When you read through the book of John, you’ll see a specific individual referenced, but never by name…
“The disciple whom Jesus loved”.
Now, we know that this references the Apostle John, one of Jesus’ closest/best friends, but John never actually names himself… I wonder why that is? And we’ll get to that at the end, but think about it for a minute…
What a pretentious title to give yourself.
Imagine if I walked around calling myself “The citizen whom the president loved”. And not because he ever specifically said, “I love you most”, but because I believed that I was really loved by him.
You would think I was crazy, arrogant, and stuck up!
But that is not what John intended at all.
John named himself this, because to him, to have been loved by Jesus at all, was such an honor, he wanted to make sure that people knew that Jesus loved even him. And perhaps his experience of being loved by the Lord was more precious to him than his name. It is almost as if when asked his name he might respond: “I am the one whom Jesus loves” instead of giving his name.
John became known as the Disciple of Love. It was in his first letter, he penned the lines “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God […] This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
I was visiting my sister last weekend, and I went to church with her, and the pastor was talking about John in his late life:
John was the last surviving of the 12, and he hit the point in his life where he couldn’t speak loud enough to be heard by the crowd, so instead he would speak a sentence or two to one person, and that person would stand up, and deliver those sentences, then lean over, and have John whisper the next bit to him.
The story goes that at the end of his life, the last sermon that John ever preached, was preached right before he died. He was laying there, and the man who was speaking for him leaned down and John said to him “God is love”. The man stood up, and said loudly to those gathered there “God is love.” Then he went back to John, and said “what else?” to which John replied “what else is there?”.
His last sermon. “God is love. What else is there?”
You see, to John, because he had known he was loved by God, he had no choice to preach that love! That is the greatest attribute of God! John, the disciple Jesus was closest to, his best friend, the one Jesus entrusted his mother to, the one who probably knew Jesus best, and therefore, knew God best, says that the greatest attribute of God, the most important thing for us to know, is that God is love.
And maybe, just maybe, John’s deeper purpose for not supplying the name of the beloved disciple is so that you will understand that the beloved disciple is YOU. You are the disciple whom Jesus loves. You are the one who reclines next to the Lord at the Last Supper (John 13:23). You are the beloved disciple at the foot of the cross to whom the Lord said, “Behold your mother” (John 19:26). You are the beloved disciple who runs to the tomb and comes to faith (John 20: 8). You are the beloved disciple who announces to others, “It is the Lord” (John 21:7).
Maybe John wanted you, me, all of us, to preach “God is love. What else is there?”