“That disciple whom Jesus loved…” John 21:7
I really enjoy reading the Gospel of John. His no-nonsense writing style gets right to point. He doesn’t bother with complex genealogies, or tell us anything about shepherds, wisemen or angels. In very plain language, he states the most important thing we need to know: Jesus is God. The opening words of his Gospel go like this: “In the beginning was the Word (Jesus), and the Word (Jesus) was with God, and the Word (Jesus) was God. He (Jesus) was with God in the beginning. Through Him (Jesus) all things were made; without Him (Jesus) nothing was made that has been made. In Him (Jesus) was life, and that life (Jesus) was the light of men.” (Jn 1:1-4)
Goodness, isn’t that just amazing? So much truth in just those few words! Who knows how many books, sermons and teaching points have been created out of those four verses alone! It’s absolutely fantastic!
And that’s not all. Before he finishes the introductory section of his book, he’s given us the cornerstone of the whole Gospel… that this wonderful, all-powerful, Creator God, who sustains life itself, “became flesh and dwelt among us.” (Jn 1:14)
His writing has a beauty and power that I like to dwell on over and over again. However, I never really cared for how he describes himself. Five times in his book, he calls himself “the one whom Jesus loved.” I know it’s supposed to be a poetic way of identifying his involvement in the story he’s telling, but something about it never sat right with me. It just reminded me a little too much of sibling rivalry where the youngest in the family walks around announcing “Daddy loves me best!” That was until I read a powerful chapter by one of my new favorite preachers, Judah Smith. His book Jesus Is helped me see John’s description as much more than a prideful nickname. It is the absolute truth. John didn’t see himself as the youngest in a family of fisherman, a Jewish son, a less important brother, or as wearing any other self-imposed label. Once John met Jesus, it redefined everything about him and his identity became inseparably intertwined with the love of Christ.
I think that’s the essence of what the Apostle Paul is trying to communicate to us in 2 Corinthians 5:17 where he reminds us that through our relationship with Jesus, “old things have passed away,” and, “all things are new.” That’s what the love of Jesus does for us. The entire Bible is a testimony to the extraordinary lengths God has gone to in order to release us from our past. If we will embrace the truth that He loves us wholly, completely and without reserve, it has the power to replace the path we were on and gives us the vision to live a new life with a forward focus.
“the disciple whom Jesus loved.” I really like that now. Instead of seeing him as trying to place himself above the other disciples, I now realize that he’s perhaps the one who had the clearest understanding of the transforming power of the love of God. But here’s the key thing to think about… that’s not just a special name for John. Once you become a Christian, you also are given the privilege of defining yourself as “the disciple whom Jesus loves.”