Indwelling (John 14:21-26)

by | May 15, 2024 | Formation, Reflections | 0 comments

The Lord Jesus grew up in an agricultural setting, and so it’s no surprise that He draws on images that run through that world. One of His favorite ones is the vine and the branches and the interaction between them.

I mention interaction because, as we’d know, there’s much back and forth between the branches and the vine to which they are attached. Those offshoots are fed and nourished by what comes through that vine. On the one hand, they would die were they to fall off. Conversely, what goes on with those branches has its effect on the vine. If diseased, they slow down the growth of the whole plant. If too crowded up on the interior of the stem, they also hinder growth.

A word to describe this relationship is “indwelling,” each in its own way living inside the other.

This is the farm country image Jesus uses to speak about both His relationship with His Father and the intimate, life-giving bond He has with all of us. On the one hand, Jesus and the Father living in us through the Holy Spirit; on the other, our actions and attitudes having their effect on God’s desires for what happens in this world.

What might be some takeaways?

One is that we are not far from God. God, in Jesus, is present not just all around us in creation but in our inmost selves. In prayer we speak to God, not as off at a great distance but as one who is as close to us as we are to our own selves. We hear Jesus asking us to “remain in Him” just as He remains in us. This is “indwelling,” the vine dwelling in the branches and the branches living in the vine — Jesus remaining in us and we living in Him.

Not every branch is good for the vine. When bunched up too tightly, they block the others from the life-giving sun. Here Jesus brings in another farming image: pruning. A number of those interior branches must be cut away if the rest of the plant is to keep growing. Jesus’ lesson — there are actions, habits and attitudes that distance us from The Lord and so are to be snipped off. The ten commandments and the many other counsels of our faith lay out those actions, habits, and attitudes that need to be pruned and clipped, if our life in God is to bear the fruit it can.

These images and examples Jesus Himself spins out as ways of letting us know that we live in God and that God lives in us. In his exact words, “I am the vine, and you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, and I in him or her, will bear much fruit. For without Me, you can do nothing.”

Writing to one of his confreres in 1656, Vincent picks up Jesus’ image for a lesson on effective preaching. “Nevertheless, you see how plainly He speaks and how He uses familiar comparisons – a farmer, a wine grower, a field, a mustard seed. That’s how you must speak if you want to make yourself understood by the people to whom you’ll be announcing God’s Word.” (Vol 11, p. 314)

All of us, in our pursuit of faith, are to do what we can to remain in and live ever closer to — that life-giving vine.


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