The apostle John identified himself as the disciple “whom Jesus loved” (Jn. 13:23 JND), because he was conscious of his Lord’s love for him. The Lord loves all of His own; He has purchased us by His own precious blood. But like John, we need to understand this truth: that each Christian is a disciple whom Jesus loves. A clear knowledge of the Lord’s love in our lives will change us – make us different, make us better – if we really understand and respond to it. It changed John; he and his brother James were earlier called the “Sons of Thunder” by Jesus (Mk. 3:17). While John’s inspired writings – his gospel, epistles, and Book of Revelation – reveal truth, doctrine and prophecies, we also read a lot about love in them. Let’s take a closer look at the love that John learned from the bosom of Jesus: “Beloved, let us love one another; because love is of God, and every one that loves has been begotten of God, and knows God. He that loves not has not known God; for God is love” (1 Jn. 4:7-8). Love In The Upper Room “Before the feast of the Passover, Jesus, knowing that His hour had come that He should depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, loved them to the end” (Jn. 13:1). The Lord’s departure from this world to the Father would be accomplished through crucifixion. The Lord would suffer greatly at man’s hand for righteousness’ sake, and at God’s hand for our sin. In spite of all that loomed before Him, because of His love for His disciples, He comforted them in the upper room: He took “a linen towel and girded Himself” ... and washed the feet of the disciples” (Jn. 13:4-5). He took the low place, stooping to perform the act of a servant. He washed their feet as an act of love – and as an example for us to emulate: “If I ... the Lord and the Teacher, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another’s feet; for I have given you an example that ... ye should do also” (Jn. 13:14-15).
The water was neither too hot nor too cold, but just right to wash and soothe their feet. The cross was before Him, but He was thinking of His own, caring for them, ministering to them, and setting an example for them. And John was there, experiencing this love. The Lord then taught them about the Father’s house, the blessedness of keeping His commandments, the Comforter coming to indwell them, the vine and branch relationship, and many other truths as He comforted them. What an intimate experience of love for John and the others in the upper room! John would write about this agape love and encourage us to express it.
Love From The High Priestly Prayer
Before the Lord left His own in the world, John witnessed another act of love in His high priestly prayer. In it, the Lord committed His own to the Father for comfort and protection. As He opened His prayer, He stated that “not one of them has perished, but the son of perdition (Judas), that the Scripture might be fulfilled” (Jn. 17:12). The Lord had kept His own while with them, and now he was committing them to His Father for protection, unity, love, sanctification, and joy. He wanted them to be witnesses and a testimony of God’s love. Man’s cruelty and Satan’s attack were all looming before the Lord, yet He prayed for His own.
Besides the love that John and the disciples had experienced during the Lord’s three years of public ministry, they were engulfed with His love before He departed. Therefore, John could write: “To Him who loves us, and has washed us from our sins in His blood, and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father: to Him be the glory and the might to the ages of ages. Amen” (Rev. 1:5-6). The Lord’s prayer in John 17 confirmed His love for His own: what commenced in eternity in the counsels of God, was “commended” to us in the life and death of Christ (Rom. 4:5-8).
The disciples were surrounded by this love while involved in the public ministry of the Lord. Before He left them, assuring them that He was going to prepare a place for them and promising His return, He prayed: “Father, as to those whom Thou hast given Me, I desire that where I am they may also be with Me, that they may behold My glory which thou hast given Me, before the foundation of the world” (Jn. 17:24). What love! He was always thinking about His own.
Love In The Garden Of Gethsemane
“He demanded of them therefore again, ‘Whom seek ye?’ And they said, ‘Jesus the Nazarean.’ Jesus answered, ‘I told you that I am He: if therefore ye seek Me, let these go away’; that the word might be fulfilled which He spoke, ‘As to those whom thou hast given Me, I have not lost one of them’” (Jn. 18:7-9). John and the other disciples learned another lesson here. Besides the Lord laboring in prayer as they slept, He secured their escape. He protected His own to the end because He loved them. Betrayed with a kiss, arrested by a band, the Lord made sure that His own walked away freely. The disciples also learned about forgiveness as the Lord healed the ear of Malchus. The disciples were able to “go away.” They were freed as the pressure increased on the Lord. He lost none that the Father had given Him; He took their place. John received another lesson about protection and forgiveness.
Love From The Cross
The disciple Jesus loved had rested his head on His bosom; he knew his Lord loved him. At the foot of the cross – with the Lord’s mother, His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene – John continued to learn about his Lord’s love. The Lord said: “‘Woman, behold thy son.’ Then He says unto the disciple, ‘Behold thy mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home” (Jn. 19:27). Love continued to flow from a suffering Lord; His thoughts are constantly on others, not on Himself. He committed His mother to John’s care. What a powerful lesson for John and all believers! Love gives. Love protects. Love looks to the welfare of others. Love is always seen in action. There was an immediate response from John who took her into his home.
John’s physical closeness to the Lord was still evident; the other disciples had forsaken Him and fled. Perhaps John fled too because Matthew 26:56 says “all the disciples left him and fled.” But John was back, standing with his Lord by the cross. The Lord said seven things on the cross; John recorded three of them. In addition to securing a “son” and “home” for His mother, He said, “I thirst” and “It is finished” (Jn. 19:29-30). He had heard His doctrine and teaching during His public ministry. He had seen the miracles. He had heard the private explanation of the parables and difficult sermons. He had lived and traveled with the Lord. He had ministered with Him. Now, at the cross he heard His final words as He accomplished our redemption. And John was changed. The Lord enabled him to write about love, light, and living.
The Lessons Are Clear
John learned many other things from the risen Christ. His gospel, three epistles, and the Book of Revelation are full of instruction for us. God is looking for conformity; he wants us “to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29). The lessons from the bosom of Jesus are clear. Let’s endeavor to take the low place and serve each other in love. It may require washing the feet of a fellow believer. The world is full of defilement; the skillful use of the Word to cleanse our brethren is needed. The Lord is our example. He had promised to send another Comforter. The Holy Spirit has come. We need to walk in the Spirit, be led by the Spirit, and be filled with the Spirit. The Lord’s prayer focuses on unity. Are we united?
In the garden, the Lord showed concern and love for His own; He also forgave an enemy. How are we in these areas? From the cross, the Lord cared for His mother. How are we with our families? Let’s remember these verses about John: “Now there was at table one of His disciples in the bosom of Jesus, whom Jesus loved … leaning on the breast of Jesus” (Jn. 13:23,25). We will learn many lessons from the bosom of our Lord and Savior. As we are close to Him, like John – hearing His heart beat, hearing His teaching, being in a position to listen to Him – let us do what He tells us. We will benefit, other Christians will be edified, Christ will be magnified, and God will be glorified.
By Al Stuart
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org