What a revelation John had: “I am the disciple whom Jesus loved!”
Did it mean Jesus loved him more? No way!
Did it mean John felt he was better? Not a chance!
In fact, John did not even refer to himself as John. He was simply “the other disciple”.
Not Always Like That
John was not always like this. At the very beginning, Jesus referred to John and James, his brother, as the “Sons of Thunder”:
James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James, to whom He gave the name Boanerges, that is, “Sons of Thunder.”Mark 3:17
We can see something of their “thunder” character in the beginning of their following Christ. One time John and James asked Jesus if they could call fire down to destroy some Samaritans who did not receive Jesus. Jesus rebuked them both:
And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?”Luke 9:54-55
But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of.”
Perhaps they had learned from their mother. She seemed quite “pushy” and demanding. One day, she brought her two sons and came to Jesus “worshipping Him and desiring” something. (It seems like that kind of “worship” was lacking some sincerity, right?)
Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down [“worshipping” in the Greek] and asking something from Him.And He said to her, “What do you wish?”Matthew 20:20-22
She said to Him, “Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom.”
But Jesus answered and said, “You do not know what you ask.”
Something changed in John. By the time he wrote His Gospel and Epistles, this “Son of Thunder” was reduced down to just “the other disciple.” A transformation must have taken place in John’s life as walked with Jesus and especially when he saw first-hand how Jesus demonstrated His love and humility by dying upon the Cross.
Perhaps this change took place as he was moved by the Holy Spirit to write down the beautiful quality of humility and the revelation of God’s love.
One example is where he records the words of John the Baptist:
“He must increase, but I must decrease”John 3:30
John was also moved to write more details of Jesus’ speaking more than the other three Gospels. In those conversations, Jesus’ humility shines brightly:
Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.”John 5:19
“I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”John 5:30
No other Gospel, but John’s tells us so much about the Comforter and Helper, the Holy Spirit – the One who would come to take Jesus’ place. Note how Jesus explains that the Holy Spirit would demonstrate humility as He had done:
Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.John 16:7,13
However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.
In John, we read how dependence and humility are required qualities in the life of the believer who chooses to be a disciple of Jesus. Here Jesus refers to this as quality “abiding”:
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”John 15:5
Finally, it is in John’s Gospel and Epistles where we are given the most well-known and beloved commentaries on God’s love:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.John 3:16
He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.1 John 4:8,16
And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.
John’s “Non– Self-Identification”
Something truly changed in John’s life and the way he refers to himself in his Gospel shows just it. He never mentions himself by name. Instead he is just the “other disciple” and the “disciple whom Jesus loved.”
Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.John 13:23
But Peter stood at the door outside. Then the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to her who kept the door, and brought Peter in.John 18:16
When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!”John 19:26
So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”John 20:2-4
So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb.
Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.
Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed.John 20:8
Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea.John 21:7
Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?”John 21:20
A Precious Truth
From John, we learn a very precious truth. He chose to abandon self-seeking. Consequently, he became the vessel through which the Holy Spirit could pen the most wonderful words about the love of God in the whole Bible! Not only that, but he was also the one chosen to write the amazing book of Revelation! Wow!
Without dying to self, denying oneself, and staying humbled and surrendered to Christ, the child of God can never fully realize nor live in the security of God’s love, grace and acceptance.
Is this not true with human love as well? When a person is proud, they can never appreciate the love that someone is showing toward them. Their arrogance and self importance only allows them to feel as if they are owed that love. And then, something far, far worse can take place. Still unsatisfied, they will search elsewhere for more of the love they think they deserve – a vicious cycle begins.
In the same way, pride distorts and even blinds us from knowing God’s love.
It is John again who tells us an interesting story about some Greeks who came into town to see Jesus.
Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast.John 12:20-22
Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee,
and asked him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”
Philip came and told Andrew, and in turn Andrew and Philip told Jesus.
Look how excited those disciples are about these men who want to see Jesus. Surely this is the time for their Master to be exalted. But Jesus’ response shocks them all! Yes, He is going to be “glorified,” but the way they were thinking.
But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified.John 12:23-25
Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.
He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
This is why the Cross – where sin was exposed and its debt paid by undeserved Love – is the only way for man to be saved! And it’s right there where we need to remain – broken and humbled by that Love – just like the apostle John must have been.
In today’s society, even with so much “social media,” people are living in deep loneliness and rejection. Consequently, there’s this obsession to discover an identity for themselves and to declare their self-identification to anyone and everyone around them who will listen. It is an insatiable obsession. Is it any wonder that as this obsession grows, so has the rate of suicide?
Sadly, Christians make the mistake of jumping upon that same bandwagon with the rest of society. There are countless Christian books, seminars and conventions all about “self”— self-identity, self-worth, self-discovery, self-esteem…
But then there is John.
The other disciple.
The disciple whom Jesus loved.