By Russ Ramsey
In John 15, Jesus unfolds a familiar metaphor—He is the Vine, we are the branches. What does this mean? People have taken this image to mean a lot of things. Some focus on how it highlights the nearness of Christ. Others may focus on how it promises that we will do amazing things for God as fruit-bearing branches. But Jesus’s focus of the metaphor is obedience. The Son cooperates with the Father and then calls us to cooperate with Him.
John 15:9 reads a little like a math story problem. Solve for why we should obey: “As the Father has loved me, I have also loved you. Remain in my love.” The sequence of our connection to Christ in this verse is important to see. As the Father has loved Christ, so Christ has loved us. For this reason, we are called to remain in His love—because He has loved us as the Father has loved Him. Think about that. There is not a single degree of difference between the strength of God’s love for Christ and Christ’s love for us. Not even a hint.
How do we remain in a love like this? Jesus answered plainly in the chapter before: “If you love me, you will keep my commands” (John 14:15). We remain in the love of Christ by obeying. Here is where we can go off the rails, though. Love precedes obedience. If you reverse that order, you lose the gospel. Obedience is not how we obtain Christ’s love. It is a response to it.
True Christian obedience is always a response to the already-existing love of Christ, not an attempt to earn it. We love because He loved us.
If we love Jesus, the only response is to obey what He commands. If Jesus, the Son of God, came in the flesh to live and die in our place, then what command could He give us that would not be for our good? What bit of guidance could He issue that wouldn’t exist to strengthen the bond of our love for Him? Why would Christ call us to anything if it didn’t serve to strengthen our comprehension of the depth of His love for us?
It is God’s design that our lives would resemble Christ’s—that we bear fruit that shows Christ to others. This, Jesus tells us, brings glory to God—when our lives bear fruit that reveals Christ (John 15:8). What an amazing thought, that the commands of Christ are not given to be a burden (Matthew 11:30), but a path to freedom, peace, and a continuously deepening understanding of His love for us—which, in turn, reveals His love to others.
Because of all this, Jesus says, “Remain in me” (John 15:4).
May our obedience to Christ always be a response to His already-existing, never-failing love for us. And may our obedience—flawed and incomplete as it is—bring glory to Christ, to the delight of the Father.