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.
Listen to this devotional
Listen while you read: "O Breath Of Life" (Lyrics)