” (John 1:1-4, 14a, 16)
Through Jesus Christ, the Word of God, all things came into being. You, me, and all of creation… your goals and dreams, my goals and dreams, your family, my family, your job, my job, your next breath, my next breath, your abilities to think and walk and talk and give thanks, my abilities to think and walk and talk and give thanks. You get the idea.
Jesus isn’t just making a suggestion here. He is posing a truth.
Can you find your next job without abiding in Jesus? No.
Can I walk across the country without abiding in Jesus? No.
Can you find and marry the love of your life without abiding in Jesus? No.
Can the earth keep spinning on its axis and revolving around the sun without abiding in Jesus? No.
Can you make it through the loss and grief that you have recently experienced without abiding in Jesus? No.
Can you learn how to really celebrate and dance through life without abiding in Jesus? No.
He is the vine. We are the branches. Without abiding in Him, we can bear no fruit. Even more than that, apart from Him you and I can do nothing.
Think about that. Really ponder it! Put the words of Jesus alongside of your own life experience, and see if what he says is not profoundly true.
We live in God… we abide in Christ… we love in the presence of the Holy Spirit. We think in God… we play in the Spirit … we weep in Christ… we are sustained in God… we create masterpieces in Christ… we are guided in the Spirit.
We live in God. Nothing happens in your life outside of Christ or Spirit.
How would our lives be different if we acknowledged this every morning, gave thanks, and pursued the work that God has given us to do? What kind of fruit would we bear?
I don’t know the details of the answer to that question, but Jesus said we would bear much fruit, and you and I both know that - because of God’s grace - it would be sweet, beautiful, nourishing fruit!
Abide in Christ as Christ abides in you. And then go crazy - living your life and bearing fruit.