The Disciple Whom Jesus Kept On Loving
I have been asked to teach the Gospel of John in Ethiopia next month. Much could be said about the author of this magnificent Gospel long before discussing John 1:1.
For example, it is only the apostle John who calls himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:20). Actually, John uses a verb tense that usually implies a process – something like “the disciple whom Jesus was loving.” The implication is, “He kept on loving me and loving me and loving me.” And little wonder.
Do not think of John as some kind of soft, sentimental, wishy-washy weakling. He was a “son of thunder” (Hebrew for a person with a boisterous personality). He wanted to call down fire from heaven on the Samaritans. He sought the place of prominence at the right (or, if need be, at the left) hand of Jesus in the kingdom. John the weakling? Hardly.
And now, writing many years later at the end of his long life (John outlived the other apostles), he has one chance to describe himself to his audience. He could have done this in several different ways, each with its own emphasis. Thus, for example, I might introduce myself, depending on the occasion, as Becky’s husband, Nathan’s dad, a Greek prof, a lousy carpenter, and so on.
And John? Did he write “apostle of Jesus Christ,” or “elder of the church at Ephesus,” or “author of the Book of Revelation”? He could have, but he wrote none of these. Thinking back to his impetuous relationship with the Lord, to his unworthiness even to be called a follower of Christ, he simply wrote, “the disciple whom Jesus kept on loving.” The description implies, not arrogance (as if he meant “the disciple whom Jesus loved more than the others”), but a profound sense of divine grace.
Is that not your identity and mine – we who know the Lord Jesus as our Savior and Lord and who also know our own weaknesses and shortcomings? We are but disciples whom Jesus keeps on loving, and loving, and loving.
Loved with everlasting
O this full and perfect
G. W. Robinson (1838-77)
September 27, 2004
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com. His latest book is Why I Stopped Listening to Rush: Confessions of a Recovering Neocon.