During the last supper when Jesus revealed that one of those present would betray Him, the disciples looked at one another anxiously, wondering who it was, each one worrying that it might even be themselves. Peter therefore beckoned to John to ask Jesus which of them it was. For John, they all knew, had a special relationship with Jesus. He was very close to Him, as we read in John’s own account of that night.
Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved (Jn. 13:23).
That’s the King James Version. My Greek/English Interlinear has, “But there was reclining in the bosom of Jesus one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved.”
You can see them in your mind’s eye; that’s the way they dined back then: reclining on couches around a low table likely in the shape of a U. This enabled the servants to come into the centre of the U to set on the table the dishes of food for the guests. John, leaning on his left arm, was reclining so that his head was close to Jesus’ bosom. With some distance between the disciples around the table, and with the servants coming and going, and everyone talking, John was able to quietly ask Jesus who the betrayer was, and Jesus was able to answer him without others being aware of what He was saying.
I won’t go into that. What I want to focus on is this. A while ago I was reading John’s opening words in His account of the Gospel, and I came to this:
No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him (Jn. 1:18 NKJV).
There were those same words, “in the bosom of…” I stopped reading. In my mind’s eye, I saw Jesus reclining in the bosom of the Father just the way John reclined in the bosom of Jesus at that supper.
It is a beautiful image to me, a precious image: the Son of God reclining in the bosom of the Father. And I think that when John wrote these words he could well have had in his own mind’s eye that supper, and himself reclining in Jesus’ bosom. If he knew that he was the disciple Jesus loved, he also knew that Jesus was the Son the Father loved.
It was, in a sense, an exclusive love.
This is My beloved Son in whom is all my delight…”
The Father loved no one else the way He loved His Son. But it was never God’s intention that this exclusive love be forever confined there. It was exclusive, but it was not confined.
For, Jesus said during that same supper, speaking to them all, “As the Father hath loved Me so [that is, even so] have I loved you: continue ye in My love” (Jn. 15:9).
We know He was speaking to them all. But if that is so, what was there about John? Why did John call himself the disciple whom Jesus loved? Was this too a special love, something exclusive, for John alone?
Not according to the verse we just quoted. As the Father loves the Son, the Son loves all His disciples.
I think that John called himself this—the disciple whom Jesus loved—simply because there was a certain trusting childlikeness about John, a certain open facedness, that enabled him to receive Jesus’ love, whereas the others (much like you and I?) had questions and doubts about themselves, and therefore doubts as to Jesus’ love for them.
I do pray that you and I become more sure of the love of Jesus for us, and, like John, take the risk of reclining our head in His bosom. We will surely make a wonderful discovery.
One more thing. We find John writing many years later:
We have known and believed the love that God hath to us (1 Jn. 4:16).
How did John know that? It was because John had seen this love before his very eyes in the Son of God. The love he saw in this Man… somehow he began to realize, to know, that it was the love of God, that it was God the Father dwelling in this Man, and revealing His love. John saw it, and believed, and came boldly to Him—I don’t mean brazenly, I mean boldly, openly, trustingly—and reclined his head in His bosom.
Who’s bosom? Since the Son of God Himself reclines in the bosom of the Father, it was the Father’s love that John was reclining in when he reclined in Jesus’ bosom.
For that is the nature of the Son of God. The Father dwelt in Him; He was the revelation of God the Father—the Father’s love. Paul called Jesus, “the Son of His love” (Col. 1:13). The Son of God’s love. It is the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:39).
And what was the result of John reclining his head in Jesus’ bosom, and knowing, believing, that God loved him? It is that John himself was filled to overflowing with that same love. It is a continual stream through all his writings. “Beloved, let us love one another…” John knew he was beloved, knew he was loved, knew he was the disciple Jesus loved. Therefore, he loved.
That is God’s intention in loving us. God intends that same love—the love of God that dwelt in Jesus—to dwell in you and I. Jesus prayed as much during that same supper.
I have declared (made known) unto them Thy Name, and will declare it (make it known), that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them (Jn. 17:26).
You mean the very love of God dwelling in you and me as He dwelt in Jesus? The love of God? And people seeing that love before their very eyes? When this happens, beloved (I don’t use that word tritely), we might well discover others around us taking the risk of reclining their head in our bosom.