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Was John the "Disciple" whom Jesus loved?

by Robert Randle  
6/19/2009 / Bible Studies

According to Church tradition, and from Leonardo Da Vinci's famous painting, the youthful and almost feminine-looking male on Jesus' right side at the "Last Supper," is identified as none other than John; the son of Zebedee and brother of James. This same John is credited with authoring the gospel of JOHN as well as the letters of I, II, III JOHN of the New Testament writings also. It is of course true that John, along with his brother James and Peter spent the most intimate and special times of healings with the Lord, and accompanied Jesus on the "Mountain of Transfiguration" and was present in those final, agonizing moments that the Lord Jesus Christ faced in the garden of Gethsemane; it still does not prove that he [John] was the 'beloved' disciple. There are however, scriptural references that portray John as anything but 'loveable.'

Luke 9: 46-48
And an argument arose among them as to which of them might be the greatest. But Jesus, knowing what they were thinking in their heart, took a child and stood him by His side, and said to them, "Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me; for he who is least among you, this is the one who is great."

Luke 9: 49-50
And John answered and said, "Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name; and we tried to hinder him because he does not follow along with us. "But Jesus said to him, "Do not hinder him; for he who is not against you is for you."

Mark 3: 16a, 17
And He appointed the twelve; . . . and James, the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James (to them He gave the name Boanerges, which means, "Sons of Thunder").

Luke 9: 51-55
And it came about, when the days were approaching for His ascension, that He resolutely set His face to go toward Jerusalem; and he sent messengers on ahead of him. And they went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make arrangements for Him. And they did not receive Him because He was journeying with His face toward Jerusalem. And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" But He turned and rebuked them, [and said, "You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them."]

Luke 22: 36-38
And He said to them, "But now, let him who has a purse take it along, likewise also a bag, and let him who has no sword sell his robe and buy one. "For I tell you, that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me, 'AND HE WAS NUMBERED WITH THE TRANSGRESSORS'; for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment." And they said, "Lord, look, here are two swords." And He said to them, "It is enough."

NOTE: Although there no proof that John was one of those who had a sword, still it might not be much of a surprise if he did have one; considering that he was one of the "Sons of Thunder." Not only that, but it seems that his brother James, coincidentally, was killed with the sword by King Herod (Cp. Acts 12: 1-2).

Luke 18: 15-16
And they were bringing even their babies to Him so that he might touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they began rebuking them. But Jesus called for them, saying, "Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

Mark 10: 35-38a, 40-41
And James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came up to Him, saying to Him, "Teacher, we want You to do for us, whatever we ask of You." And He said to them, "What do you want Me to do for you?" And they said to Him, "Grant that we may sit in Your glory, one on Your right, and one on Your left." But Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking for. . ." "But to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared." And hearing this, the ten began to feel indignant with James and John.

After Judas left to betray the Lord Jesus Christ (John 13: 21, 26-27), Jesus gave a "New Commandment" to the remaining apostles, which He repeated at least three times (Cp. John 13: 34; 15: 12, 17), and that was to, 'love one another.'

NOTE: All the disciples were flawed, damaged, petty, selfish, bickering among themselves, and John was no exception. Perhaps the only person who would qualify as someone whom Jesus loved would be the social friendship of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus; of whom it is reported that Jesus loved Lazarus, most especially.

John 11: 1, 3, 5
Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. The sisters therefore sent to Him, saying, "Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick." Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.

John 11: 20-21, 32-36
Martha therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went to meet Him; but Mary still sat in the house. Martha therefore said to Jesus, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died." 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." Jesus wept. And so the Jews were saying, "Behold, how He loved him!"

NOTE: The Scriptures don't give up too much more information on this special relationship between Jesus and Lazarus' family.

So, the internal evidence does not suggest or point to the Apostle John as having an especially close relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ that would afford him such an honor. Of course, Jesus had no greater love than He would lay down His life for His friends, but that He singled out any particular one of His closest associates and disciples who demonstrated such a unique quality and 'spirit' to be cherished throughout generations as a "Beloved Disciple" is not in the Biblical record.

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