John 15 – Vines and the Biggest Love

John 15 Bible with Green and Blacks 85 percent Cacao Dark Chocolate

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Today’s PassageJohn 15

Remember yesterday, when I said today I might take a further look at the Holy Spirit in today’s post? Well, the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and bears witness of the Son. That’s verse 26. It’s the only verse in this chapter about the Holy Spirit. There! Now that we’ve taken a further look at the Holy Spirit’s role in this chapter, we can move on to consider the other 96% of the text.

This chapter is home to Jesus’ parable of the vine and the branches. In this metaphor, the vine represents the Son, the branches represent his disciples, and the vinedresser represents the Father. He elaborates on the Father’s vinedressing activity: “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit” (2). Later, he explains that the Father throws away and burns the branches that he cuts off. Jesus doesn’t say much to elucidate what exactly this fate for fruitless branches means. Does the parable imply that you can lose your salvation? I don’t know, but it presents a scenario where a person goes from involvement with Jesus to separation from him because of a failure to love others and produce fruit. You can probably think of such people who have for all practical purposes ceased involvement with Jesus’ community and mission. I can think of one, and not to point fingers or anything, but his name is Judas Iscariot.

I’m really not pointing fingers. In some respects I’m sympathetic to Judas. Not the part where he’ll do anything to swipe a buck, whether raiding the purse or selling out the Son of God, but the part where what he’s done at the end of his story absolutely sickens him. But Jesus always extended love to him, he never vilified him, and I don’t think he wants us to either. Maybe in the end he was cut from the branch and thrown away. Maybe his whole story was one giant painful pruning. I know that’s a long shot, but Jesus strove to include him even while Judas was running around doing vile selfish garbage behind his back. And I believe that at every step of the way, if at any point Judas was ready to repent, Jesus was extending forgiveness and redemption.

And that’s the principal fruit of this vine: love. Jesus first extends love to his disciples, then commands them, “Remain in My love” (9). It doesn’t start with a decision to love others, an act of will to reach out and help heal this jacked-up world. It starts with receiving Jesus Christ’s love for us and remaining in it. Then we’re ready to obey Jesus’ commandment, “Love one another, just as I have loved you” (12). Once you have the love of Christ, you can give the love of Christ. You can’t give what you haven’t got.

And love means giving. Right after issuing his commandment of love, Jesus adds, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (13). Even after we’re grafted into the vine, we still love with a faltering, faulty half-love. And sometimes we give, sometimes we manage to reach out to the people around us and do what Jesus has called us to do, sometimes we even manage a big love.

But Jesus has already given himself to pay the penalty for all our failures to love. He’s already loved the biggest love.

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