Monday, December 28, 2009

The Disciple

“The disciple whom Jesus loved.”

The first time we read the reference, we smile. The way that the Apostle John describes himself is actually rather charming. He doesn’t use his own name or refer to himself as “I” or “me;’ instead, he uses that phrase: “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” a recognition of whom Jesus was and what he did, and what he did for John. We read it, we nod, we agree with the sentiment, and then we go on.

Maybe we should stop and reconsider.

I love reading John’s gospel, possibly because it was the first thing I read after becoming a Christian. I return to it again and again, because of its personality and because it seems so personal, and because John always seems so astounded by what he’s writing about. He brings a sense of wonder and the miraculous to the gospel story. It’s no coincidence that John’s gospel is often the first thing recommended for new believers to read.

And there’s that phrase he uses to describe himself – “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” It’s attention-grabbing, especially for a new believer, likely because you don’t know immediately who the disciple is. And John doesn’t actually say until the very final verses of the gospel.

He uses the phrase five times (13:23, 19:26, 20:2, 21:7 and 21:20). What I find striking now, some decades after becoming a new believer, are the contexts in which the phrase is used – always in association with someone else – four times with Peter and one with Mary, and all five with Jesus (including the one at the empty tomb). John asks a question of Jesus on behalf of Peter; he’s given responsibility for Mary by Jesus; he’s running to the tomb of Jesus with Peter after being told by Mary Magdalene that the tomb was empty; he recognizes the resurrected Jesus while fishing with Peter and the other disciples; and he dispels a rumor that starts when Jesus “reverses” Peter’s three denials into an affirmation of ministry.

In other words, John doesn’t use the phrase only to describe his relationship with Jesus. He does that, of course, but he also uses it to describe himself, his relationship with Jesus, in the company of others.

To be a disciple, to experience the love of Christ, is not just a “me” thing.

Wanted more than pull of net, more
than straining of moving
weight, more than the
iron smell of fish.

Wanted more than pierced
blues of mirrors reflecting,
glistening from the sea. Wanted
not reflections but sun.

Then voice, eyes, call touching
inside my soul, icing my
heart like mountain snow.
Chose us, twelve.

Did not know the
disciples he loved until
the day of death

(To see other posts on the word “love,” visit the blog carnival at


Anonymous said...

"To be a disciple, to experience the love of Christ, is not just a “me” thing."

Glynn, I really enjoyed this post... thanks for kicking off the carnival!

Anne Lang Bundy said...

not reflections but sun.

This is what I found in the Gospel. Life had offered reflections of truth, but not the full and penetrating light of the Son—Truth Himself.

I, too, can look back and say, "I am the disciple Jesus loved." How precious to know His love, His light, His gentle breath upon my soul.

Anonymous said...

john using that phrase in place of his name gives me much to ponder,

as well as does Love that is God.

JML said...

Who am I in the context of my relationship with my savior? Wonderful perspective! Great post!!!

Russell Holloway said...

Glynn, that was a great look at love and John.

You ought to think about being a professional writer focusing on faith and culture... :-)

Candy said...

I loved this, Glynn. It's powerful verbiage that shows us the Greatest Love of all. I love the way John tells us it is not "all about me" and shifts the focus to Christ.

S. Etole said...

How we see ourselves speaks volumes in this context ...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for a great post. I love John's gospel. Somehow, even though it doens't include the Christmas story, I keep coming back to it's mysterious tone around Christmas every year.

katdish said...

Dang, Glynn. That was just all kinds of good. I'm with Russell - you should go pro. (Snort!)

Louise Gallagher said...

Glynn, Thank you for continually opening the eyes of my heart so that I can see God in new and every brighter light.

Maureen said...

A very powerful and beautiful post, Glynn. Especially that last stanza.

~*Michelle*~ said...

you know, I never really picked up on "“The disciple whom Jesus loved.”
before....but WOW.

just WOW.

Thanks so much for sharing such a beautiful heartfelt post, filled with such Truth and wisdom.

TruthHunt said...

I saw something unbiblical items in your blog, so I hope you will receive this note of biblical correction.

When the Bible urges the readers of scripture to “prove all things” it was not suggesting that they should look to the traditions of men as their standard of truth but, rather (in accord with Ps. 118:8) they should look to scripture and trust the authority of God’s word -- not the traditions which men add to it. And, since these words are true: “Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar” (Pr. 30:5-6), one is always better off conforming their hypothesis to the scriptures rather than the other way around.

First off, "the disciple whom Jesus loved" DOES use "I" to refer to himself in the last verse of the gospel, "And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen."

More important, however, you erroneously claim that the unnamed “disciple whom Jesus loved” was John, but here you are misled by the traditions of men. In fact, there is not a single verse that would justify teaching that John was the unnamed "other disciple, whom Jesus loved" (the unnamed man who authored the fourth gospel) and that is why non-Bible sources must be used to sell the John tradition. While various non-Bible sources may say that John was “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”" but what happens when one subjects that claim to biblical scrutiny, will it hold up?

Well, two things are true:

1: No one has ever cited a single verse of scripture that would justify promoting the idea that the unnamed “disciple whom Jesus loved” was anybody named John — not the Apostle John, nor any other John. (And the reason why no such verse is cited by those who put forth the unbiblical John tradition is because no such verse exists.)

2: The facts in the plain text of scripture can prove that WHOEVER the unnamed “other disciple, whom Jesus loved” was he could not have been John — because that idea forces the Bible to contradict itself, which the Bible cannot do if it is true. (A presentation of the biblical evidence on this topic is available at

Two good rules of respect for the authority of God’s word: A) One should not be presenting an idea AS IF IT WERE BIBLICAL if they cannot cite a single verse that would justify teaching that idea – and – B) If the facts in the plain text of scripture prove that an idea is false, then those who love the truth will reject that false idea — no matter how many people believe it, no matter how loud some may shout it, no matter if a big-wig so-and-so believes it, no matter how long the false idea has been around, etc.

One can surely find a NON-Bible source to cite if they want to justify their belief in the idea that the unnamed “other disciple whom Jesus loved” was John. But what no one has ever done is cite a single verse that would justify teaching that the unnamed “disciple whom Jesus loved” was John — not those who originated the unbiblical John idea and not those who repeat their error to this day.

The truth is that the John tradition is simply a case of mistaken identity. This, for example, explains why the Jesus’ transfiguration, his prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane, and his raising of the daughter of Jairus are NOT in the fourth gospel. Only three disciples were present at each of these events and John was one of them. Thus John was able to give eyewitness testimony when it came to these key incidents and yet there is no mention of these events in the fourth gospel, because the author, “the disciple whom Jesus loved”, was not John. And the missing ‘John testimony’ is just the tip of the iceberg.

Monica Sharman said...

"Wanted/ not reflections but sun"

Ijust finished a several-month study in John and really appreciated this post, Glynn.

caryjo said...

I began my blog two days after this was posted. Am so glad to have an opportunity to see it. It is a true blessing!