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I’ve been reading the gospel of John, and today I arrived at chapter 15. If ever there was a chapter that could cause me to fall in love with the heart of Jesus, it’s this chapter. Here, the apostle John has preserved the words that Jesus was speaking to his disciples the night he was arrested, and the night before he was crucified. Jesus says these things because he knows this is the last night they’ll walk in the kind of fellowship they’ve enjoyed for the past three years, when he was always among them, speaking to them out loud, teaching them, revealing His Father to them. He wanted them to understand that even though he would be absent physically, he would be with their spirits, and that they could remain in touch with him and his love, and His Father’s love, even if he was no longer walking among them.
Let me share with you just a little of what He said to these disciples – to these friends – whom He loved so much.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.
By laying down his life for us, Jesus has demonstrated that He has that greatest of all loves, for us. How can we ever doubt His love, after what He has done?
Yes, we sense our own unworthiness. We know our own sin. But Jesus doesn’t love us because we’re cute, or smart, or good. He loves us, because He loves us. He loves us, because we’re His. He loves us the way we love our own kids, yet even more. He delights in us. But we need to remain in Him to bear fruit that will last.
What does that mean to “remain in Him”? If He is the Vine, then think of His love and His strength as being His life-giving sap, or nourishment. I think it means that we keep that channel through which his love, his strength flows open. We talk to Him. We confess the sins, and the worries and the fear that kind of gum up the works – the things that clog up the line, so that the channel between us remains open. We do that, in order to receive all the love, joy, and strength that we need for each day.
It’s at that point, that we can freely obey that one command, to love each other. It’s at that point, when we’re filled to the brim with the knowledge of His love for us, that we can let that love spill out on others. That’s why Jesus says back in the 7th chapter of John:
“Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”
In ourselves alone, we don’t have what it takes to keep on loving.
Friends or lovers betray us or disappoint us or unintentionally wound us. Enemies slander us.
Family members dig that knife in the wound just a little bit deeper, and we HURT.
And we grieve.
And it’s not wrong to hurt. It’s not wrong to grieve.
But there comes a time when must ask ourselves if we will forever allow our own wounding to keep us in a prison we’ve constructed ourselves. A prison of our own devising. A prison that hurts US, not the one who hurt us.
Or are we ready to confess it, and ask for help from the One who loves us best and most? Are we ready to lay it down? Are we ready for anything that might hinder the flow of our communion with Him to be removed.
He says that He tells us this so that OUR joy might be complete. If we want to enjoy life to the full…it’s the freedom that comes from His love that brings joy, and thus we are able to enjoy life to the full. And then, that joy and life spill out on others.
For me, this has meant coming to my chair beside which my Bible sits and first imagining Him there, smiling at me, waiting for me. Because we smile at those we love. Not with a stern, disappointed look on His face, but with eyes full of love. I’m kind of practicing His presence based on what He has said in regard to how He feels about us: that there is no greater love than the one He has already shown us. My apologies to the late, great Muhammed Ali and Whitney Houston, but HIS is the greatest love of all.
Obeying that ONE command that Jesus has for us, to love each other, is dangerous.
In loving, we run the risk of being hurt.
But to quote C.S. Lewis: “The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers of love,
Live dangerously today.
Because, flowing from inside of you, are streams of living water.