Then Peter, turning about, sees the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord…
Our Lord loved all His disciples: "I have called you friends." And yet within that circle of love there was an innermost place in which the beloved John was favoured to dwell. Those who display an extraordinary love to one are all the more capable of great affection to many; and therefore, because Jesus loved John most, I have an enhanced estimate of His love to the other disciples. John was raised, and they were not lowered, but raised with him. Be thankful to be among the brotherhood who can each say, "He loved me, and gave Himself for me," but strive to rise to the highest point of love. Why should you not ere long be styled like Daniel, a "man greatly beloved"? or like John, "that disciple whom Jesus loved"? Consider —
I. THE NAME ITSELF.
1. It is a name which John alone gives to himself. He repeats it five times, and all the early writers recognize him under that title. Do not suspect him, however, of egotism. With a sweet naivete which makes him quite forget himself, John took the name which he knew most accurately described him. Often there is more pride in not witnessing to what God has done for us than in speaking of it. Everything depends upon the spirit which moves us.
2. It is a name in which John hides himself. He would travel through his own gospel "incognito." We find him out, however; he wears His Master's love as a veil, though it turns out to be a veil of light.
3. It is a name in which John felt himself most at home. No other title would so well describe him. Jesus doubtless treasured him, His Jonathan, His John, His "God-gift"; but John does not so much think of his being of any service to his Lord, as of that which his Lord had been to him.
4. This name was very precious to him, because it evoked the sunniest memories of his life. Those years in which he had been with Jesus must have been looked upon by him in his old age as the crown and glory of his earthly existence.
5. That name was a powerful spring of action to him as long as he lived. How could he be false to Him who had loved him so?
6. It was a name which was never disputed. You do not find any one complaining of John for thus describing himself. The apostles tacitly acknowledged that their Lord was perfectly right in His choice. The truly loved one of God generally receives the love of his brethren, ay, and when a man's ways please the Lord, He maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.
II. THE CHARACTER WHICH LAY BELOW IT. Let us look at —
1. His personality as an individual.
(1) His was a large and warm heart. Perhaps his main force lies in the intensity of his nature. His whole soul was engaged in His Lord's cause, for he was a deep thinker, a silent student, and then a forceful actor.
(2) He was exceedingly vivid in his beliefs. Read his epistle and see how many times he says "we know." There are no "ifs" about him.
(3) Putting all together that we know about his personality, we look upon him as a man who was the reverse of your cold, calculating, slow-moving son of diffidence. He was quite the reverse of those dried, juiceless brethren who have no human nature in them — men who do no wrong for they do nothing at all.
2. His relation to his Lord. Jesus loved him as a "disciple."(1) If we teach we love teachable people: such was John. He was a man quick to learn; not like Thomas, slow, argumentative, cautious.
(2) He was a disciple of very keen eye, seeing into the soul of his Instructor's teaching. His emblem in the early Church was the eagle which soars and sees from afar. John saw the spiritual meaning of types and emblems. His first master was the Baptist, and John was so good a follower of the Forerunner that he immediately followed the Lord Himself, to whom the Forerunner introduced him.
(3) He was full of faith to accept what he was taught. He believed it thoroughly. He did not believe as some people do, with the finger-ends of theft" understanding, but gripped the truth with both hands. His faith wrought in him a strong and enduring love, for faith worketh by love.
(4) John had great receptiveness. He drank in what he was taught. He was not a great talker. His only recorded utterance, if we except his mother's request, and the "Lord, who is it?" which Peter put into his mouth, is "It is the Lord."(5) John had intense love for his Teacher; he not only received the truth, but he received the Master Himself. A true heart may as well be seen in its weakness as in its excellence. John's intolerance with those who cast out devils but followed not Christ, and with the Samaritans only showed his burning love for Jesus. If he gives way to ambition it is an ambition to reign with the despised Galilean. He does not want a throne unless it be at his Leader's side. Moreover, what faith there was in that request of his mother's. It reminds one of the courage of the Roman who when Rome was in the hands of the enemy purchased a house within the walls: John heroically asks for a throne at the side of One who was about to die on the cross, for he feels sure that He will triumph.
3. As an instructed person —
(1) He grew to know more and more, and doubtless our Lord loved Him because of the tenderness which was produced by grace out of his natural warmth. How tender he was to Peter after that apostle's grievous fall, for early in the morning John goes with him to the sepulchre.
(2) He was a man who under the tutorship of Christ grew to be very spiritual and deep. The words he uses in his Epistles are mostly monosyllables, but what mighty meanings they contain! The other evangelists give us Christ's miracles, and certain of His sermons, but His profound discourses, and His matchless prayer, are reserved for that disciple whom Jesus loved.
(3) Of all the disciples John was most Christlike. Jesus loved John for what He saw of Himself in him, created by His grace.
III. THE LIFE WHICH GREW OUT OF THIS EXTRAORDINARY LOVE OF CHRIST. It was a life of —
1. Intimate communion. John was wherever Christ was. When all the disciples sit at the table, even Peter is not nearest the Lord, but John leans his head upon His bosom. If you are a man greatly beloved, your fellowship will be with Christ from day to day.
2. Special instruction. He was taught things which no others knew, for they could not bear them. They shall see most who love most.
3. Amazing depth. If he did not say much he was taking it all in for future use. He was a son of thunder, because, as a thunder-cloud is charged with electricity, so had he gathered up the mysterious force of his Lord's life, love, and truth. When he did break out there was a voice like the voice of God. What a flash of lightning is the Apocalypse! What awful thunders sleep within the vials and the trumpets!
4. Special usefulness. He was entrusted with choice commissions involving high honour — the care of Christ's mother, e.g. When you love Jesus much He will trust His mother to you; I mean His Church and the poorest people in it, such as widows and orphans, and poor ministers.
5. Extraordinary heavenliness. They call him John the Divine, and he was so. His eagle wings bore him aloft into the heavenly places. The Lord's Day found him in the Spirit, waiting for Him that cometh with clouds — so waiting that He who is the Alpha and Omega hastened to reveal Himself to him. He had lovingly followed the "Lamb of God," and therefore he was made meet to see Him as the Lamb in the midst of the throne.
1. You who are young begin soon. John was converted when quite a young man. Youthful piety has the most profitable opportunity of becoming eminent piety.
2. Let us give our heart's best thoughts to spiritual things. The Lord takes no delight in broad phylacteries and superstitious observances. The Father seeketh those to worship Him who worship Him in spirit and in truth. Be spiritual, and you are among those who are likely to be men greatly beloved.
3. Cherish a holy warmth. Do not repress your emotions and freeze your souls. Some brethren are gifted with refrigerating power. When you shake hands with them, you would think that you had hold of a fish. These chilly mortals have never traversed the sunny regions of heavenly love. Pray for earnest, eager, intense affection.
4. Let your nature be tender and kind. The man who is habitually cross and frequently angry cannot walk with God. A pitiful, compassionate, unselfish, generous heart is that which our Lord approves.
5. Rise to heavenliness. Do not be miserable money-grubbers, or sordid earth-worms; do not be pleasure hunters and novelty seekers.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee?
WEB: Then Peter, turning around, saw a disciple following. This was the disciple whom Jesus sincerely loved, the one who had also leaned on Jesus' breast at the supper and asked, "Lord, who is going to betray You?"