A Picture Worth A Thousand Words
You remember the old trick where someone asks you to not think about a pink elephant and then asks you what you are thinking about?
Well, almost always, the answer is that you are thinking about a pink elephant.
It’s hard not to think of an image that is unusual or that comes with a twist, especially when someone tells you not to! Because images are important. They give us life, hope, meaning, understanding, and so much more. It is why we use that quote too, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”
And it reminds me of this picture taken at a life group meeting that Rebekah and I hosted in 2019. After dinner, the adults gathered for conversation and set up the kids to watch a movie:
And you can see that Mr. Thomas Williams was so enamored with the image that he stood on top of a stack of books to get a better view. “A picture is worth a thousand words” in action.
Jesus, I think, would have been a fan of this saying. Jesus told stories, used metaphor and simile, and even literally drew pictures in the sand to help him during his ministry. He preached sermons and read from the Bible too, to be sure. But so often, Jesus turned to these other mediums of communication as well.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus used 7 “I Am” statements to help create images for his followers which would then help them to better understand who he was (and is) and what he was all about (and still is too).
So, Jesus tells them that he is 1) the Bread of Life, 2) the Light of the World, 3) the Door, 4) the Good Shepherd, 5) the Resurrection and the Life, 6) the Way, Truth, and Life, and 7) the True Vine.
A couple of these move beyond images and metaphor, but the majority of them bring to mind immediately a picture. A picture of bread. Or of light. A doorway. A shepherd with sheep. And a grapevine and branches.
Take a moment and read John 15:1-8.
There is much to be digested here, much to be carefully studied and learned. But, for right now at this moment, allow two pieces of this passage come to the forefront:
First, consider the image used of fruit and fruitfulness. This is a common image/metaphor that Jesus uses throughout all of the Gospels. Jesus desires that we bear fruit in our lives. Fruit, that Paul tells us in Galatians, is loving, joy-filled, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled. And this fruit can easily be seen. When you go to the grocery store, you look for the fruit that has no bruises, isn’t shriveled, and has good color to it. These are the kinds of people that we should be–we shouldn’t boast in blemishes or try to bruise others, we cannot shrink from the calling of Jesus to live as followers, nor can we be dull and lifeless. And most importantly, we cannot be rotten on the inside! We must cultivate this fruit in our lives.
It’s a great image that helps us to understand greater depths to the person of Jesus and our calling as followers of Jesus.
And second, Jesus says to remain or abide in him. This is how our fruit remains fruitful. We remain close to Jesus by consistently keeping our attention on Christ. By doing so, we continue the transformation that was begun in us into the ever more likeness of the God who created us and whom we meet in Jesus.
This week, may you keep those words on your mind and on your lips. Remain in Christ, and he will remain in you.