Jesus told a story of a man who had a vineyard, which contained a fig tree. The man looked for fruit on it, but none came. In frustration he ordered a servant to cut it down - but the servant said 'wait one more year - if it still has no fruit then cut it down'. In the John 15 passage Jesus describes himself as a vine, the disciples as branches, and the Father as the gardener. There is a clear expectation that the branches will be fruitful, but with that comes the "What if?" question if there is no fruit?
Jesus says the unfruitful branches are to be cut off, discarded, and burnt. That of course might worry us - but we have seen that in the conclusion to our 2 Chronicles series: chapter 36 finishes with 'Final Doom' and the Israelites carried off into exile. Remember this was after repeated failures, not heeding warnings of numerous prophets, and disaster upon disaster. The king (and the people) were not living up to God's desire, they were certainly not being fruitful. So this wasn't a snap decision one day for God to remove them.
Jesus calls his followers to abide ... and be fruitful. Learning from the mistakes recorded in 2 Chronicles we check ourselves and come back to Jesus - His life, death and resurrection, and rehearse this in the communion part of our gathering. Here we 're-abide' ourselves in Him, feeding on Him to abide in Him. Jesus has done enough for us to be saved, to live, and to be fruitful. In verse 2 Jesus says of the fruitful branches that 'he cleans' them to be even more fruitful, and in verse 3 'you are already clean'. It is Jesus who achieves this - but He calls us to abide in Him, and to remain in Him.
In fact the word 'remain' is repeated over and over: verse 4, 5, 7, 9 and 10. Also repeated via the negative (converse) in verse 4, 5 and 6. So Jesus is saying abide in me, remain, remain, remain ... and in case you didn't get it, remain in me! With that remaining comes the expectation that we will be fruitful. We should be clear, however, that the expectation to be fruitful does not equate to us striving - a sense that we somehow have to make it happen. Instead Jesus calls to us abide, and from that to love as He loved, and with that is the expectation that we will be fruitful. It won't need you to strive, to strain, or somehow to squeeze out the fruit - by living in Him it will just come! Be in Him, do as He does, and you will be fruitful.
Note that the overall passage has a double expectation of fruitfulness: verse 7 invites us to ask for anything, and again in verse 16 the invitation is to ask for anything.
- Abide/remain in my way of fruitfulness → you can ask for anything → more fruit!
- Love in my way of fruitfulness → you can ask for anything → more fruit!
This is a double-hit - the repetition re-enforces the point. Jesus really wants us to get this!
Looking closer at Jesus saying 'ask whatever you wish', see the repeat has 'whatever you wish in my name' for the Father to give it. Jesus is calling the disciples to be about the Father's business, and thus ask in line with His business. So when we ask it is not simply from our earthly wishlist. Instead it is looking up to the spiritual realm, asking for things to shift in the spiritual that the Father would want shifting. That is not to say that earthly detail is unimportant - God is interested in the detail. Rather it is a call for us to look up, to learn to declare in the spiritual to release the fruitfulness here on earth. As an example in praying for friends who have not yet accepted Jesus, we would ask the Father for 'an openness to the good news, calling for the enemy to release from any blindness'.
The double expectation is to 'Be fruitful' (or to 'bear fruit'). Note in this wording the 'Be' (or 'Bear'). This is not simply forcing out fruit through activity - hence the challenge below to 'Be', pausing and using a breath prayer:
Key Qn: [UP] Are you learning to be about the Father's business?
Challenge: Pause! Use a simple 'breath prayer' to abide in Jesus
The challenge is to abide - learn to abide in Jesus, and be about the Father's business, will lead to us doing activity in line with the Spirit, and hence the fruit will come!
Finally see how Jesus upgrades His followers. On many occasions Jesus uses the image of 'servant' for His followers, but here he upgrades them to no longer be servants, but friends. Servants just do their job, but friends get to know each other, and thus the business with its values, purpose, and plans get shared. Hence the key question above - being about the Father's business.
The invitation is to abide in Him, and love as He loved. Learn the business, and you will know what to ask, and so you will be able to ask anything - to ask for the shifting tectonic plates in the spiritual. To this request the Father will say: "Yes - this is in line with my plan, my business, so let's make it happen!". That will lead to big changes and much fruit.