The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved–From Aspiring to Appropriating Closeness with God

Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother (Mark 3:35)

There are some ties that are even closer than those of kinship. From among those early followers who had evidenced their faith in Him, Jesus chose twelve to walk with him, learn from Him, and imbibe His spirit.

Within the twelve, there emerged a circle of three with whom Jesus became especially close: Peter, and the brothers John and James. They were closer to Him than any of the others, and on four occasions, Jesus admitted them to experiences from which they learned precious lessons: at the raising of Jairus’ daughter (Luke 8:51), on the mount of transfiguration (Matt. 17:1), on the Mount of Olives (Mark 13:3), and in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:37).

Could any of the twelve have been among that favored group? Or were the three specially selected by the Lord?

With Him there is no caprice or favoritism. Their relationship with Him was the result of their own choice, conscious or unconscious. The deepening intimacy of the three with Jesus was the result of the depth of their response to His love and training (which all disciples equally received).

What excluded some disciples from the inner circle? If perfection were the criterion, then Peter the denier and James and John the place-seekers would have been excluded. If it were temperament, then surely the volatile Peter, and James and John the fire-eaters would not have found entrance. And yet, they were included.

And then, why did John have the primacy in the group? Because he alone appropriated the place of privilege that was available to all. It was love that drew John into a deeper closeness with Jesus than the other apostles. Jesus loved them all, but John alone appropriated the title “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” If Jesus loved John more, it was because John loved Him more. Mutual love and confidence are the key here.

It would seem that admission to the inner circle of deepening intimacy with God is the outcome of deep desire. Only those who count such intimacy a prize worth sacrificing anything else for are likely to attain it. If other intimacies are more desirable to us, we will not gain entry to that circle.

The place on Jesus’ breast is still vacant, and open to any who are willing to pay the price of deepening intimacy. We are now, and we will be in the future, only as close and intimate with God as we really choose to be[1].

(The above are all adapted passages from J. Oswald Sanders)

* * *

There are some things I can never ever aspire to, and I’ll surely never become: Size 6? Nope. World-famous violinist? Ha! NO. I can live with that. But there is one thing that I can attain, even if I began working at it at a late age: Closeness with God.

I thought that being “the Friend of God”, the “beloved” of Jesus, the one after his own heart was something I could never ever be. I thought that only special people were chosen. I was wrong. I praise the Lord that he freed me from the misconceptions I had, and my prayer is that I may every day choose Him above anything else and sacrifice with joy whatever is necessary to appropriate the place on Jesus’ breast.

[1] Sanders, J. Oswald. Enjoying Intimacy with God. (Grand Rapids: Discovery House, 1980), p. 12

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