It was a restless night. The disciples had never faced this kind of anxiety before. Their leader, Jesus, had been in tough times before. Looking across the dinner table, each of the disciples remembered similar moments of stress. Religious leaders had once tried to push him off a cliff. (Luke 4:29). They had attempted to stone Him when He made a claim to being God’s Son. (John 10:31). However, this night was unlike any other. Jesus, in seemingly cryptic language, spoke to them of the Father and a place in which they could enter and know Him. Shortly after this, He told them He was going to die, and they would not be able to see him for “a little while.” (John 18:19). What did He mean by saying, “Because I live, you will live also.” Where was He going? How could He, if He were God, not be present everywhere? How could there be a justifiable reason for Him to abandon His disciples? And who was this “Comforter,” who would come? There were far more questions than answers, and Jesus seemed unmoved with the frustration these questions stirred.
With a full view of Jesus’ betrayal, death, and resurrection, we can read His words in John 14-17 with the assurance of the story’s end. However, the disciples didn’t have this luxury. They only had an invitation to trust Jesus with a partial understanding of what He was saying. Today, the anxieties and isolation you face is not much different from their emotional battle. Much has changed in our world in the last two weeks. To greater degree, a dramatic transition weighed on the disciples and the entire realm of the spirit world.
After dinner ended the disciples, as they had many times before, took a walk with Jesus through the vineyard to a nearby favored garden. As they walked by the trellis of vines laden with grapes, Jesus gave them a key to enduring the soul-devastating storm ahead. He said to them, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.”
The symbolism implied through grapevines and branches can be easily overlooked by modern-day minds, but there’s a powerful truth in Jesus’ words. Vines drink in a significant amount of water. They pull nutrition not only from the ground below but from the atmosphere around them. If a branch is severed from the main vine, it quickly begins to wither and die, as would be expected. However, a more common and subtle way for a branch to die is for it to hang too close to the ground. When it falls too low, winds and storms can kick up dirt on to the branches. Then, when it is covered by grime and muddy water, it cannot get the air or clean water it needs to remain healthy. It languishes from lack of nourishment and eventually dies. The one who maintains the vineyard can save a branch by cleaning the dirt off of it and then tying it up higher. This was Jesus’ point in saying, “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.”
In this time of chaos there are questions that will stir in your soul. What is real? What is the truth? Who do I believe? What is God saying? Why did He let this happen? Is God judging or testing me? All of these questions point to a greater need we have. We want something or someone to pull us up from the splashing dirt below and secure us in a healthy peace. Jesus responds to the deep psyche of the human soul and gives us a map to navigate through difficult times when He says, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. (John 15:7) The word abide here means “to remain in the same place.” Of course, Jesus isn’t speaking of a physical place. No, he is speaking of a state of consciousness in which we are constantly aware of His words. When He says, “let My words abide in you,” it means we should regularly rehearse in our minds His words. It can also imply a regular hearing and remembering of what He has done for us.
Right now, everyone is exercising this practice of abiding. If you woke up this morning and grabbed your smartphone and began scrolling through your social media, you were abiding in the news. When you listen to livestreams, news broadcasts, and other means of information over and over again, you are abiding in the message they are conveying . The fruit produced by abiding can be good or bad. If you want to remain healthy, then you must focus on abiding in the message Jesus is saying to you. When you abide in Him, the actual reality of what is happening around you will come to light.
We are the branches in Jesus, illustration. We can hang low and let the grime of fear, panic, and future apocalypse suffocate our life, or we can ask the Father to pull us up and abide in His words. Abiding in His words is the key to keeping your heart secure and your mind strong.