Trees are one of my favorite parts of Creation. They speak when the wind blows, stand tall in any season, provide homes to small creatures and shade to larger ones. Some trees even provide food to sustain the life of other living things. They are intricate.
The branches grow and jut, here and there, without any restrictions. A branch’s life and health is completely dependent on the life and health of the vine or tree to which is it connected.
This is the heart of what Jesus means in John 15:4 - “Remain in me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me” (CSB).
When I read this passage, I tend to think more about obedience than what Jesus really meant.
I think about how I’m supposed to pray. I’m supposed to read the Bible. I’m supposed to love others, be involved in a church, share the gospel… I equate obedience to all these commandments with remaining.
Obedience is not the same as remaining, it is a product of it. But the point here is not to give an exhaustive biblical explanation on obedience. The point here is that I need to be reminded about what remaining really is because I am a prideful branch.
Prideful branches like me think we’re very strong. We think we’re able to remain in Jesus on our own, and even that we’re able to conjure up the desire to remain. So we stretch and strive, trying with all our might to cling to the Tree of Life. And when a tiny puff of air blows on our limbs, we slip away and crumble to the ground, detached and lifeless.
We cannot remain. Our grip is loose. Someone else must do the gripping for us.
To remain is to continue to do something that you were already doing. But I wasn’t the one who caused the remaining in the first place. Did I graft myself to Jesus the Vine? Did I connect the flimsy fibers of my weak branch to the everlasting and sturdy life-source of Jesus? No.
We cannot remain unless Jesus first remains in us.
If you are a Christian, then Jesus first remains in you. We don’t have to doubt whether or not we can remain in him. We are branches on the Vine of Jesus. We were grafted into Jesus when he lived a perfect life for us, died a brutal death for us, and rose to live again for us. Once we were grafted in, there was not, is not, and can never be any possibility that we do anything but remain in Him.
“You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you,” Jesus says in John 15:3. Therefore, “Remain in me, and I in you.”
Jesus did it all. Christians, we are already clean because of Jesus’ word. We already remain because of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
Jesus’ grip on us is tight. So tight that we are part of Him, and He part of us. This is true faith: we remember that we are gripped by Jesus, forever grafted into his mighty tree where we find life and strength.
“Thou has taught me that faith is nothing else than receiving thy kindness; that it is an adherence to Christ, a resting on him, love clinging to him as a branch to the tree, to seek life and vigour from him.” - The Valley of Vision, Belonging to Jesus.