Who was the disciple whom Jesus loved?
We find all of the references to "the disciple whom Jesus loved" in the book of John (John 13:23, John 19:26, John 20:2 and John 21:7, John 21:20). While the Gospel of John does not specifically identify its author, and "the disciple whom Jesus loved" is nowhere explicitly named in Scripture, the early Christians universally recognize John as the author of the Gospel and "the disciple whom Jesus loved." This is consistent with internal evidence in the Gospel of John
John and his brother, James were called to be disciples of Christ while they were pursuing their occupation of fishing with their father, Zebedee (Matthew 4:21-23). They immediately left their career to become members of Jesus' original group of the twelve.
James, John, and the disciple, Peter seemed to be the most intimate of Jesus' apostles accompanying Jesus on special occasions. Matthew 17:1 says, "After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves." Because of their favored relationship with Jesus, James and John sought special position in what they erroneously assumed to be Jesus earthly kingdom in Mark 10:37-38: "They replied, 'Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.' 'You don't know what you are asking,' Jesus said. 'Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?'
Jesus' answer to them was meant to show them that they had the wrong idea of what His kingdom would be like and to point out to them that, although they might want honored places with Christ, they needed to understand that following Christ meant signing up to suffer or endure trials in service to Him and to others. James eventually died as a martyr for Christ and John died a natural death after living in exile on the Isle of Patmos.
Perhaps one of the most reflective statements of the closeness of the relationship between Jesus and John was in the last moments of Jesus' life when Jesus asked John to care for his mother after His death. John 19:26-27 says, "When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, 'Dear woman, here is your son,' and to the disciple, 'Here is your mother.' From that time on, this disciple took her into his home."
John, as an apostle of Jesus, not only wrote his eye-witness account of experiences with Christ which were recorded in his gospel, but also wrote the books of 1 John, 2 John, 3 John and the book of Revelation - John's vision of judgment for the wicked and hope for the future of believers. Revelation was written from the Isle of Patmos during his time of exile.
It is interesting that John referred to himself as "the disciple whom Jesus loved." Love was a recurring theme in much of John's writings, this from a man who had learned about love from the master teacher of love. In John's letters (1, 2, and 3 John), he made more than twenty-five references to love. John knew that Jesus knew him and yet loved him fully. 1 John 4:7-10 says, "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins."
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