A meditation on John 15:1-12
By Prem Lee
John 15:2 reads as follows:- “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He [a]takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”
Frankly that is an unfortunate translation error. The verse is speaking of branches “in Jesus”. Jesus never casts out any branch that is in Him (John 6:37). The phrase translated ‘takes away’ actually translates a Greek word meaning ‘lift up’. But to complete the sentence one needs to add what it is being lifted up for. I would prefer to see it as being lifted up for restoration so that it could bear fruit. Only the branches of verse 8 that does not abide in Jesus are cast out.
Further the word translated as prunes actually means cleanses. In the vine this is done by pruning, but in us, vs 3 makes clear it is done by the word of God.
The whole sentence then forms a logical sequence – those who are unable to bear fruit are lifted up so that they can bear fruit and those who bear fruit are strengthened to bear more fruit.
What does verse 2 means for us?
However weak we may be, as long as we are abiding in Jesus, He is with us and helping us to fulfil His purpose for us. Often we step out to serve Jesu with fear and trembling. We are just available and Jesus walks with us and gives us the victory. Like Peter, when he denied Jesus, is sent a special word by Jesus in Mark 16:7. Jesus then appears to him on the banks of the sea of Galilee to instal him in His ministry. God will pick you up. I have experienced this often and I am sure you have too.
Jesus is not judging us, but building us up. Even the chastening we undergo is for our building up and not for pulling is down. As it says in Hebrews 12:11,
“Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
As we respond to the situations that God brings, and walk with Jesus, we grow and become stronger in our faith. Do not get disheartened. If 2021 has not been a good year in terms of bearing fruit for the kingdom, do not worry. Jesus is lifting you up so that you can produce more fruit in 2022.
God is guiding us to a fullness of faith and ministry through His word as Jesus promises in John 15:3. Let us commit to study His word in 2022 and more importantly, live by the word we have studied. As we do this God begins to produce His fruit in our lives. We experience the presence of God with us and His goodness working through us. If we do not implement this obedience to the word in our lives, we stagnate and do not grow spiritually.
The fruit that we bear is the fruit of the Spirit as given in Gal 5:22f primarily. Our character is changed as we live by the Bible. We become loving. We become people who bring joy and peace to a room and to relationships. We manifest this love in various ways as taught to us by the scriptures.
This life becomes our testimony, as it says in John 13:34f “and they will know that we are Christians because of the love we have for each other”. Once we bear the fruit of character, we begin to bear the fruit of winning individuals to Jesus.
We need to cooperate with the Holy Spirit by identifying where is it that my fruit is failing and deal with it by committing it to Jesus. This is usually the result of our having desires for material things, as James says in James 4:1-4, and Eph 4:22. This cleansing produces the fruit of the Spirit and the resultant fruit of ministry.
John 15:8 says that this brings glory to God, when people see your transformed life. It is your character that glorifies God and all else flows from your character. Hence the teaching on the fruit of the Spirit. We achieve this by abiding in Jesus.
How do we abide in Jesus? John 15:10 says that if we keep His commandments we will abide in Him. So we commit to obey Jesus however absurd it may appear. Today we have brought too much of logic and reasoning into our Christian life. The Christian life is not logical or reasoned; it is obedience. When I look at my life it has been illogical. Logic would never have brought the walls of Jericho down. Logic would not have let Peter walk in water. Not always having enough resources to provide for any luxuries for the family, I used to argue with Haggai Institute not to raise my salary. Why? I felt that is what God wanted. Beginning a journey when you are ill, trusting that God would restore when I have to actually do work and seeing it happen. Why? Because I felt God wanted me to go. It is easy to obey the written laws. Obeying the voice of God that comes to you is what shows trust in God.
Being illogical does not mean that we do not think. No, logic rules our life. But when Jesus gives us a command like ‘love your enemies’ we just set aside logic and obey!!
The primary sign of faith and obedience is love for people as Jesus said - love God and love man. We are having peaceful relationships with people. How does you life show faith in God?
There is a tremendous need for role models to show us the way. I was fortunate to have Victor Radhakrishnan to model the illogical Christian life of obedience and total commitment to Jesus to me. Why don’t we make ourselves into role models for our community in 2022?