John: The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved
I don’t find much value in consistently updating my social media accounts, but you’d better believe I let the world know when my boyfriend and I started dating. A Facebook profile could never validate the commitment he and I have toward each other, but there was a genuine significance in changing my profile status from “single” to “in a relationship with Isaac Miller.” I wasn’t bragging or begging for sappy comments; I just want the world to understand who I am to Isaac and how much I love him.
This is the same kind of attitude the Disciple John had when he described himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” and it is the foundation any understanding of John ought to be built upon. John didn’t refer to himself in this manner because he was the author of a Gospel book and his autobiographical self had main character privileges. He didn’t permanently pen this phrase into scripture to paint a biased perception of himself. John told the world he was the disciple whom Jesus loved because it was true. There are lot of reasons why it’s true—and it wasn’t just John who wrote about them.
1. John was one of the first disciples called to follow Jesus full-time (Matthew 4:18-22): Contrary to what most elementary Sunday school lessons teach, this was not the first time John encountered Jesus. In fact, John, his brother James, Peter, and Andrew already knew Jesus personally, and, chances are, they knew him pretty well.
2. John was part of the “inner circle” of disciples (Luke 8:51, 9:28-31, Mark 14:32-36): The inner three disciples—Peter, James, and John—appear to have an extra special relationship with Jesus, as they were with Him during some of the most pivotal moments of His life. John was with Jesus when He brought a dead girl back to life, during the Transfiguration, and in the garden of Gethsemane.
3. John was entrusted with the writing of Revelation (Revelation 1: 1-2):
Only the Apostle Paul wrote more of the New Testament than John. The content of the book of Revelation parallels little else in the Bible, which says a lot about the author commissioned to write it. On top of that, the church John started while he was exiled on Patmos (the island where he received the revelation) still holds service every Sunday morning thousands of years later.
4. John was present at Jesus’ crucifixion (John 19:25-27):
This is perhaps the most moving part of John’s story. As far as the Bible describes, all of the other disciples scattered in fear, while only John was brave enough to stay with his friend, comfort the mother of the Savior, and stand close enough to the cross to converse with Jesus. It’s no wonder that Jesus asked John to take care of Mary after His earthly departure.
The only explanation I’ve ever heard as to why John would refer to himself as “the Disciple whom Jesus loved” is because he was trying to take the focus off himself and turn it to Jesus. Maybe so. My five undergraduate religion classes don’t really qualify me to make any arguments against the experts, but I like to think John called himself this for the same reason people define any other human relationship: “the love of my life,” “my precious daughter,” “sweet little brother.” The disciple whom Jesus loved. John had a deep, life-altering relationship with Emmanuel, the Light of the World, the One through whom all things were created. Why would he not tell the world that he loved Jesus, and that by indescribable grace Jesus loved him, too?
You may not walk with Jesus on the road to Jerusalem; but, like John, He has called you to something and He will continue calling you to follow Him every day of your life. Chances are, you will never see someone raised from the dead, but Jesus is going to work incredible miracles in your life if you stick by His side the way John did. The cannon is closed, and there won’t be any more scripture writing, but be sure that the more you know Christ the more He will use you to share words of encouragement and truth with family and friends. Thankfully, you will never know the horror of standing at the foot of the cross, but difficulties will arise in your life, and if you trust Jesus through the darkest hour, He may just entrust you with something as precious as His mother.
God’s love is never earned, which is good because we could never possibly earn it; don’t forget about that time John wanted Jesus to rain fire on a disbelieving village. But to know Jesus in the intimate way John did requires spiritual discipline and sold-out devotion. You and I will never have a relationship with Jesus the same way John did. But…then again, John won’t ever know Jesus quite the same way we do either. Even so, you are a disciple whom Jesus loves. Be bold, and tell the world who you are to Jesus and how much you love Him. Claim your title as the One Whom Jesus Loves.