The Beloved Disciple
I’m going to begin a two part lesson today, and I think it’s going to be an interesting one. We’ll have part one today, and part two next week, Lord willing. There’s several things about the bible that spark our curiosity, and for me, this subject is one of them. Let me read to you part of an article that someone wrote, concerning the subject of.. “The disciple whom Jesus loved”.
The writer of the article says; “Anonymous figures have a way of pricking our curiosity, and compelling us to want to learn more. That’s the way it is with anonymous figures in the Bible. Perhaps the most well known “anonymous figure” in the New Testament, is the so-called ‘beloved disciple’. Apart from Jesus, this character, whose identity is never plainly revealed in the bible, should be regarded as one of the most intriguing figures in the Gospel of John. However, since many assume that they already know this figure’s identity, he often fails to inspire the sense of mystery, that the story would otherwise evoke.”
“The most common identification of this character, is drawn from an early tradition, which holds that the beloved disciple, was the man named John, the son of Zebedee, a disciple of Jesus, and an apostle. This tradition also identifies John, as the author of the Gospel of John. This idea remains an important view among contemporary Christians, though there is little actual biblical evidence to support it, and so it remains mainly conjecture. People have actually suggested several other disciples, named in the scriptures, as possibly being the beloved disciple.”
“The shadowy figure known as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” appears in five scenes, in the Gospel of John. And those five scenes are found in John 13:21 thru 30, John 19:26 & 27, John 20:1 thru 9, John 21, verse 7, and John 21, verse 20. In these scenes the beloved disciple stands somewhat in contrast to Simon Peter, who is sometimes characterized less positively. In each instance, the beloved disciple responds to Jesus in a way that the narrator considers praiseworthy, while Peter sometimes expresses confusion, doubt, and misunderstanding, before Peter finally denies that he even knows Jesus!”
Now here’s some comments of mine, that go along with what I just read. The first time that we hear the phrase “the disciple whom Jesus loved”, is in John 13, verse 23. This was at the Passover supper, when Jesus washed His apostle’s feet, and when He gave them the instructions for the Lord’s supper, and when He told them that one of them, was going to betray Him. The bible says in verses 22 thru 25; “Then the disciples began looking at one another, wondering of which one He was speaking. Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom, one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. Simon Peter motioned to him, (to the one Jesus loved) to find out who it was that He was talking about. He then, lying on Jesus’ breast, saith unto him, Lord, who is it?” So we see that Peter wasn’t “the beloved disciple”, because they’re identified as two different people in that passage.
Then in John 19, we have the scene of Jesus being crucified. And as He hung on the cross dying, He looked down and saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved. The bible says in verses 26 & 27; “When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved, standing nearby, He said to His mother; Woman, behold, your son. Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” From that hour the disciple took her into his own household.”
So then that disciple standing so near to the cross, right by Jesus’ side you might say, was someone very close to Jesus; Just like intimate family. So close, and so intimate, that Jesus entrusted the care of His mother to him.
Next, in John chapter 20, we have the story of the first day of the week, when Mary Magdalene went to the tomb of Jesus, only to find that His body was gone. The bible says, in verses 1 & 2; “Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb. So she ran, and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” Mary was the first one to see the empty tomb, and then, the disciple whom Jesus loved, and then Simon Peter.
In John chapter 21, we have two verses to consider. The scene takes place after the resurrection, and after Jesus had already appeared to His disciples on two previous occasions. And now Jesus appears to them a third time. And I’ll read from verse 2, thru verse 7; “There were together, Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, (that would be the apostles, James and John) and two other of his disciples.”
So we’ve got Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, John, and James, and two other disciples, whom the scriptures don’t identify by name. Now, back to the scripture..
“Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, immediately entered into a boat, and that night they caught nothing.”
“But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. Then Jesus saith unto them; Children, have you any meat? They answered him, No. And he said unto them; Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and you shall find some. They cast therefore the net, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes. Therefore, that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.”
Isn’t it curious, that the scripture doesn’t say; “Therefore John said to Peter..” Or “Therefore James, or Thomas, or Nathanael said to Peter..” But no, it says; “Therefore, the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter..” So is this verse implying that one of those two unnamed disciples, was the disciple whom Jesus loved? It doesn’t come out and say that, but it makes you wonder. “So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped for work), and threw himself into the sea.”
It seems that Peter couldn’t wait to get back to shore, where Jesus was. But isn’t it interesting, who it was, that first realized that it was Jesus standing there talking to them? It was the one who probably had the closest relationship with Jesus, than anyone else who was there; It was the disciple whom Jesus loved. There were six other disciples there besides Peter.. Which one was it?
Now verse 20, is our last example. Jesus and His disciples had cooked some of the fish they had just caught, and after they had eaten, and after Jesus had spoken some words specifically to Peter, He then said to Peter; “Follow Me.” (all this took place in verses 15 thru 19) So here is Peter, following Jesus, and verse 20 says; “Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved, following them, the one who also had leaned back on His bosom at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” Remember, Peter had asked this disciple, (because of his special relationship with Jesus) he asked him, to ask Jesus, who it was who would betray Him.
Who is the Beloved Disciple ?
So there we have the five times, where the bible speaks of “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. But the bible never specifically identifies, who that disciple is. Now as you know, most people believe that the apostle John is that disciple. And there’s two reasons for that. One reason is because several times in the scriptures, Jesus had singled out, Peter and John and James, to be with Him at some very specific times. For example, it was those three who were with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, when Jesus, and Moses, and Elijah, appeared to them. That can be found in Mathew 17, verses 1 thru 8.
And it was those three who Jesus separated from the rest of the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, and He took them with Him, when they went on ahead of the rest of the apostles, and Jesus prayed to His Father, before His arrest and crucifixion. And you’ll find that in Mathew 26:36 thru 46.
And of these three, John has been singled out as the most likely disciple, to be the one whom Jesus loved. Of course we’ve already seen that Peter is definitely not that disciple, but I’m not really sure why John’s brother James was been ruled out as being the disciple whom Jesus loved. There probably simply isn’t enough said about James in the bible, to warrant the conclusion that James might be the one.
But here’s probably the clincher, of why most people believe that John was the beloved disciple. From very early times, the apostle John has been accredited with being the writer of the book of John. And in the book of John, in chapter 21, and in verses 20 thru 24, it states that the disciple whom Jesus loved, is the writer of the book that has been accredited to John.
However, the writer of the article that I was reading from, along with many other people, have suggested another disciple, aside form John, who they say is very likely, “The disciple whom Jesus loved”.
And actually, the bible does in fact address, another disciple, as “he whom you love”.. speaking of Jesus. “He whom Jesus loves”. Those are the words of the bible. And another statement is made shortly after that, that expresses the very same thought, of how much Jesus loved that particular disciple. I’ll go ahead and tell you where those verses are. The first one is in John 11, verse 3, and the second one is John 11 verse 36. Of course John chapter 11, is the chapter that records the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead. And of course Lazarus was the brother of Mary and Martha.
We’re first introduced to Mary and Martha, in Luke 10, verses 38 thru 42, though Lazarus isn’t mentioned in that passage. But let me read that to you those verses.. “Now it came to pass, as they went, that He (Jesus) entered into a certain village, and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about with much serving, and came to him, and said; Lord, dost Thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her; Martha, Martha, (it sounds like they all knew each other quite well. Here’s Mary sitting there at Jesus’ feet, ready to listen to Him, like maybe she’s accustomed to doing that, and Jesus saying to Martha.. ) “Martha, Martha”, thou art anxious and troubled about many things. (as if maybe He knows she’s prone to that) And Jesus says.. “But only one thing is needful, and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
In other words, the only truly needful thing, is to hear the words of Christ. We sure do get preoccupied with material things don’t we? But it’s the word of God that is all that really matters. But don’t they sound like close friends? Jesus is travelling about the country side, and He comes to the village where Mary and Martha live, and so Martha welcomes Him right into their home, and Mary sits down at His feet (she obviously knows to be listening to Jesus) and Martha is a bit anxious, evidently as usual) and Jesus says; “Martha, Martha..” I think it sounds like they know one another quite well.
But let’s go to John chapter 11, and let me read to you verses 1 thru 3. Because this is where we find the words, “he whom You love”, speaking of Jesus; “He whom You love.” So here we go; “Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, which is the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. (The fact that Mary was anointing Jesus, and wiping His feet with her hair, is another pretty clear indication, that Mary knows Jesus quite well) Therefore the sisters sent to Him, (they sent to Jesus) saying; Lord, behold, he whom You love, is sick.” …. “He whom You love, is sick”.
It’s interesting, that those words are never said about anyone else, in the entire bible. “He whom You love..” But those words ARE said, about Lazarus. And so according to the scriptures, there is no doubt, that Lazarus, is a disciple whom Jesus loved!
The story in chapter 11 continues, and we’re told that even though Lazarus is sick, and Mary and Martha are plenty worried, Jesus doesn’t go to him right away, but instead He waits a couple of days. That’s kind of strange isn’t it? To not go right away, to be with “he whom you love”? But rather to wait a couple of days? But Jesus had His reason. And so Jesus does finally go to the town of Bethany, near the home of Mary and Martha, and Lazarus, but Lazarus has already died.
And the bible says in verses 32 thru 36; “Therefore, when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him; Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also, weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit, and was troubled, and said; Where have you laid him? They said to Him, Lord, come and see.”
It was then, that the bible says; “Jesus wept.” (verse 35, the shortest verse in the English bible) “Jesus wept”. Now verse 36; “Then the Jews said; See how He loved him!” The disciple whom the bible says, “Jesus loved”, had died, but he was about to be raised from the dead! What a story that is! And what a story about the love of Jesus!
The next chapter, John chapter 12, mentions the name of Lazarus, three times, talking about how Lazarus was the one who Jesus raised from the dead. But that’s the last time that his name is used in the bible.
So let me just list some bible facts.. Lazarus is introduced to us in John chapter 11, as “the one who Jesus loves”, and then he’s mentioned by name in chapter 12, but then, we never hear his name again in the bible. What we do hear though, beginning in the very next chapter, is a phrase that we’ve never heard until now; But now we begin to hear the phrase.. “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. And we hear it five times in the remainder of the book of John.
Pretty interesting stuff isn’t it? But this is where we’ll have to stop for today. And Lord willing, we’ll pick up right here next week, and continue this intriguing subject and story.
(This lesson is continued in “The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved – Part 2” Please click on the highlighted title to be taken to that next lesson)