How Do We Bear Fruit?
A Sermon for May 2, 2021
By Ch Jim Odell
This is a synopsis, or quick review, of the sermon for May 2, 2021. I am only hitting the highlights of the message, not reproducing the entire sermon.
We have been discussing the discourses of Jesus in the Gospel of John. Before we took a break for Holy Week Season, we were looking at Jesus’ Upper Room discourses, the teaching He gave to His disciples on the last night He was with them before He was crucified.
Our last lesson, which was “iced out” in February, was on the “Vine and the Branches.” This discourse was given after Jesus and the disciples left the Upper Room and while they were on the way to the garden of Gethsemane (Jn 14:31 & 18:1). No doubt, Jesus used the vines and herb gardens along the streets to illustrate His teachings. The “big idea” was that “if we abide in Christ we will bear fruit, if not we will wither and die spiritually.” But what does it mean to “abide in Christ?” And what is the “fruit” we produce? And how do we go about producing that fruit? Jesus goes on to answer all of these questions in chapter 15:9-17.
“Love” is the key word in this paragraph. Jesus Christ loves us, just like God loves Jesus (15:9). To remain in that love we must keep His commandments, just like Jesus keeps His Father’s commandments.
Commandments are something that resonated in the minds of the early Jewish disciples. Judaism specializes in commandment keeping, especially among the pharisaical Rabbis in the synagogues of Judea and Galilee. The “Ten Commandments” or the Decalogue, were memorized by every Jewish boy and girl. The Rabbis tell us there are 645 commandments in the Old Testament, each one going back to one of the “Ten Commandments.” The Pharisees were specialists in applying the commandments to every walk of life, to the point that everything was regulated. Jesus taught against this “addition to God’s commandments by men,” but supported obedience to the “real” commandments of God.
Now Jesus adds but one commandment. He did this earlier this very evening (see 13:34) when He said “A new commandment I give to you.” His new commandment was to love one another. No doubt, His disciples paid close attention. He was adding an eleventh commandment to the foundation of their religion. We are to love “one another.” In particular, to love Christians, while elsewhere in Scripture we see it expanded to all people.
By keeping this commandment, we will “bear fruit” as a Christian (15:16). But what does “love” mean? In our world we equate “love” to the emotions. A great warm feeling of affection. That first time you touch someone, or that first kiss to that someone special. The problem with seeing “love” as an emotion is that emotions go up and down. Feelings wane and we are left with only a memory. “Love” is rather the act of the will. We determine to put someone’s desires and needs above our own. We determine to do so. This is true love. We take a marriage “vow,” not a “marriage good feeling.”
Jesus describes “love” in a definitive manner when He says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friend” (15:13). Jesus will demonstrate this to His disciples in the next few hours. By sunrise He will be in Pilate’s judgment hall, preparing to do that very act of “laying down” His life for us. We need to show love to others by putting their needs and desires ahead of our own.
Jesus goes on to present another radical idea. If we follow Christ we are not merely “servants” of God, we are “friends” of God (15:15-16). God will share with us what He wants us to know personally. We are not just one of a billion followers of Jesus, we are His “friend.” He shares what He is doing and allows us to “chat” with Him. In doing so we bear fruit, and our fruit will last. By keeping Jesus’ commandment to love others, especially in the “church,” we show His love to all those around us. In so doing, we bear fruit. I think Paul best describes this fruit in Galatians 5:22-24. Notice how “love” is listed first and “joy” is second. This is parallel to John 15:11 where love produces joy.
Because I love God and others, I find purpose in life and have joy, an inner peace about God, myself and my world. May each of us come to this point.
CH Jim Odell