“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. 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.” John 15:5-6
These words were read to the high school students in front of a blazing fire on September 25. Perhaps the fire helped to catch their attention and their imagination as Jesus warns of the judgment that awaits those who do not continue to abide in Him. Jesus was preparing his disciples for His departure so that they would endure threats and challenges to their faith. Jesus’ words still warn us today of the consequences of falling away. He continued a little later, “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away” (John 16:1).
Jesus was warning his disciples while assuring them of who He is and what He has done. “Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me and I in you…” (John 15:3-4a) Loved by Jesus, they were to abide in Jesus and His love and bear fruit.
How do you abide in Jesus? He says, “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.” (John 15:10) We are to keep our Lord’s commandments. On our own, we cannot do this. Therefore, like a branch is sustained by the life-giving vine, we hold fast to our life-giving Lord and His Word.
In an earlier related discourse, Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.” (John 6:53-57) What more reason do we need to regularly receive the Lord’s body and blood in the Divine service, than to abide in Him?
The Lord calls us to regularly receive the gifts transmitted through the divine service, so that we abide in Him rather than fall away. But more than simply to sustain us, we abide in Christ so that we will bear fruit. For this you were chosen and appointed.