"Remain in me, and I will remain in you. ..." (John 15:4-5)

"Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:4-5)

What does 'remain in me, and I will remain in you' mean?

Is Jesus speaking of his followers physically getting inside of his body? That would be a nonsensical understanding.

The Greek word translated to "in" does not necessarily mean "inside" as this translation* indicates. The Greek word ἐν (en), can also be translated to "with," "by" or "among" according to Thayer's lexicon.

When used in the context of two or more people (as it is here), the word refers to inclusion, not residing inside someone else.

*A more practical translation along these lines is reflected in the Lost Gospels of Jesus:
"Remain with me and I will stay with you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it is connected to the vine, neither can you unless you remain with me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who remains with me and I with him will bear much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:4-5)
This clarifies Jesus' statement, and his desire for his followers to continue to abide by his instructions.

When someone says that we will be "with" them, this can refer to being physically with them or not. It can refer to being part of their cause or mission. This is the context here.

In this context, Jesus is referring to his followers following his instructions. He is also wanting those who teach to pass on to others what he taught to them.

How does this relate to 'branch' and 'grapevine'?

Jesus is using this analogy of the branch and vine to portray that even though Jesus' physical body might be leaving them, they will still be connected with Jesus so long as they carry out his mission.

This is what a grapevine branch does. It carries out the purpose of the grapevine to put forth fruit.

Jesus' statement confirms this conclusion with the antithesis of being "with" him - being "apart" (χωρίς (chōris)) from him. In other words, if they do not follow his instructions, they will become separated from him and thus cannot represent his mission:

He says "I am the vine, you are the branches."

This distinguishes Jesus from his followers. They are connected to him by carrying out his mission.

Then he says, "he who remains with me and I with him will bear much fruit,"

'Remaining with me' here refers to continuing to follow Jesus' instructions. In that case, Jesus is saying that he will remain with them, and as a result, they will 'bear fruit.'

Here 'bearing fruit' refers to the results of following the instructions of Jesus. This means loving the Supreme Being, and giving to others what Jesus gave to them.

Then he says, "for apart from me you can do nothing.".

This means that they will not 'bear fruit' if they are not following Jesus' instructions. If they cease to carry out Jesus' mission of loving the Supreme Being and giving Jesus' instructions to others, they cannot 'bear fruit.'

Can this be applied to us?

Jesus is making a conditional statement, κλήματα ὁ μένων ἐν, which is better translated to "should one remain with me" or "one who remains with me." This doesn't necessarily mean only "you" as in who Jesus was speaking to.

Rather, it serves to communicate something that is not in the text: Jesus is speaking generally to every person who follows Jesus' instructions.

We know that Jesus is not speaking to every person throughout this statement. Because of his audience, his use of the word "you" (σύ (sy)), and the condition clarified later in this speech:
"If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commands and remain in his love." (John 15:10)
So we can see that Jesus is speaking directly to his disciples here, and is telling them that in order to carry out his mission they must obey his instructions. (And here the use of "in" would be appropriate, because one can be "in" love.)

But we also know that it is applicable to anyone who understands the relationship that exists between Jesus - God's representative - and Jesus' followers. Jesus gave his followers many instructions - many of which are not even detailed within the texts of the New Testament. In their entirety, these instructions make up the thrust of the loving relationship between Jesus and each of his followers.

And we can certainly apply those general instructions Jesus gave to his followers - such as to love the Supreme Being with all our hearts, and to do His will. And doing so will also bring us within the umbrella of being able to 'bear fruit.'

This is because we become linked up with Jesus' teachings by virtue of these texts, which were recorded and preserved by his followers, who were also 'bearing fruit.' While we find mistranslations throughout by those who are not part of Jesus' mission, it is not difficult to become linked up by examining the early Greek texts and matching them up against each other and the other ancient scrolls for consistency.

Are all of Jesus' instructions to his followers applicable to everyone?

Many instructions he gave them were specific to that time and circumstance, and that culture they lived in. Therefore, we could not apply all of Jesus' instructions, as could his followers.

For example, at one point Jesus told his twelve closest disciples not to preach to the Gentiles:
These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans." (Matt. 10:5)
Are we to apply this instruction today, 2,000 years later? Certainly not. This instruction was specific to a particular time and circumstance, and what he was telling his disciples to teach:
"As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.'" (Matt. 10:7)
Jesus wanted his followers to carry out his particular mission at that time, which was to teach the Truth among the Israelites, who were missing the points of Moses', David's, and other prophets teachings as they succumbed to the teachings of the professional institutional temple high priests and their temple organizations.

This is the nature of the relationship between the teacher and his close followers. The disciples carry out the specific instructions of the teacher in order to help the teacher complete his particular mission.

This does not overshadow the larger mission of the teacher, which can be communicated through the ages, and in the case of Jesus, his central teachings to love and serve God; do God's will; pray to God in private and not make a big showing; care for others; be humble; praise God and give our lives to the Supreme Being.

To confuse Jesus' circumstantial instructions to his disciples with his general instructions to all would be a mistake.

Is Jesus the only teacher?

Some teachers suggest that no one can be a teacher but Jesus. Why are they teaching then? Why have they assumed the post of teacher ("Pope" "cardinal" "minister" "reverend" "priest" and so on) if no one but Jesus can be teacher? And why did Jesus accept John as his teacher? And why were all the Prophets teachers?

Why have they accepted these roles if no one can be God's representative but Jesus? By accepting these official roles they are claiming the position of Jesus. Therefore it is hypocritical to teach that Jesus is the only teacher.

This doesn't mean that a person being paid to preach can represent God or Jesus. Rather, they have turned the mission of Jesus into a business. They have bought their degrees and are now selling their services. This is business, not devotion.

For example, preachers of many of today's institutions have gained their position by paying tuition for a college seminary education. They are essentially learning from professional teachers how to become professional teachers, and how to represent their professional institutions.

Then they receive their degrees and apply for teaching jobs with a sectarian organization. Then they negotiate with that institution for their salary.

This is what a businessman does when they are dickering on how much their services or wares are worth.

Then they are hired as an employee of that institution and paid a salary in exchange for their services, which includes teaching and counseling people. This is what a businessman does. They sell out their services.

God's representative does not sell their services to the highest bidder. God's representative renders service to God and does not ask for anything in return. This is because God's representative loves God. It is a loving relationship, not a business relationship.

What about Jesus' relationships?

The relationship between Jesus and his followers and the relationship between Jesus and his teacher John the Baptist were not professional relationships. They were not business relationships. There was no money changing hands. There was no quid pro quo.

Jesus is speaking of relationships of love. These are one-on-one relationships. Each follower relates to Jesus directly, and Jesus introduces them to the Supreme Being. They recognize the love Jesus has for them, and they love Jesus for saving them with his teachings.

As such, the relationship is furthered by carrying out Jesus' mission according to our skills and abilities.

This is the relationship being missed by some of the institutions and their teachers. They are missing this relationship between Jesus and God, and Jesus and his followers. Because they do not know this relationship. Their organization does not embrace this relationship. Rather, their organizations embrace usury: Everyone uses Jesus and each other to get what they want.

The relationship Jesus was speaking of was based on loving service to the Supreme Being:
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Matt. 7:21)
Jesus clarifies this relationship with God further:
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener." (John 15:1)

This is not the statement of someone who is God. This is a statement made by someone who has a relationship with God. Just consider the relationship between a gardener and his plants. The plants are in a servitude position in relation to the gardener.

After this clarification of his relation to the Supreme Being, Jesus now clarifies his followers' relationship with him:

"I am the vine; you are the branches."

Here Jesus states that his followers who have each been following Jesus and learning directly from Jesus can be part of Jesus' mission. Jesus knows that the end of his time on earth is getting close, and he wants his followers to carry on his mission - his service to the Supreme Being. This is confirmed a few verses later when he says:

"This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples." (John 15:8)