If you knew you had less than 24 hours to live, what would do? If I knew I had less than 24 hours to live, I would speak to the most important people in my life and give them my final thoughts and instructions.
Yeshua was in that situation. He knew He was about to die. He knew He was eating His last meal. During that Passover Seder, He gave His disciples His final teachings. That means those teachings are of particular importance. Here are some of those teachings from John 15 and 16.
Yeshua knew was about to die, be resurrected, ascend to Heaven and send His Spirit to live in His followers. He knew He would not be physically present with them. But, by sending His Spirit to live in them, He would still be with them. He would still be there for them. He would still be able to help them.
The relationship of the disciples to Yeshua, which was so important to them and so beneficial to them, would continue. They would still be able to have a close, personal relationship with Him – and in some ways, a greater relationship with Him than before. If they remained in Him; if they stayed close to Him; if they were filled with His Spirit, and walked in the Spirit and lived in the Spirit they would have blessed and successful and fruitful and productive lives. If they didn’t, their lives would be failures.
To help them better understand these things, things that were unfamiliar to them, Yeshua taught them by using things that were familiar to them. He used a gardener who cultivates a grape vine with its branches and fruit.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful … Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me … If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.
God the Father is like a gardener. Messiah Yeshua the Son is like a grape vine. The followers of Messiah are like the branches of the grape vine. The fruit is a productive life.
What does a productive life look like? It looks like Yeshua. It looks like His life that was lived for God, not for self. It looks like His life which was focused on spiritual things, not material things. It looks like His life of holiness. It looks like His life of love. It looks like His life which was dedicated to bringing Good News to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. It looks like His life in which He picked up His cross. A productive life looks like the life of Yeshua.
What else does a productive life look like? It looks like the lives of the apostles, the Lord’s representatives, who dedicated themselves to following Yeshua, being like Him and continuing His mission of gospel proclamation and world evangelism.
A productive life looks like the fruit produced by the Spirit living in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Just as the branches need to stay connected to the vine to bear fruit, we need to remain connected to the risen Messiah in order to have fruitful, productive lives.
Just as a branch that is disconnected from the vine does not produce fruit, so we, if we don’t remain connected to Yeshua, will have useless, unproductive lives. Apart from Him, we can do nothing – nothing ultimately useful, nothing truly enduring.
Just as the gardener prunes the good branches, which enables them to be even more fruitful, so God will allow Christians and Messianic Jews to suffer.
Suffering with a good attitude benefits us. It improves us. Enduring suffering with patience cuts away the bad parts of our lives, or the unnecessary parts of our lives. It makes us more focused on what is holy, what is important, what is most useful to the kingdom of God; what is best for us so we can be true servants of the Lord Yeshua.
Just as a branch that is pruned produces more fruit, so we, when we endure suffering and remain connected to Yeshua, will have more fruitful, more productive lives.
Just as the gardener cuts off branches that don’t bear fruit, so that more of the strength of the vine goes to the branches that are producing fruit, so that they produce more fruit, God will remove unproductive followers of Messiah. They may fall away from the faith. They may deny Yeshua. They may leave Messiah’s community. God may shorten their lives.
It’s so beneficial, so blessed, so good to remain in Yeshua. So, how do we that? Yeshua told us. His words must remain in us. And we must keep His commands. If you remain in me and my words remain in you ... If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love. We must remain in Yeshua’s words. We must keep His commands. We must continually remind ourselves of the words and commands of Yeshua and commit ourselves to practice them. We must read them; hear them taught; consider them; contemplate them; meditate on them; practice them. If we do, He will remain in us and we will remain in Him.
And we will know how to pray so that our prayers are answered – and knowing how to pray is a most excellent thing. Yeshua said: If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. We will know what is important to pray for. We will know what to pray for. We will know what not to pray for. If we remain in Yeshua and the words of Yeshua remain in us, we will know how to pray and our prayers will be answered.
It’s so beneficial, so blessed, so good to remain in Yeshua. So, how do we that? How do we experience a fruitful and productive life? By remaining in His teachings; by keeping His commands; by fixing our eyes on Him; by focusing on continuing His mission of world evangelism; by focusing on proclaiming the Gospel day by day; by focusing on growing Messiah’s Community.
And by practicing the spiritual disciplines: taking in God’s Word, especially the words of Yeshua: by reading and studying it on our own; by hearing it taught by a God-ordained teacher; by learning to see the hand of God in creation; by learning how to pray without ceasing, having a running conversation with God throughout the day; by praising the Lord for who He is, and what He has done, is doing and will do; by thanking God in everything; by fasting; by having times of silence and solitude so that we can hear the still, small voice of God talking to us; by doing something to serve Messiah’s Community; by giving the Lord the best of our time, our talents and our treasure.
Christians and Messianic Jews in name only, fake disciples, phoney disciples, hypocritical disciples – do not bear fruit; and they do not honor God with their lives. It’s only those who bear much fruit who truly honor God and show they are Yeshua’s true disciples. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
It’s so good to bear fruit. It’s even better to bear much fruit. Any yet, many of us don’t bear much fruit. We’re not living spiritually fruitful and productive lives. Why is that? What prevents us from bearing much fruit? Several things come to mind: yielding to temptation; not having the right priorities; getting distracted by the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth.
Yeshua highlighted another thing that prevents us from bearing much fruit: Yirat adam – the fear of man. If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.
The world does not love God. The world is alienated from God, estranged from God. The world hates God. The world is at war with God. Nor does the world love the Son of God. The world hates Yeshua. The world is at war with Yeshua. Nor does the world love the followers of Yeshua. The world hates us. The world is at war with us.
Why does the world hate us? Because the world hates God the Father, and hates God’s Son Yeshua, who is just like the Father; and because we belong to Yeshua and are trying to be like Yeshua, the world hates us too.
Why does the world hate us? Because Yeshua chose us out of the world and we no longer belong to the world. You do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. We have been chosen by Yeshua; chosen so that we no longer belong to the world, but belong to Him. That means that we’re different from the world. Our Lord is different. Our values are different; our goals are different. And the world doesn’t like those who have our goals and values and Lord.
Why does the world hate us? Because our teaching is the same as Yeshua’s and the world rejected Yeshua’s teaching. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. We teach the world the same truths Yeshua proclaimed: that people are doomed, headed to Hell, not Heaven, to death, not life; that the world is dominated by Satan and the demons, sin and the sin nature, death and Hell; that we can’t save ourselves from these things; that there is only one way to be saved, and that is becoming loyal to a dead but risen Jewish carpenter who lived 2,000 years ago.
Why does the world hate us? Because our message is exclusive, not inclusive. Our message is that Jews and Gentiles are alienated from God and need to be reconciled to God and there is only one way to be reconciled to God – through Yeshua, who said: I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me.
The world does not like our exclusivistic belief system. It does not like it when we tell them to enter through the narrow gate, that wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Christianity is an inherently exclusivistic belief system. The world hates that message. And it hates the messengers of the message – us.
What prevents us from bearing much fruit? Yirat adam – the fear of man. The fear of experiencing the world’s hatred. How bad can the world’s hatred get? Bad. They will put you out of the synagogue. Being put out of the synagogue is a powerful deterrent for many Jewish people. To be excluded from the religious life of the majority of the Jewish community can be painful. It’s costly. It’s a price that many are not willing to pay – and so they don’t bear much fruit.
Being excommunicated from the synagogue is bad. But Yeshua warned us that it will get worse than that for some of us. In fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. Some of the early Jewish followers of Jesus were killed by Jewish people who rejected Yeshua, like Stephen, our first martyr. Saul of Tarsus was one of those who thought that killing Messianic Jews was offering a service to God.
And throughout the centuries, the Jewish followers of Jesus have been persecuted and excommunicated from the life of the Jewish community – and in many ways still are. And, many of the true Christians have been persecuted and killed by churches that believed they were offering service to God by doing so. And in particular I’m referring to the persecution of Protestant Christians by the Catholic Church.
How is the hatred of Synagogue and Church toward the true followers of Messiah be explained? Yeshua told us: They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. These religious people think they know God; follow God; honor God; serve God. The truth is they don’t.
Yeshua warned us that the world’s hatred is to be expected and must be endured. I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them. When we know something bad will happen, we can prepare ourselves to endure adversity. Since we have been warned by our Rabbi and Lord that we will be hated by the world, and persecuted and killed by religious leaders who don’t know the Father or the Son, we can prepare ourselves mentally and spiritually to endure their opposition.
Opposition, rejection, persecution – if it is not endured, can cause us to fall away – which means we will not bear fruit. Yeshua doesn’t want that to happen to us. All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. We must not fall away. We must remain in Yeshua. We must remain active members in His Community. We must not disassociate ourselves from the Community of Messiah. We must not dilute the Gospel. We must affirm that our message is exclusivistic. We must not deny Yeshua.
How do we endure the world’s hatred so that we remain in Yeshua and bear much fruit? Have blessed and productive lives that honor God and prove we are the genuine follower of the Lord Yeshua?
Yeshua told us: I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy … I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. If we focus on Yeshua, risen from the dead; if we keep our minds and hearts on Yeshua who has overcome the world, we too will overcome the world. We will have peace and joy that the world won’t be able to take from us.
The world’s hatred for us won’t go away. But it can be endured. And the Lord’s promise to us is that we can have peace and joy in the midst of the pain and fear.
Father, You are like a gardener. Your Son, King Yeshua, is like a grape vine. We are like the branches. Help us remain strongly attached, deeply connected to Yeshua – so that we have fruitful and productive and blessed and successful lives.
Thank You for Your Spirit, who is also the Spirit of Yeshua, and that He lives in us. Fill us with Your Spirit. Help us walk in the Spirit, live in the Spirit.
Help us remain in Yeshua’s teachings; keep His commands; focus on continuing His mission of world evangelism; proclaim the Good News day by day; focus on building Messiah’s Community; practice the spiritual disciplines; fix our eyes on Yeshua, risen from the dead; Yeshua, who has overcome the world
Help us so that we are not intimidated by the hatred of the world, or by religious leaders who don’t know You or Your Son. Help us be bold, courageous, faithful, fruitful.