I owe John an apology.
For years I have thought that he was a bit boastful. I thought he was letting us in on a secret that the others may have wanted him to keep to himself.
And because I heard him wrong I’ve thought wrong. About myself.
John says outright that he is the one Jesus loved. When he was gathered with the other disciples with Jesus in the Upper Room he says, “One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved…”
John is always one of the three: Peter, James . . . John.
At the end of his gospel Jesus is with the disciples again, after his resurrection, on the beach. Jesus gives Peter the task of feeding his sheep and tells him that when he is older “You will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” “Stretching out his hands” was a way of saying he would be crucified.
As you might imagine this caused Peter some concern. He saw John and asked what would happen to him. Here’s the way John wrote this scene down:
Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”
John seemed to bring up the fact that Jesus loved him even in tough moments, like when Peter was being told he would die by crucifixion. Peter may have been hoping for some company. I don’t know. But what I do know is I might have been a lot like Peter, wondering why Jesus seemed to love John more.
I’ve had a belief that Jesus loves me. I just have had a hard time believing I’d be the “one whom Jesus loved” if the Gospels were being written today. Oh, I’d be in the Twelve or maybe the crowd. But probably not the one who would be leaning up against him.
And so I’ve always been glad to be around Jesus. Near him. But never quite sure he loves me like that. Yeah, I know, pastors aren’t supposed to say things like that. But it’s true.
Until today. Today I was reading John. And today I heard John. You see, I don’t think John is saying he was closer to Jesus than Peter or Andrew or James. I think John is just saying this is his identity. He is the one whom Jesus loved.
The problem wasn’t John. The problem was me. Part of following Jesus is believing he loves us. It is gaining a new identity. Jesus was clear that in his Kingdom everything turns upside down. The last are first. The foolish are wise. And there is no pecking order.
John’s identity is my identity. And it’s yours. “The one whom Jesus loves.”
Question: What is your identity?