Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "O Breath Of Life"1 (Lyrics)
It's been said that the disciple John was Jesus' special, favourite disciple. John was "the one Jesus loved", a phrase seen twice in the Gospel of John. I've felt uneasy about that text. Why would John portray himself as Jesus' favourite? Isn't it audacious to pronounce oneself the Teacher's pet? Isn't that what stirs up rivalry? How did the other disciples feel about that?
Today, I suggest that we view those words, "the one Jesus loved", through another set of eyeglasses, to reveal an entirely different view of John, of Jesus, and even of Scripture. We begin by looking at the two verses as translated in the International Standard Version.
John 13:23 – One of his disciples, the one whom Jesus kept loving, had been sitting very close to him. (ISV)
John 21:20a – Peter turned around and noticed the disciple whom Jesus kept loving following them. (ISV)
These words, "kept loving", help to preserve the Greek verb tense. The idea is a continued or repeated action. I believe that John is essentially saying, "This Jesus kept on loving me in spite of my brokenness. He just wouldn't stop pouring merciful kindness on me, an undeserving sinner." Surely, this interpretation would more truthfully reflect the humility of a man overflowing with gratitude for Christ's exhilarating grace.
This would also reflect the Old Testament portrayal of God's love as patient, merciful, forgiving, and unfailing. Being Jewish, the Old Testament would have been the lens through which John saw everything. Surely, God's Spirit helped John to see Jesus' love for him, not as favouritism or mere affinity, but as the fulfillment of God's covenant promise to humanity as revealed to his predecessors.
Isn't that the same unfailing love which God sheds on sinners today through His Spirit, the love which His people pour out on one another, and the love which builds His church and proves to the world God's faithfulness to His ancient promise? Of course, we'd never see that through the lens of culture, where the concept of "love" is utterly detached from God and His Word of promise.
Now, I see why I had felt unsettled about Jesus' love for John. I was looking through the lens of culture instead of the lens of my new heaven-sent eyeglasses — in other words, God's Spirit, provided to help us see.
The eyeglasses through which we read Scripture hugely affect our interpretation. Without those heaven-sent eyeglasses, we're essentially blind. We'll try to see through a faulty lens, and we'll make misjudgments. Praise God for that amazing prescription lens provided as a gift of salvation … just as promised:
Isaiah 35:5a – Then will the eyes of the blind be opened. (NIV)
Prayer: O Lord, we so easily set aside our heaven-sent prescription eyeglasses and find ourselves muddling through a blur. Train us to use this gift more effectively and more consistently, that we may see the ways of Your unfailing love more truthfully. Amen.
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May it be so, Diane.
Thank you for this learning experience. I really enjoyed the extra work you did.
Thanks for this explanation. Like you, I often pondered this scripture.
And that would be why God’s love is such an important theme in John’s letters and it is a thread all through his gospel. Good stuff! Thanks.
Diane – thank you for this devotional. I also wondered about this passage. Your heavenly glasses interpretation makes much more sense. God Bless you for sharing.
Yes Diane, we have a wonderful ‘spiritual ophthalmologist’. How blessed we are!!! Thanks for sharing.
I have always thought it was with Jesus and John as it was with David and Jonathan… best and closest friends.
Thank you for the words using glasses to improve out sight to understanding the Word.
May eye take some of your space to thank ROBIN for reading the devotional.
Diane, As I read this devotional, I couldn’t help but remember that during Jesus’ final day, John was the only disciple among the twelve to see Jesus through everything to the borrowed tomb. Jesus also entrusted his mother into John’s faithful care. Blessings.
Thank you for your email today about the disciple Jesus loved. That has always confused me and caused me to wonder how it could be that Jesus played favorites.
Thank you for making the meaning of these words so very clear. I really appreciated that.
Yes, Jesus kept loving Peter even after Peter denied Jesus.
“Peter, Do you love me,” We hear it three times.”
How gracious Jesus was to Peter – and is to us! We give him thanks and glory. Amen.
Good morning Diane
Wow!! this was so good! Thank you for encouraging us to use those special glasses. When I first read the scripture, I didn’t read it with my God given glasses and then when you gave the other two examples of how it was meant, it really opened my eyes. Thank you and yes, it truly expresses God’s love for us even though we are broken. Thanks again.
Thank you for a precious devotional.
Our new insight as Christians gives us a new “take” or acceptance of the gifts of God, Certainly.
Another aspect: “Does this John, a disciple of Jesus, ever say that he, John, is the writer of the Gospel named “JOHN?”
Bible historians seem to have ample reason to believe that John, the John you speak of, the disciple of Jesus, is the author. I’m not arguing that.
God bless you.
Thank you for passing on the insight God gave you in this! That translation really puts a new and clearer meaning to that phrase. Like you, I have always wondered about it. I am going to pass your devotional on to the other members of our Bible study group. How greatly we are always blessed as we dig deep into God’s word, and this another “gem” from His word!