If you have spent any time reading in the Gospels, you have probably read the story of the vine and branches. You may remember Jesus telling the parable and reminding His disciples “I am the vine, you are the branches.” This picture of the vine and branches may be a little confusing, but it is really quite simple.
If you feel like you have to try to be good enough or earn God’s love, please read on. This parable in John 15 is such a beautiful picture of the freedom of God’s love. With Jesus representing the vine, He is the sustainer and carrier of all that is needed. When you are the branch, you can rely on Him to provide for all that you need.
In this post, we are going to focus on John 15:1-17. There are 11 times in this passage when Jesus tells his disciples to remain in Him. With so much repetition, there is something important for us to learn about God and ourselves and the relationship we have with Him. What exactly does He mean when he says “I am the vine, you are the branches?”
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I am the Vine, You are the Branches
Remain is a verb or action word. It isn’t a destination or place you arrive but someplace that you actively make sure you stay. Similar words include go on, abide, endure, persist, and stay.
Remain and abide are both action words that describe a choice. They are not forced or passive, but intentional decisions.
In this Biblical parable, Jesus uses the story of the vine and branches as a word picture for his hearer to experience. They were very familiar with vineyards and knew that when the workers cut off the branches in pruning, the branches would die.
So, when Jesus introduces the concept of remaining or abiding in the vine or Him, his hearers could immediately identify with that word picture.
The meaning of John 15 can be broken down into 5 parts as we explore the meaning of abiding in me.
5 Key Concepts from John 15
John 15 begins with Jesus explaining to His disciples that He is the true vine and His Father is the gardener. The disciples were familiar with this picture as there were vineyards in the surrounding countryside. In order for grapevines to bear grapes, they had to be pruned, trimmed, and cared for.
Jesus used this picture of the vine and the branches to help the disciples picture the work that had to be done on a regular basis if the vineyard owner wanted to have any grapes at all. If the old, dead branches weren’t pruned from the vines, they would produce less and less each year until they no longer produced anything at all.
Applying this to our own life, we must remain in the vine or remain with Jesus through the pruning process. The pruning process is something that takes place as we focus our attention on Jesus and His goodness and love.
If we run away from Jesus or get discouraged because of the pruning (trials or struggles), we can fall away from the protection of the vine.
When a branch is pruned from the vine, it no longer grows and quickly dries up. Remaining is not a passive verb. It is an action word and sometimes, remaining can be difficult.
When difficult things happen, it can be easy to blame God or turn away, but by remaining in the difficult times, we are promised that God will remain with us.
I am the Vine
In this parable that Jesus told, he wanted to remind his listeners that He was the vine. The main part or the secure part that they were connected to. When you look at a grapevine, there is usually one sturdy stalk or trunk that all the branches are growing from. A vine doesn’t have a bunch of suckers or little plants that come up from the root, all of the branches grow from one main vine.
When we look at this from the parable point of view, Jesus is the center of all we know, do, and are as Christians. We are only able to be like Him when we are connected to Him. If we are “cut off” from the vine, we are no longer a part of the vine. Only by staying connected to Jesus are we able to represent Him in our lives. `
- Remain in the Vine
Here is how the dictionary defines the word remain:
Remain: to stay in the place that one has been occupying, or to continue to possess a particular quality or fulfill a particular role
Remaining somewhere takes a conscious effort. It isn’t simply sitting still, but it takes an intentional effort. This isn’t to say that it is hard to stay connected to Jesus because He is running away from us, but rather, life can get so busy that we lose track of where we are and we can start to move away from Jesus rather than remaining in Him.
As we intentionally stay connected to Jesus, we will also stay connected to the power of Heaven. When Jesus tells his disciples “I am the vine” he is also reminding them that He is the provider of all the things that they need. All their needs will be supplied when they stay connected to the vine.
“Remain in me, as I also remain in you.” John 15:4
Jesus has promised that He will remain in us and provide for us. As long as we are connected to Him, He will give us meet our needs, give us strength, and fill our heart’s desires.
- Remain in My Words
Part of remaining in the vine is to keep God’s words in your heart and mind. Again, this remaining isn’t passive but active. Because we live in a sinful world, God’s words aren’t naturally in our hearts. Our hearts are born to be sinful, but God has created us to long for Him.
That longing can only be fulfilled by filling our hearts and minds with His words. Spending time with God’s word, meditating on it, journaling it, memorizing and using it daily in our lives is the way we remain in His Words.
When our hearts are so filled with God’s words, the result will be that our actions, our thoughts, our words, and our relationships will be filled with God’s love.
“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” John 15:7
When we are remaining in God’s word, the things we ask God for will be the things that He is ready and able to give us. This is not like a genie in a bottle, but rather, our thoughts and desires will be aligned with God’s will and the things that we desire will be the things that God is ready to provide for us.
They will not be selfish requests that will help us reach selfish desires, but will be things that will be so lined up with God’s will for us, that they will be prayers that are answered for our best.
- Remain in My Love
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” John 15:9
Jesus didn’t ask his disciples to love him like God loved him, but rather to remain in His love. We learn to love by being loved and watching others love. So Jesus is reminding us to practice be being loved unconditionally by Him.
The beautiful part of this reality is that we are already inside God’s love for us. We cannot DO anything to make Him love us more. The flip side of that is that we cannot DO anything that will make Him love us less either! So we are asked to remain in this place – surrounded by His love.
As we spend time focusing on the love of God for us, it will change the way we look at those around us. We are changed by the things we behold or observe.
The more we observe and notice God’s love for us, the more capacity we have to love those in our family, co-workers, people at church, and everyone we come in contact with.
There is nothing I can DO to make God love me more.
There is nothing I can DO to make God love me less.
- Remain in My Commands
The last part of this lesson on remaining finally includes the doing. But even though it seems like it’s finally something we can check off, it is still a matter of the heart rather than a checklist.
God’s love isn’t dependent upon our obedience, but our love for Him is shown and demonstrated by our obedience to His commandments.
If we are remaining in the vine and staying connected to God, keeping His words in our hearts and minds, identifying and experiencing His love, the natural result will be that we want to be obedient to His commandments.
So this becomes another remaining situation rather than a list of things we have to do to be good enough.
God will cause us to bear fruit after we have remained in Him and in His words and commands. He has not asked us to work hard to bear fruit, but rather to stay put and focused on Him and He will produce the fruit through us.
You are the Branches
Continuing with the analogy of the vine and the branches, Jesus tells his listeners “you are the branches”. As individuals who want to have a relationship with Jesus, He is reminding us that everything comes from Him as the vine. As the branches, we are the extension of the vine. As the branches grow out from the vine, we are able to grow and spread the love of Jesus.
The branches are where the fruit grows from. Jesus has given us the task to grow and stretch and then grow fruit. The fruit is the result of our relationship with Jesus. It is the kind deeds, the love for others, the gentle words that we share, the understanding and empathy we have for people. When Jesus says “you are the branches” He is telling us that we have a job to do.
- Love Each Other
The fruit that results from remaining in Him is that we will love each other. As a parent, what would it look like if our children or our spouse knew that they couldn’t do anything to make us love them more? Or less? What would it feel like if they knew our love was unconditional?
So many times, as parents, we act as if our children have to hear our approval. This quickly turns into feelings of never being good enough because our children always make mistakes. We forget things we agreed to do, we act irresponsibly, and we do dumb things that are hurtful. Sometimes these are simple mistakes and sometimes they are very hurtful to those around us.
Perhaps this is how you felt as a child – you were never good enough. You could never live up to your parent’s expectations. Those feelings of inadequacy likely still follow you to this day.
But this picture of Jesus in John 15 is very different. You have always been and always will be in Jesus’ love. Remaining or staying put in Jesus’ love is so different from catching, finding, chasing, or earning Jesus’ love. When Jesus is the vine and you are the branches, you are relying on Him to sustain you, to hold you, to nourish you, and help you grow.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.John 15:5-6 NIV
Applying the Vine and Branches Meaning
Today, my friend, take these things to heart. You are already in God’s love! You do not have to work to be good enough. You do not have to earn His love. You do not even have to accept His love. His love is there always – no matter what you do.
Remain in me as I also remain in you. John 15:4
Rest in His love. Stay in His love. His love does not waver, it does not change and it does not end. What a relief! What a secure feeling to know that God will always love you the same!
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. John 15:11
When Jesus says “I am the vine”, He is reminding his disciples (and us) that He’s got us. He will never leave us, He will never move away from us. He will always be right here beside us. When He says “you are the branches” He is reminding us that we have work to do to keep a strong connection. Not that He will move away, but we might stray away.
If you’d like to watch an inspiring sermon series about Abiding in Jesus, check out Pastor Randy Roberts from Loma Linda University Church
You may also like these posts…
- Praying Moms – Using Scripture to Pray for Others
- Remain in Me – Lessons from John 15
- 3 Lessons of Courage from the Life of Joshua
- Creating a Self-Care Life
- Praying Circles Around the Lives of Your Children
- 31 Bible Promises to Pray for Your Children
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