When my children were small we had a Leylandii hedge at the bottom of our garden. One year during the annual battle to keep the fast growing trees under control we hit upon the idea of making a den for the children to play in. We took some of the branches we had cut and wove them into walls and a roof for the den. By the time we had finished the results were quite impressive, there was a small shelter under the trees with enough room for four or five small children to sit in. Obviously, since the branches were cut from the same hedge, they matched perfectly and this added to the excitement for the children; it was a secret den. Over the following few weeks the den’s secret location was increasingly revealed and the walls and the roof slowly changed from green to brown and anyone foolish enough to venture in would be showered on by dead foliage. The lesson for me was; branches that aren’t attached to a tree die.
“I am the true vine; you are the branches.” I was really pleased to have the use of a laptop for the first time. I used it for months and was amazed how capable it was but when I connected it to the internet for the first time it was very clear that this was what it had been designed for; I had been using only a fraction of its capabilities. It’s the same with us; only when we are in Christ can we begin to realise, this is what we were made for.
“My Father is the gardener.” This tells us that God is working in our lives. He uses the things that happen to teach and prune us. He is not satisfied with our present condition and is working for our good.
“If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.” Believers are connected to Christ, have the Holy Spirit within them and the Father is pruning and caring for them. All of this begs the question; what difference does it make? There has to be a difference. Surely that’s idea of producing fruit; if all of the above is true, it has to bring change to our lives; there has to be an end product.
“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” The disciples were a motley crew yet Jesus called them his friends. I’m not going to go through all of their failings again but it is incredible that Jesus chose these men to be his disciples. Couldn’t he find a better group? Perhaps he could have but he chose very ordinary people to be his friends. They were people like us and he didn’t just make them his friends; he laid down his life for them.
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” For me the fruit Jesus is talking about here is that we love one another. It isn’t a suggestion or even a request; it’s a command. And how should we love each other? “As I have loved you.”
As I read the words of Jesus once more I am reminded just how far short I am of his command. I need more of the Holy Spirit to teach me how to respond to so great a love.
‘Jesus, Thine all-victorious love
Shed in my soul abroad;
Then shall my heart no longer rove,
Rooted and fixed in God.
Oh, that in me the sacred fire
Might now begin to glow;
Burn up the dross of base desire,
And make the mountains flow.’ (Charles Wesley)