"[A]part from me you can do nothing"
(John 15:5, ESV).
This week's Second Look article focuses on a short phrase from John 15:5: "[A]part from me you can do nothing." It is a claim that strikes a deathblow to human pride. It's meant to do precisely that.
"You can't do anything if you're separated from me," Jesus says. "You are capable of bearing exactly zero fruit on your own, just like a branch that's been severed from its vine. The source of life is not found within your own chest. You must drink from a well that does not belong to you and that you had no part in digging. Your only option for producing the kind of fruit that please the Father is for you to be connected to me, and save that connection, any attempt on your own is futile."
As C.S. Lewis observed, truly Jesus's claims do not allow us to conclude that he was merely some kind of great moral teacher. He was either crazy—what would you say to me if I claimed that no one could do anything unless he knew me?—or he was intentionally lying and therefore not good, or he was truly the Son of God.
If we conclude that Jesus's claim here was neither the blathering of the mentally deranged nor some insidious scheme meant to ensnare all who'd fall for it, then humanity has but two choices in response: run and hide or bow and worship. The reason that so many have bowed and worshiped before the eternal Word of God who became flesh and dwelt among us is that, while it costs us our pride, it affords us exactly all that the same Jesus has promised: life, light, hope, joy, peace, love, comfort, victory, resurrection, power, and fruitfulness, and all that's just for starters. In light of that, the death of my tired, binding, bitter old pride seems worth it. Kind of a no-brainer. Yes, it hurts to pierce him through. But such light, momentary affliction is quickly swallowed up by a weight of glory that is beyond all comparison.
Though I don't deny that Jesus's claim "[A]part from me you can do nothing" hurls our pride in the dust, isn't the promise of fruitfulness that rejoices the Father's heart more than any other imaginable compensation? What greater hope could we have as we look into 2021 than to know that while we must sacrifice our pride to be found in the vine, what we gain in that sacred union is exactly what these thirsty souls so long for, the very thing our pride could never obtain for us.
Praying that in 2021 you and I would experience joy in all our inability in light of the far superior ability of the true vine,