John 15:5 (NRSV), 'I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from you me you can do nothing.'
The story is changing. Jesus has only hours before he will be murdered. The gospel of John is amazing because we spend chapters on the night before Jesus will be betrayed. He has washed the feet of his disciples, looked Judas in the eyes and fed him still, Jesus has confirmed that Peter will deny him (and so will the rest), he has promised his disciples this Holy Spirit, and now he will give them a metaphor that gives every Christ follower a purpose. We are to be fruitful branches.
As I was growing up in my faith, I took this verse to the fullest extent, as most of us do-saved souls for the kingdom of God. I felt that if I wasn't instrumental in bringing my friends to a knowledge and belief of Jesus I was not bearing fruit. It became a verse that troubled more than encouraged. So why would Jesus be doing this to his disciples? What was the reason for Jesus using this story hours before he would be killed and the story again changes?
I think Jesus uses this story to give confidence to his disciples-to tell them that they have been bearing fruit and that they need to abide/remain in him to continue to bear fruit. Jesus tells his disciples that he came to them and chose them, and then the disciples, some of them, dropped their fishing nets and chose to follow Jesus. Through that life changing decision fruit was apparent-and not just saved souls, but as indicated in this very chapter of John-joy, love, answered prayer.
Bearing fruit is not just for others, but can encourage the believer. Jesus wanted his disciples to know this. Have you struggled with bearing fruit? Jesus' story of the vine should give you hope that he can provide the nourishment you need to bear fruit. Ask the gardener today to wrap you around Jesus so that fruit can be produced. In this we find purpose for life. Not a life struggling with sin, but a life that is fruitful.