Friday, February 20, 2009

The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved

John 13:19-27 (NIV)

19"I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am He. 20I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me."

21After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, "I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me."

22His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. 23One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. 24Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, "Ask him which one he means."

25Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, "Lord, who is it?"26Jesus answered, "It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish." Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon. 27As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.

The Disciple whom Jesus loved has always been a mysterious character within canonical and non-canonical scripture. The traditional view is that it is a self-reference to John the Evangelist himself. Within the last century alternative identifications have been proposed including Mary Magdalene, Lazarus, Mark the Evangelist, and even the unnamed youth in Mark 14:51-52. Whoever it was we will never know, unless we uncover a manuscript that identifies him. Maybe we were never meant to know.

John 21:16-25 (NIV)

16Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?"
He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."
Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep."

17 The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?"
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you."

Jesus said, "Feed my sheep. 18 I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." 19Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, "Follow me!"

20Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, "Lord, who is going to betray you?") 21When Peter saw him, he asked, "Lord, what about him?"

22Jesus answered, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me." 23Because of this, the rumor spread among the brothers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?"

24This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.

25Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

It is barely noticeable but you can almost see a hint of jealousy coming from Peter concerning the unnamed Beloved Disciple, and how can you blame Peter. Jesus just stated that Peter might have to die for following Him, while Jesus has something else in store for the unnamed Beloved Disciple. Follow me to death and do not worry what I have in store for your fellow followers. This does not mean that the unnamed Beloved Disciple would not face persecution and death for following Him but that it does not matter what Jesus has in store for him. The focus is on the Shepard and not the flock.

One of the more interesting ideas as to the identity of the unnamed Beloved Disciple, stated by Martin L. Smith, is that it is a literary device meant for the gospel readers to better identify with the relationship the disciples had with Jesus. In a sense You become one of the disciples which brings you in closer to the gospel and Jesus. You now so close and so loved by Jesus that even Peter, the rock of the church, comes to You with questions about what he is truly saying.

The unnamed Beloved Disciple works wonders for me as a literary device than it ever did as an actual character in the gospel. Instead of just reading the gospel I become a part of it and begin to feel God's love through Jesus Christ. As I become a part of the gospel I become a part of the powerful love that radiates from it. I then become a "living gospel" as I live in Jesus and Jesus lives in me. This Unconditional Love radiates throughout my being and out towards my fellow man so that all may see, learn, and love. We are then no longer tied to the literal teachings, rituals, and beliefs created by man that help to guide us to this state of Unconditional Love because we are already there. We are all the unnamed Beloved Disciple, and we are all beloved by God.

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