He was special. One of the inner three of the disciples. He was there on that mountain side and saw Jesus in His glory, along with the miracle of the appearance of Moses and Elijah. He witnessed the miracles, heard the teaching, and was trusted. One of the Sons of Thunder! At the Last Supper, it’s held that he sat to Jesus side. (Interestingly, it was Judas on the other side and in the best seat of honor, next to Jesus.)
John was known as the one whom Jesus loved. Even Peter acknowledged that. And in the gospel we know as John, he only refers to himself as the beloved. And Jesus, while hanging on the cross, shows His trust in John by bestowing the responsibility of Mary on to him.
But John was also a little but ambitious, over confident, way too self assured, a tad arrogant. He and his bro approached Jesus asking Him to make them His right and left hand peeps. Wow. Pretty bold. Actually, pretty haughty.
Luke tells of a time (Luke 9.51-56) when Jesus was headed to Jerusalem. Jesus sent messengers ahead to a town in Samaria to prepare a place for the night. However, the town did not receive them … rejected them. James and John got riled and asked if they could call down fire from heaven to consume them. No compassion. No pity. Simple cancel culture to a fiery end.
To this, he received a rebuke from his Master.
But that weekend, that time of the death of his Rabbi, changed everything. Three chapters in John deal with the upper room and last days. In that upper room, John saw something that changed him. And I imagine as he reflected back, the change deepened and continued to transform him all his life.
Jesus talked of a different kind of leadership. A leader is one that serves others. A leader is one that has compassion and mercy. John’s feet were washed by Jesus, by the one he loved. He also realized (later in fullness) that Jesus also washed the feet of the one who would sell him out, who would betray Him with a kiss – the one who was responsible for the arrest, beating, sorrows, and death. Jesus washed his feet too.
In this moment, and the many that would follow that first Easter weekend … in this moment in the upper room, John saw ‘for the first time up close, real otherworldly love, and that nobody at the table, including Judas, needed Jesus’ love more than he.’ It was in that place we have the first instance of John referred to as the Disciple whom Jesus loved.
That weekend, John began to shed his worldly ambition. He went in a Son of Thunder, and came out as the a humble, loved, child of God.
We can see why he wrote …
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God1 John 3.1
Today, we need to be reminded of that. We need to realize the amazing love, the love shown on the cross, the love of which we are so undeserving, is a humbling love. You did not earn it, deserve it, or purchase it. It is love shown freely.
Put away any haughtiness, any self-assurance, any sense of privilege to which you think you’re entitled. You are not entitled. Put it away and bask in the warmth of the heart of the one who loves you freely.
And remember, he loves those around you too.
Daniel Darling has written an intriguing book, ‘The Characters of Easter’ where he looks at the villains, heroes, cowards, and crooks who witnessed history’s biggest miracle.For the next few weeks (pre-Easter) we will look at some of these fascinating characters and maybe get a refreshed look at this weekend that leaves eternal impact.