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  • Writer's picturePaul Martin


John 15

Imagine your life is in danger. You're a person of interest to the authorities and it's time to keep a low profile. What'll happen if you're discovered? You'll be arrested, put on trial and executed. Time is short and this is probably your last opportunity for a meal with your friends. You take this moment to gather those you love. What would you talk about if it were your last supper? Maybe you'd tell each individual what they meant to you, giving words of encouragement to spur them on when you are gone. I'd probably hand over important internet passwords at this point and divvy up some of my most precious possessions. I have a very nice retro stapler!

Jesus in this situation spoke to his disciples about the essentials needed for the disciples if the church was going to survive. As a great storyteller, Jesus went on to put an image in their heads that would cause his disciples to easily recall his final words. At a later date the disciples would remind each other, "Do you remember how Jesus told us that he was like a grapevine and we the branches. What was it he said? That we'd produce the same fruit he did, if we continue to be connected to him. That's what the Master wanted of us" (see John 15:1-17). 

So the big question is then: What is the good fruit that Jesus was talking about? If it was so important to be a part of Jesus' final words with his friends before his death, it's worth making sure we understand him. 

Some people think that Jesus meant the phrase "you will bear much fruit" means "you will produce lots more Christians." I imagine this could be drawn from the phrase in Genesis 1:28 "be fruitful and increase in number," or from Psalm 128:3 that carries the meaning of reproducing offspring. In other words, they understand it to mean that a quantitative increase of believers marks you as a true disciple of Jesus. But is this actually what Jesus meant by producing more fruit? No it isn't. This comparison doesn't correlate with the analogy Jesus is using. It also doesn't fit the context of the dialogue of the last supper. 

Check back on what Jesus said. "I am the vine, you are the branches." Jesus is the whole vine. The disciples are what? The branches. That's us in Christ. The branches are Christians. Do you notice something? The disciples are not the fruit. The fruit is something else. Jesus is not saying that the fruit of a Christian's life is producing more Christians; because that would be producing more branches. Jesus told us that in this analogy, the branches are the believers.

What is the fruit then? We are told that good fruit results from staying connected to Jesus. Our relationship with Jesus produces something that will irresistibly attract people to Jesus the vine. 

The character qualities of Jesus the vine flow through us (the branches), as we stay connected to Jesus. As 2 Corinthians 3:18 states, we are being transformed into the likeness of Jesus. The proof of this transformation is the fruit. Jesus said in Matthew 7:15-23 "By their fruit you will know them." This will be evident in many ways, one of which is the way we treat others. The Apostle Paul takes up this theme of bearing fruit in Galatians 5:22-23, talking about the fruit borne out by the Spirit of Jesus in us is: love, joy peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These are all things that will attract people to know Jesus, because the reality of his presence in a person's life will show like good fruit. Think about it. Would a gardener be so interested in growing a grapevine if there were no grapes to make the idea attractive?

The fruit, or proof that a person is connected to Jesus is not that they can draw a crowd to believe in him, but that they display the character traits of Jesus in their life.  

In summing up his analogy, Jesus clearly says "This is my command: Love each other." In his last meal with his disciples, Jesus has been unpacking this statement "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another" John 13:34.

For the disciples, the next few days were going to be unbelievably tough. Jesus, their leader was going to be unjustly arrested, brutally treated and horrifically executed; and one of them was going to be responsible for instigating it. Judas was going to turn on their leader and kill himself. Peter was going to feebly deny Jesus, rather than bravely stand up for him as promised. The others would make a run for it. Through this tough time they needed to remain strong as a family, to not give up on each other, but see it through the tough times together. This kind of love does not give up, instead works hard to fix broken relationships.

This is something we still need to learn. If we think producing fruit is all about the pursuit of a mission to ensure the numerical growth of the church, we might actually overlook the people around us. We'll be prepared to walk over people if necessary, in order to achieve our goal; and the factor that actually attracts people to Jesus can be lost. 

Yet if our focus is letting our connectedness to Jesus transform us so that we can selflessly love others, we'll produce abundant fruit. We'll be the most attractive people in the world and people will be naturally drawn to Jesus and encounter the risen Lord Jesus, who lives in his people.

Paul Martin is the author of "Inspire. A resource for busy youth workers" and has written a number of devotional books for young people. He has served as a Youth Pastor for 21 years in Baptist, Pentecostal and Anglican churches. Paul has a BA in Applied Theology form Moorlands College and an MA in The Bible and Ministry in the Contemporary World from Belfast Bible College.

To download FREE SAMPLES of Paul's READY-TO-USE Bible teaching sessions for young people, click here.

______________________ Image of grapes from Unsplash JSB Co.


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