Watch any home remodeling show and you will soon discover how designers like to, “Bring the outside in.” It could be something simple. The color choices they make and the furnishings they choose which mirror the natural setting outside, or it could be something more elaborate. Glass doors off a living room that fold to the side, bringing the outside in so you have access to a fire pit, a pool, and a million-dollar view. Designers like to, “Bring the outside in.”
In the Church, however, God does something different. He likes to, “Bring the inside out.” God chooses to dwell among us in Word and Sacrament, but He also chooses to dwell within us, by the power of His Spirit. That is the promise Jesus offers today. He promises to dwell within us, so we experience God’s delight in, “Bringing the inside out.”
At this moment in John’s gospel, Jesus is preparing His disciples for His death. He has spoken of His betrayal, predicted Peter’s denial, and now teaches His disciples one last time. Which raises the question: “Why do we spend time reading and meditating on these words after Easter?” Because when you look back on these words after Easter, you see Jesus was doing something more than preparing His disciples for His death. He was also preparing them for His life: His resurrected life. In these words, Jesus offers His disciples a promise that He will live and dwell in them.
In these words, Jesus offers His disciples a promise that He will live and dwell in them.
At the beginning of his gospel, John reveals God has chosen to dwell among us. He writes, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us... full of grace and truth” (1:14). This is a wonder that the holy almighty God would choose to dwell among His people. Throughout the gospel, we see this wonder unfold. Jesus enters into places and engages in conversations with people. He sits at the side of a well in Samaria. He walks along the Sea of Galilee. He shares the joy of a wedding and the grief of a funeral. That Jesus dwells among us is a wonder. Though we are lost in sin, He comes to find us in grace. He comes to a well in Samaria and along the Sea of Galilee. Wherever you are, whoever you are, Jesus brings forgiveness to you. He has come to dwell among us, so He might call you to be a disciple, speak to you in grace, and guide you as you follow Him in the world.
However, Jesus reveals something more. He has not just come to dwell among us. No, He has also chosen to dwell within us (reference Ephesians 3:17). “I am the vine; you are the branches,” Jesus says.
Branches have no life of their own. Their life flows from the vine. So, too, we have no life of our own. Our life comes from Jesus. His resurrection from the dead has revealed that He is the source of all life. Though we die, we shall live. He has defeated death for us, and nothing can now separate us from His love. But the life He gives is not just life after death. No, it is life now in the world, in the unfolding of His Kingdom. As Jesus says to His disciples, “These things have I spoken to you that My joy might be in you and that your joy may be full.” Forgiveness, peace, fullness, joy... all these flow to us from Him. This life flows to us and this life flows through us to fill the world with His gifts.
“My Father is the vinedresser,” Jesus says. “Every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it might bear more fruit.” Because Jesus has chosen to dwell within us, God the Father delights to, “Bring the inside out.”
Forgiveness, peace, fullness, joy... all these flow to us from Him. This life flows to us and this life flows through us to fill the world with His gifts.
Earlier this year, before the spring growth, I passed my neighbor standing in the middle of what looked like a disaster on his lawn. You would have thought a tornado had gone through. He was pruning, pruning his bushes. The hedges were bare. They looked completely dead. The lawn was covered with clippings and he was getting ready to rake up the waste. Pruning can look and feel like a disaster. Yet, God works through the disaster to bring us closer to Jesus so people might see how Jesus bears fruit in our lives.
Peter knew something about this. Jesus had predicted his denial. Yet, Jesus had also promised him that, “When you have turned again, strengthen your disciples” (Luke 22:32). Jesus was praying for Peter. Peter’s faith would not fail. Though this pruning taught him the limits of his strength, it also revealed the expanse of God’s love.
Paul knew something about this. He battled a thorn in his flesh. The more he struggled with that thorn, however, the closer he came to Jesus. Christ worked within him, leading him to confess, “My grace is sufficient for you.” This thorn was God’s pruning, bringing Paul into an experience of Christ’s strength.
I know a man who went through a divorce. It was ugly. Now, he gets his children on the weekends. When he does, he brings them to church. Before the divorce, on Sundays, he took his children to sports. Now, after the divorce, church has more importance for him. In the divorce, he watched everything he had built up in his marriage crumble. As he puts it, “At the end of the day, all I had left was Jesus. When I hit rock bottom, Jesus was there. So, now, I’m building my life on Jesus.” Amid this disaster, the Father was working, pruning, drawing him closer to Jesus so that now Jesus bears more fruit in his life.
Jesus is the vine. You are His branches. And God the Father delights to bring the inside out.
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching John 15:1-8.
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach John 15:1-8.
Lectionary Podcast- Dr. Walter A. Maier III of Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, IN walks us through John John 15:1-8.