John was there when the
Lords heart stopped beating, and the silence must have been deafening. John, the
disciple whom Jesus loved, knew exactly what His immeasurable heart sounded like.
It must have been particularly difficult for John. Next to him at the foot of the cross stood Mary the mother of Jesus. Johns heart was broken not only because his Savior, his Lord, and his Friend hung limp before him, but also because the grieving woman beside him had just witnessed the death of her special child. Johns home was Marys now that Jesus had commissioned John to be her caretaker. It was an appropriate arrangement, for under the same roof would dwell the only two people who had heard the beat of the heart that bore the sins of the world.
There was reclining on Jesus bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. (John 13:23)
John himself wrote this passage in his gospel. It describes the intimate scene in the Upper Room, where Jesus shared one last meal with His disciples the night before His crucifixion. But look at the picture it gives us. John calls himself "the disciple whom Jesus loved," and then he provides evidence by relaying this one scene in the Upper Room. In the sweetest of moments, John reclined on Jesus breast and heard the heart of the Son of Man.
"If he was the disciple Jesus loved, then such a tribute implies that John was the disciple who best loved Jesus, and by force of his love for Him had a keen and true insight into his Masters thought and spirit," writes Henry Lockyer. "Leaning on the bosom of Jesus, John knew something of His heartbeat. Such a position was the coveted honor gained in the line of love."
The moment became a ministry for John, who is known as the "disciple of love" because he so proclaimed the deity of Christ and His unfailing love. John wrote his gospel "so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name" (John 20:31). John wrote 1, 2, and 3 John to teach us that "this is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us" (1 John 3:23). Finally, John concluded his service to the Lord by writing the book of Revelation, as revealed to him in a vision while he was banished to the isle of Patmos.
It is not surprising that the Lord preserved John as the only disciple not to suffer martyrdom, and also used him so extensively. Who better than the disciple Jesus loved to share with the world that very love?
John was a Galilean fisherman, the son of Zebedee and brother of James. Scholars believe he came from a well-to-do family because his father had hired servants. He first was a disciple of John the Baptist until the Baptist himself pointed to Jesus and proclaimed, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" John eventually would follow Jesus for some three years, learning what it meant to forgive and to love. And sometimes those lessons came hard.
"He needed Jesus counsel as much as any other of the Twelve, for he and James seem to have possessed unusually ardent temperaments. Jesus called them "sons of thunder," or, by a more literal rendering, "sons of tumult" (Mark 3:17), writes Merrill C. Tenney. "Their bigotry and truculence were revealed in their readiness to rebuke the man casting out demons because he did not follow with them (Luke 9:49), and in their desire to call down fire from heaven on the Samaritan villages that would not receive Jesus (9:52-54). Both rashly asked their mother to petition Jesus that he would grant them the seats of primacy in his kingdom (Matt. 20:20-28). Jesus sharply rebuked these crudities of spirit, even though they may have been motivated by loyalty to him and his work."
Nevertheless, with all of his faults and shortcomings, John discovered Christ still loved him. More and more, John would learn to love the Lord because the Lord first loved him. (1 John 4:19)
Five times John, in his gospel, refers to himself as "the disciple whom Jesus loved." In each case, the literal rendering of the Greek would better read, "the disciple whom Jesus kept on loving." It is in such intimacy with the Lord that John became mighty in spirit and that today we, too, can learn of the continual love of Christ.
We need not fish the swells of the Sea of Galilee, or hail from a well-to-do family, or even leave our hometowns for places and challenges unknown. We need only to recline in the bosom of the Spirit of God and listen to what John heard.
His heartbeat: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:16)