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)
The often quoted verse above contains some hidden truth not readily available in English, unless you want to make Jesus into a Texan. As a typical American — rugged individualist that I am — I would interpret this verse as directed to me personally. Most of the teaching I would find on this verse would be directed in the same manner. It would be all about personal spiritual growth — how each one of us needs to abide in Christ in order to be fruitful in our walk with Him.
But a study into the original Greek translation of this passage reveals something for which we have no equivalent in the English language — the plural form of the pronoun, “you.” The closest we could come to this in English would be to make Jesus into a Texan (and for this I must give credit to our own John Shirk who introduced us to the Texas version of “you” in a recent Wednesday night Bible study): “I am the vine; y’all are the branches.” Jesus was speaking to His disciples when He said this. The whole of this chapter is part of what is often called the Upper Room Discourse Jesus gave to His disciples before His crucifixion. Every “you” is plural. Every “you” is “y’all.”
Why is this important? It underlines the community of believers. It puts us in the context of the body of Christ. It makes Christianity less individualistic and more corporate. As we said yesterday: as the body of Christ — we’re all in this together.
Think of Jesus and His disciples. For three years they were inseparable. With the exception of Jesus periodically going off on His own to pray, and the scattering of the disciples during the crucifixion, you never see any of them alone. Even when Jesus sent them out, He sent them two-by-two so that they were always a “we.” There may not even be a biblical precedent for an individual believer, at least I can’t think of one. No Lone Ranger Christians.
Think about the early church for that matter. Do you ever see anybody alone in the book of Acts? (I suppose Paul was alone for one day in Athens [Acts 17], and then one day in Troas where he accomplished nothing because Titus was not there with him as planned [2 Corinthians 2:12]) It’s all about the church — the body of Christ. You can’t have a little finger rolling around getting anything done for the kingdom of God. We’re all in this together.
But walk into any Christian bookstore; look at all the titles; and I would guess they are all about you and God, you and Jesus, you and your spiritual life — basically, all about you. Well guess what? It’s not about you. It’s about y’all. A lot of what I think of as “Jesus and me” in the Bible is probably more accurately “Jesus and us.”
So what does this mean? It means in our shuttered, locked down COVID-19 reality, you need to call up someone; text some pictures to us, come to our Wednesday night Bible study or Sunday night church, chat with us on Facebook, volunteer to start up a small group, sign up for a discipleship group. In other words, we are the body of Christ — take up your place in this body, and if you don’t find a place for you, let us know; we’ll help create one with you.
Remember we’re on this side of eternity, and over here, it’s all about the body of Christ. So what are y’all up to? It’s a good thing we’re all in this together because I wouldn’t want to be caught alone.