Jesus said, "Remain in me, as I remain also in you." He goes on to talk about how no branch can produce fruit when it is apart from the vine, how we are utterly dependent upon His goodness to grow anything in our lives.
And it's true.
And every sermon that I have ever heard on this passage confirms that it is true and emphasizes the importance of our remaining in Him. Not surprising, then, that we have set the sights of our faith on this very thing: remaining.
In fact, almost all of the stories that we tell ourselves about what it means to have faith in Jesus center around this idea to some degree. We interpret everything through the lens of what we must do in order to cling and cleave to Him, what muscles we must exercise and develop in order to remain in Christ, even when the hard times come.
It's how we read the story of Peter walking on the water - if only he had kept his eyes on Jesus, if only he had remained, he would not have begun to sink.
It's how we read the story of Peter in the courtyard with the guards and the slave girl - if only he had kept his eyes on Jesus, if only he had remained, he would not have denied knowing Christ and betrayed Him.
It's how we read the story of Judas - if only he had remained in Christ, he would not have sold Him out.
It's how we read so many of the stories in our Bible - if only these men and women had remained, they would not have gotten themselves into nearly as much trouble as they did. Their lives would have turned out better, their faith would have been stronger, they wouldn't have had the questions they had, they wouldn't have had the failures that they had.
All of faith, we believe, boils down to this one thing: we must remain in Him. As branches in the vine, we must remain securely grafted into His life if we want to have that life for ourselves, if we want to have His love for ourselves.
All of this is true. Every bit of it. That's what makes is such a compelling sermon, a timeless lesson. Jesus Himself said it; of course it is true. But...it's not complete.
For all of the time that we have spent expounding on this simple statement of Jesus, we have missed something really big, something really important. We have missed an entire chunk of what Jesus was saying here - something that yes, He actually said and if He actually said it, it is just as important as everything else we're already taking from this passage. And actually, we might even say that it's more important today, given the culture that we're in because the thing we seem to be missing from this passage is something that our culture works really hard to destroy about Jesus's truth. It's something our culture doesn't want to believe, or even accept. It's something that doesn't fit with who our culture tells us that Jesus is.
Yet, it is who Jesus Himself, right here, tells us that He is. It's what Jesus Himself tells us is true.
What are we missing? I'll tell you tomorrow.