Text: John 15:1-17
Summary: Love Jesus and love the friends of Jesus and God promises that you will bear much fruit and He will answer your prayers.
Father, this is such an important chapter. It’s my favorite chapter in all of Scripture. If we could just live out these verses, we would do so well in this journey. We would bear so much fruit and thereby prove that we are your disciples. We would be so loving toward other friends of Jesus. We would know how to abide in Christ and to stay close to Christ. Lord, there’s so much here. Help organize my thoughts, Lord Jesus. You’re the Chief Shepherd so we ask that you speak to your sheep who are gathered today. Thank you, Lord. In Jesus Name, Amen
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
I tried my best to summarize these packed set of verses and the best I can come up with is this. Love Jesus / Abide in Jesus / Be a friend of Jesus. Love Jesus. Abide in Jesus. Be a friend of Jesus. That is the greatest commandment that I see here. The second greatest commandment that I see here is love the friends of Jesus. And God’s promise if you do these two things is that He will answer your prayers and you will bear much fruit.
Mark 12 and other places in the gospels, Jesus says, the greatest commandment is love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And the second greatest commandment is love your neighbor as yourself. According to John’s gospel, I would paraphrase that and say love Jesus with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love the friends of Jesus as yourself. Love the neighbors, those right there next to you.
And God’s promise, if you do these two things, is that He will answer your prayers amazingly, surprisingly, in ways that you can’t even fathom or imagine. God will answer your prayers. And you will bear, not just a little fruit, you will bear much fruit.
Love Jesus. The metaphor here is Jesus as the vine and we are the branches. And so if the branch is broken off the vine, obviously, you’re cut off from the source of life. And I wonder how many Christians are very conscious of their need to be close to Christ. Is there a moment by moment awareness that apart from Jesus I can do nothing?
It is an awareness of our need to be close to Jesus. In order to love somebody, you have to be close to that person. Jesus loved the Twelve. Jesus loved the Father. He abided in the Father’s love by praying to the Father.
And why were all of Jesus’ prayers answered? Because Jesus was not sinful. Jesus had no ego. Jesus was not worldly. He was not asking for things that many of us ask for in prayer, things that are sinful and worldly and self-motivated. Jesus is so tuned to the Father. He says to Philip, if you see me, you are seeing the Father. We are one.
It’s like when you see me, you don’t see just me. You see me and Jackie. And hopefully when you see me and Jackie, you don’t just see us, you see Christ. Jesus and the Father are one. And Jesus says, I along with all of my friends are one. It is one big vine and all these branches that are coming forth from the vine.
In order to understand what it means to love Jesus or to abide in Jesus, who is our example? Jesus is our example. Jesus shows us what a life of abiding looks like. And so you look at His life and you learn what abiding in the Father’s love looks like. There are little hints of it throughout the gospels. Jesus often went away to solitary places. And what is He doing there? He’s abiding in His father’s love.
It is a life of prayer. Communing with the Father. Hearing from the Father, then speaking. Not just saying so many things from our own thoughts, but waiting to hear from the Father first. Then Jesus speaks. Jesus is modeling for us what a life of abiding in love looks like. He’s so close to the Father. It’s as if the Father is here on earth, and He himself is teaching. Because whatever Jesus taught was first taught by the Father. Jesus says, my words are not my own. It’s the Father’s teaching. It’s as if the Father is here and He is teaching. The Father is teaching through the Son.
Every word that comes from Jesus’ mouth came from the Father’s mouth. Everything that Jesus did during His public ministry, because He was a perfectly obedient Son, He’s doing it because the Father told him to do it. So for 30 years, it seems like He’s doing nothing, but He’s learning obedience through being still and waiting for the green light from the Father. He’s just waiting for the Father to tell him, now is the time to show yourself to the world.
And so if Jesus is our model of what a life of love looks like, what a life of being a close friend looks like, what abiding looks like, then how can we abide in Jesus? We have to be His friend, which means we have to be close, which means we have to commune with Him, which means we have to fellowship with Him. It’s like a branch connected to a vine. It is that type of intimacy and closeness.
And that means when we pray, we’re mainly listening for Him. We present all of our burdens, all of our troubles, all of our concerns, but mainly we’re listening and we’re waiting for Him to speak. Jesus learned how to do that for 30 years. Listening, learning obedience through suffering, waiting. He was a perfectly obedient Son.
Then, after 30 years of anonymity, 3.5 years of public ministry began. Again, it’s the same thing. Everything that Jesus does is because the Father tells Him to do it. When He’s feeding thousands of people, it’s because on that day, the Father said, feed thousands of people. When He’s meeting one person, we might think that’s a waste of time. Jesus, you’re much more talented. Your time is much more valuable. But He is listening to the Father, like when He ministered to the Samaritan woman or when He healed the man who was born blind.
Jesus is modeling for us what a life of abiding looks like, a life of closeness, what a friend looks like. And now He’s inviting all of us. He calls us friends. Is there any better title than friend? You know, we say I’m a disciple of Christ. I’m a follower of Christ. I’m a servant of Christ. All of those are true. But is there any more intimate of a title than a friend?
You look at some of your friends. You would say they’re closer than my biological parents. You look at your spouse. They’re not biologically related to you. But we would say they are the best friends. Jesus calls us friends. This is in verse 13. Greater love has no one than this that someone lay down his life for his friends. How significant is it that Jesus calls us friends?
Jesus is saying I didn’t die for the world. Yes, I love the world. I love the traitor, Judas. I will wash his feet. I will invite him to the Lord’s supper. Jesus loves his enemies. But he did not die for the world. He laid down his life for friends, all of us who call ourselves friends of Jesus. He died for you, specifically a subset of the world.
Jesus laid down his life as a true friend to His friends. So abide in Jesus. That means you pray to Jesus. That means you fellowship with Jesus. That means you bring every concern to Jesus. You bring every decision to Jesus, you are cultivating intimacy and closeness. You bring everything to Jesus and you’re learning to just listen for His voice.
That’s a little too generic to just abide in terms of just general prayer. He gives more instruction on what to do. He says in verse 7, if you abide in me and my words abide in you. That’s significant. It was maybe a year or two ago we were reading [correction] 2 John 1:9. And John, who I consider the closest friend of Jesus among all the apostles, he says, abide in the teaching of Christ, and that just just caught my attention. What do you mean, abide in the teaching of Christ?
And then I read John 15 and Jesus says it Himself. He says, abide in my words. The red letters of the Bible. Every word in Scripture is inspired and inerrant, but do we abide, remain, meditate on every word in Scripture equally? I say no, because you could take a verse out of context or a verse that is a little bit even contradictory to what Jesus said. Like 1 Corinthians 4, where Paul says, you don’t have many guardians, but I became your father in the gospel.
Jesus says to call no man on earth your father. And yet Paul says, call me father because I preached the gospel and you got saved. I founded this church. If you abide in that specific verse, many churches have gotten so wacky and so oppressive.
If I were to call myself everybody’s spiritual father in this place and you’re all just infants, that means you just do what I say and I will be the mediator between you and the Heavenly Father. Because you can’t hear. You’re only sheep. You’re a second class citizen. You’re just a child. You can’t hear from God. I am the father. Come to me with all of your questions and burdens.
And people can take a verse that contradicts what Jesus said and construct a whole ministry philosophy around it and say, I am the spiritual father or mother and this is my family. You do things as I say. Even your earthly father or mother who may be a believer, they don’t have that kind of authority over you. Only Jesus has the final word.
So we don’t go to our parents who might be Christian and say, what should I do here? And we’re not seeking their approval by doing everything that they say because we’re not under their authority. As soon as you came out of their home and you formed a new family unit and you have your own household, you’re not under anybody’s authority except Jesus Christ.
And the church is not under anybody’s authority. Pastor, bishop, pope. We’re not under anybody’s authority. Only Jesus. He is the Chief Pastor and the Senior Pastor, and He is the Lead Pastor of every church that bears His name.
And so Jesus said specifically, if you want abide in me, now let me break it down to you. You should abide in my words. And so you would do well in life if you revisited John 14, 15, 16 and 17, the last set of sermons that He gave to his disciples before He died in a cross. I would also look at the first set of sermons in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, 6 and 7, which is also found in the other gospels. These are His words. If you meditate on them, if you abide in them, if you wrestled with them, that is part of what it means to abide in Jesus.
7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
Jesus is the perfect example. He asked the Father and the Father gave Him everything He asked for. And you could see how Jesus’ track record of prayer was 100%. It’s because He was not sinful. He was not selfish. Read the rest of chapter 15. He understood His place in this world. He was not seeking to be famous in this world. He knew the world hated Him. And so His prayers were not worldly.
He was not asking for more of the world. He was so submitted to the Heavenly Father and I think most of His prayer involved Him listening for the Father’s voice. I’m listening for your instructions. I will speak when you give me the words. I will do it when you give me the green light. You tell me. You give me the assignment. And Jesus lived that way.
And so whatever He asked for, He was so in tune with the Father, that whatever Jesus asked for, the Father answered 100% of His requests. And Jesus is saying, it is possible that we can be so in tune with Christ, so separate and set apart from this world, so submitted and surrendered to the will of God that whatever you ask in Jesus name, the Father will give it to you as frequently and as many times as He answered Jesus prayers.
It is possible for the believer. And so one of God’s promises if you abide in Christ and abide in His words, if you are a true friend of Jesus and you have no agenda. You just want to be close to Christ. God promises that He will answer your prayers in amazing ways. Not only that, it says in verse 8, by this my Father is glorified that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. The second promise. If you abide in Christ, not only does the Father answer many of your prayers, even possibly all of your prayers, but you will also bear much fruit.
And that proves that you and I are disciples. And what kind of fruit is this? Is this primarily ministry fruit? Is this primarily external fruit? We know that cannot be the interpretation, because Matthew 7 says that a bunch of supernaturally gifted ministers are coming to Jesus, and they say to him, here is all the work that I did for you. I cast out demons. I prophesied. I healed. Whatever it is that people bring before Jesus. I led thousands of people to Christ. I led a megachurch. And they have all of this fruit to show.
And at the end, it is possible that Jesus says of these people, I never knew you. Meaning it is possible to have counterfeit fruit. An external fruit can be counterfeit because you don’t know what’s happening inside that minister’s heart. You don’t know what’s driving that person. Is he greedy? Is it a desire to be famous?
Because look at Jesus. He is not known. He’s not famous. He’s actually infamous. He’s more hated than He’s loved. The religious system abandoned Him. He has 11 people, and in the end, 120 gathered around in the upper room, and it’s slightly larger than your average church in the world. Jesus was not famous. He was infamous. People wanted to kill him. People couldn’t stand what He was saying. He was testifying about how evil the works of this world are.
And so if it is not primarily external fruit, then it has to be internal. Jesus says that in verse 16.
16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.
So this fruit abides. It remains. It cannot be ministry because ministry comes and goes. This is like an evergreen. It doesn’t matter what season it is, the temperature, whatever conditions, its surrounding. An evergreen’s leaves are always in season. Likewise, you’re always bearing fruit because you’re attached to the Source of Life, and there’s always life coming from you. So it is internal. That’s what it says about joy in verse 11. It’s not even our joy. It says, it’s Jesus’ joy that comes out.
See, that’s a clue. When we love somebody, it’s actually not our love. We can do it with our own ability, but it’s so limited. We can be so transformed that we can love the way Jesus loved. Remember, I said, it’s as if the Father were here. He’s here through the Son. Jesus taught exactly what the Father taught. Jesus ministered exactly the way the Father wanted Him to minister. It’s as if the Father did the ministry Himself.
And so for the believer, because we are branches connected to the Vine, it’s as if Jesus is now doing life through us. His fruit is coming out. His ministry is coming out. Answered prayers are coming out. Because you’re so in tune. God promises, if you abide in Jesus, you will bear this kind of fruit that will last. It doesn’t matter what life throws at you or the arrows that Satan hurls at you, you’re not shaken because you have lasting fruit.
Some ministers, if the church closes, they think their life is over. They think they’re such a failure. But that is not where our identity comes from. We’re not ministers primarily. We’re children of God. We’re friends of Jesus. We have a higher calling, a higher identity than minister or servant, because it says, a servant doesn’t know what the Master is doing.
But if you’re a friend, you know what the Master is doing. That’s how in tune you are. And I hope we get to a place where we’re so in tune with the Father and so in tune with Jesus that we know exactly what the Master is doing in your life, in this season, in this city. We know exactly what He’s doing because the Father has told us.
We’re not serving like it’s trial and error. Trying this thing and that thing. This kind of worked and this didn’t work. People just throw out all these different activities. But we know exactly what the Father is doing because we’re friends, not servants. The Father has told us what He’s up to.
10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.
How do we know that Jesus loves the Father? Again, He is our example. He is not just a morally perfect person. He’s not merely keeping Ten Commandments and all the commandments in the Old Testament. That’s part of what it means to keep the commandments, but there is much more. Jesus says later on that He will prove and show to what extent He loves the Father by obeying the Father all the way to the end by dying on a cross. This is a moment by moment obedience.
You and I can get to a place where we obey not only the Ten Commandments, not only every commandment in Scripture, not only are we holy and righteous in our living, but we obey His specific commitments given to us. And He boils it down here in John 15. Abiding in Jesus, loving Jesus, that’s the greatest. The second greatest commandment is love my friends.
Your obligation as a friend of Jesus is to love the other friends of Jesus. So if you’re married, guess what? You have a best friend, your spouse, who also is a friend of Jesus. You have to love your spouse. If you have children who are being brought up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, and they’re on their way to becoming friends of Jesus, guess what? As a father or mother, you have to love your children. These apostles had families so obviously they’re going to love their families. They’re not neglecting their family.
But then Jesus extends it a little further. He says, love the friends and He’s speaking to the Eleven. He says, look around the room. Love these particular friends of mine.
How many people neglect their spouse because they’re too busy at church? How many people neglect their own children while actively serving at church? How many people neglect their fellow brothers and sisters in the church because they’re so busy out in the world? Even doing good things like missions and evangelism and Bible studies. So busy out there. They’ve missed what Jesus is saying in John 15.
Don’t be so busy that you don’t have time for Jesus. Remember, that is our priority number one That is the greatest commandment. Love Jesus with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Secondly, love the friends of Jesus. That’s it. Among all the commandments, Jesus highlights that one here.
And that means love your spouse. Love your children. Love your fellow brother and sister who is gathered with you on a Sunday. And if you do these two things, the amazing promise is that God will answer so many of your prayers because your heart will change. You’re not going to ask to become a millionaire. You’re not going to ask to be on the cover of a magazine. You’re not going to be asked to be so famous as a pastor that CNN calls you. Not interested. We’re not trying to be famous in this world because Jesus says you’ll be hated. Maybe CNN will highlight you because they hate you so much. Maybe that’s acceptable.
Your heart will change and be so in tune with Christ because you abide in Him and He is in you. You’re in him. And so when you pray, you pray differently. You listen so much more than you speak. You listen and Jesus speaks. And then you confirm what He said back to Him and those prayers that you first heard, now you’re praying them back to Him.
I bet all of those prayers will be answered by the Father because those are the right prayers. Not only that. Not only will God answer your prayers if you abide in Christ and love His friends. You love Jesus and you love the friends of Jesus. You’re abiding in Jesus’ words. You’re obeying His commandments. The Father promises that he will answer your prayers. The other promise is that you will bear much fruit.
And this fruit is you and me. We are the fruit. Like Mary and Martha. Mary was bearing the right kind of fruit. It didn’t seem like she did a lot of things. And when Jesus is rebuking Martha, He’s not criticizing her work. He didn’t say to Martha that your service is bad. He didn’t say, why are you serving so hard? He wasn’t criticizing her service. He was criticizing her heart.
He says, you are distracted and troubled with many things. How many times as we’re going through life and even as we serve the Lord are we distracted and troubled? And to Jesus, that is not acceptable. Jesus wants to deal with that. And He wants those things to be removed and pruned because Martha had some fruit, but Jesus is now speaking what the Father wants to say over Martha — things need to be pruned, Martha.
She has some fruit. Well, guess what? After that encounter with Jesus, I bet there was more fruit. And I bet Martha continued like her sister Mary, and together, they bore much fruit. So if you love Jesus because you’re a friend of Jesus and you’re abiding in Jesus and you’re abiding in His words — you’re meditating on words like John 15 and the rest of the red letters of the Bible — and you love the friends of Jesus because Jesus laid down His life for His friends. If you do that, God promises that your prayers will be answered and we will bear much fruit.
It’s not primarily external fruit. It’s internal. And Jesus says, go and bear fruit. Show the world the fruit of Jesus. Show others what transformation looks like. That is what God has appointed for you. You’ve been appointed for this. It is your destiny to look like Jesus. Shine like a light to the world. Show what a fruitful branch connected to the vine looks like. You’re like a mini Jesus.
And so if you and I want to become this fruitful branch, it takes some pruning. It involves saying no to many things. A prioritization of life. And I for one just keep coming back to this chapter. It gives us a guidebook on how to live.
What is the first priority? Love Jesus first and foremost. The second greatest commandment here is love the friends of Jesus. Be a true friend and love the friends and you will bear much fruit and God will answer so many of your prayers.
Father, the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. The second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. This is a parallel text. Jesus makes it a lot more specific. You say to love Jesus with your heart, soul, mind and strength. To abide in Christ. To become a true friend of Jesus.
Jesus, you were so lonely in this world because you had so few friends. There were many people who wanted to use you. Many people wanted to be fed because of your powers. Many people envied your teaching and your authority. Many people just simply wanted to kill you. It was such a lonely road because you had so few friends.
I pray that every single brother and sister gathered in this place would desire to be a friend of Jesus above all else, that we would communicate with you and commune with you and bring every burden to you and every decision to you. I pray we would fellowship with you and just listen for your voice because that is what sheep do. We hear the voice of our shepherd. Help us to learn how to abide in Christ. abide in your words, keep your commandments and be obedient to everything you say.
We are not the leader of our life. Jesus, you’re the master and the Lord and you’re the one who leads and so Lord, we’re not asking you to bless the decisions that we already have made in our hearts. We’re asking that you speak and that we follow your lead and we want to keep your commandments the way that you kept the Father’s commandments.
You obeyed every detail, every decision from the Father. You obeyed perfectly, all the way until you were nailed on a cross. That is what you’re calling us to do, to keep your commandments and to obey you fully. Lord, you highlight one commandment in John 15. It is to love your friends. Greater Love has no one than this than he who lays down his life for his friends.
He did not die for the world. You died to make friends. And Lord, we are friends of Jesus. We want to love one another starting with our spouse, our children and our fellow brothers and sisters gathered in this place. Before we’re trying to love the world, we’re trying to prioritize loving Jesus and loving friends of Jesus.
And your promises are clear that if we do these things, you will answer our prayers in amazing ways and we will bear much fruit and prove that we are disciples and friends of Jesus. Lord, as we come to the table, we partake in your blood shed and your body broken for us. Lord, let this be our act of reconnecting to the vine.
If we’ve been separated and we’re doing life apart from you and we’re not fellowshiping with you enough, we pray that you would graft us back in by your grace through this act. The way that Jesus went away and prayed to the Heavenly Father and abided in the Father’s love, we want to abide in Jesus. So, Lord, as we partake, let this be a tangible reminder that apart from Jesus, we can do nothing. Thank you, Lord. In Jesus Name, Amen