having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.
Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (all from the NKJV)
Polycarp, one of the early Church fathers after the original apostles, was acquainted with John. Some say he was one of John’s disciples. Polycarp has left us a story concerning the beloved apostle:
After John returned from his exile on the Isle of Patmos (90-95AD), he was too weak to get around by himself. He had to be carried about on a stretcher. When he would go to church, as he was being carried up toward the front, he would lean up on one elbow and say, “Little children, love one another.” He would say this repeatedly as he was being moved up the aisle.
It has long been acknowledged that John is the apostle of love. All his writings are filled with the theme. And here, in this gospel we have an exquisite look into why this is so.
No other gospel writer has these words–only John. John is focused on the love that Jesus had for His disciples who were with Him. We see that plainly in verse one.
Jesus wants us to continue to show that special kind of love with each other, and He gives a command to that effect in verses 34-35. We are to love in the same manner that the Lord loved His disciples. We also know that it is the same love that He has toward us.
The pivotal verse, however, is not the commandment, but the picture that is painted for us in verse 23. Pay close attention to the words of that verse: …one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.
Just considering the plain English that is used here, it is possible to read “whom” as referring to “disciples.” That is, Jesus loved His disciples, which is consistent with the opening of the scene in verse 1.
However, most people have taken this to refer to the “one,” being John. He was leaning on Jesus’ chest, giving us a picture of intimacy. As a result, we have been taught that Jesus had a special love for John.
John was probably the youngest of the 12, possibly only 19 or 20 years of age at this particular event. That is sometimes held up as the reason for this special love.
There is, however, something lurking here beneath the surface that begs our attention.
John is loved.
John writes this as one who is very much aware of being loved by the Master.
Are you one who is very much aware of His love for you? Is your awareness so rich that others might think that you are ‘specially’ loved by Him? Are you loved?
NOTE: The invitation to write for the Blogged Bible Study is an honor. I trust that my thoughts and insights are as much a blessing to you as the other writers are to me.