“One of his disciples – the one whom Jesus loved – was reclining next to him.” – Jn 13:23
This unnamed disciple is associated with John – the author of the Gospel according to John. As a result, John is known as the “beloved disciple” in scholarly circles. I suppose we’re to assume that Jesus tolerated Peter and James but that he loved John. But this is all the info that the fourth evangelist gives us about himself. Who wrote this gospel? The one whom Jesus loved.
One assumes that the author of John’s gospel ** would at least make an appearance in Jesus’ story from time to time. If I were to write a Gospel, I’d at least mention one instance when I – John Newton – was really obedient to Jesus (of course as a model for the good of the church). In fact, there’s a 50/50 chance I’d work in my little league game-winning homer in the spring of '96. But this John is different. This John doesn’t even give a name (his name is John by tradition). Sure, this John wants to be remembered, but not for his faithfulness or for any achievements of his own. No - this John wants to be remembered as “the one whom Jesus loved.” That was John’s role in his version of the Jesus story. And make no mistake, he had to be selective (see Jn 21:25). John had to pick and choose. He could have “written himself in” in a more creative way. But for his part in the story, John didn’t even give his name. Who was John in Jesus’ story? He was “the one whom Jesus loved.”
The Bible compels each of us to take our own place in the Jesus-story. Christians aren’t detached observers. We’re not voyeurs. We’re actors and participants in the final scene of God’s salvation play. Like John, we too must enter Jesus’ story. We must “write ourselves in.” The only question is - what part are we going to play?
John gives us a roadmap. We are to “lose our lives” in Jesus’ story. Our name, like John’s name, isn’t significant. Only Jesus’ is. Jesus’ name is above every name and that includes our own (Phil 2:9). Our achievements aren’t central to the Jesus-narrative. Jesus must increase. We must decrease (Jn 3:30). And what does this mean practically? It means that our identity is shaped above all else by Jesus’ love for us. Who are we in Jesus’ story? We are the “one whom Jesus loves.”
FOR TODAY: An ethics professor of mine writes, “the question of identity is the question of difference.” For today, consider what informs your identity. In other words, who do you know yourself to be? This is an important question because our world is becoming increasingly achievement-oriented. We’re only about as good as our last accomplishment, our last assignment, our last business deal, our last sermon. But as Jesus’ disciples, we cannot accept the world’s terms. Regardless of what we do or don’t do, we are children of God and we are born of God (Jn 1:12-13). Above all else, this is who we are in Jesus’ story. For today, be changed by this wonderful truth.
** Authorship of JG is hard to attribute to one person. Most scholars contend that the final work was the product of John’s community and that John’s disciples finished what John himself had begun before his death in the latter part of the first century.