When I began taking New Testament Greek, the Book of the Bible that we started with was the Gospel of John. John’s Greek is very basic. It’s written sort of like a “Gospel for Dummies”. It’s a wonderful, blue collar, what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of book. The chapter of John that we began with was chapter 15 – truly one of the most beautifully and basically written chapters of the Bible. My passion in ministry is to take the complicated things of Scripture and make them easy to understand. I’ve got nowhere to go with John 15, because the apostle has already masterfully broken down a relationship with Christ to its most basic parts. Within John 15, the Greek word we began with was meno. It is a rich word, full of meaning. But at its most basic, it simply means to “remain or abide”.
As my quiet time reading rolled around to John 15 this morning, I was taken back to that class nearly three decades ago when I had my first experience at how deep and practical the New Testament could be. In the first ten verses of this chapter, Jesus uses the verb meno ten times – then He tags on one more in verse 16, just for good measure. When you see repetition like that, it’s your first clue that the speaker just might be wanting to communicate something important. In order to show what He means by abiding or remaining, Jesus uses the illustration of a Vine and a branch. The branch is connected to the Vine and there it remains, unless someone breaks it off or it falls away. But the default position for a branch is connected to the Vine. That is where it is alive and valuable and productive. When a branch is separated, it has outlasted its usefulness.
Jesus says, “I am the Vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) Again – the Gospel of John! You don’t have to dig around for hidden clues or deeper meanings to Jesus’ illustration. He comes right out and tells you exactly what He means. As believers, our default position is connected to Jesus. Why would we want to be anywhere else? More than that – what good are we anywhere else? Without a connection to the Vine, there will be no fruit for us branches (vv. 4,6) But with that connection, it’s Fruit City! We become a veritable cornucopia of fruity delights! (vv. 5,8)
How do we keep this Vine-branch union? By not forgetting what we’re here on this earth for. Jesus tells us to remain in Him, meaning that meno is a conscious choice. A branch dies and falls off when the life-blood of the sap stops flowing into it. If we stop getting nourished by Christ, we will die. Where does the sap come from? From our relationship with Christ. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” (v. 9) And how do we remain in His love? By obeying His commands – “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” (v. 10) And what is His command? “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you….This is my command: Love each other.” (v. 12,16) And how do we know this is His command? Because it is in His Word. So, if we keep the Word of God central in our lives, we will know of His command to love, the knowledge of which allows us to obey Him, which, by doing so, keeps us in His love, which deepens our relationship with Him, thereby allowing us to produce much fruit as He strengthens us and builds us up with His spiritual sap. Or, as Jesus put it, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15:7-8)
It’s so logical – almost mathematical. It’s like a theorem – If A is true and B is true, then C will also be true. People complicate Christianity so much. There’s no need to. Jesus loves us – therefore, we can love others. And when we love others, they will learn to love Jesus, too. It just the way things work. It’s a natural progression. In the words of our President from his 2015 Lincoln Day speech, “Bing, bing, bong, bong, bing, bing.” Everything just falls into place. So simple. So basic. And it all starts with that wonderful word, meno, in that fantastic chapter, 15, of that amazingly practical book, the Gospel of John.