“Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) 21 When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” 22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” 23 Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” John 21.20-23
During this entire book John has been referring to himself mostly as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” What is that? Did they have a special brotherly friendship? A companionship that made them closer than most? John writes this book so maybe instead of Jesus loving him more, he is expressing how he believes Jesus feels about him. Which is cool. We should all refer to ourselves as the “the one who God loves most,” because it’s true.
He seldom refers to himself by name. Even in v. 20 he writes about himself in the third person as “the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, ‘Lord, who is going to betray you?’ Some might perceive this as egotistical, self-centered or a “look what I did!” mentality. I think he’s just stating truth of what happened and reminiscing about events from the past. He’s probably also helping the reader identify himself without saying his name, which could be a sign of humility.
It’s hard to know John’s motives exactly without knowing him personally. We can only speculate about why he wrote the way he did. He does have cause to be confident (and perhaps a little prideful) in his relationship with Jesus doesn’t he? In this passage Peter is talking to Jesus and John is following. Jesus has just mentioned the horrific way Peter will die and so Peter turns around and says, “What about him?” Jesus says, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” (Peter took this as John is going to live forever but that’s not what Jesus said.)
John was also given the responsibility of taking care of Mary, the mother of Jesus, when Christ was upon the cross. Legend has it that they left together to Asia Minor (the modern region of Turkey and the Island of Patmos which John was given the book of Revelation.) Side note – I visited a Catholic shrine located on Mt. Koressos in the vicinity of Ephesus, Turkey when I was there a few years ago. This is said to be the final residence of Mary.
It’s not problematic to say Jesus and John were close. He was not only one of the twelve but one of the inner circle of three. He is the only one of the original disciples to write a Gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus. He had an insiders view into Jesus’ story, passion and resurrection.
John is a great example of the kind of relationship God wants to develop with each of us. None of us can replicate John, but each of us can grow close to Jesus who like the Father, wants to know us deeply. They poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of God the Father and God the Son) to inhabit all believers. God wants to dwell with humankind. He desires an intimate, loving and personal relationship with all people. Like John, we can strive to know the Lord well. Leaning into his love and obeying his commands.
What is preventing you from seeking Jesus today? Come to him, lay yourself at his feet, call upon his name. Allow him to live in you, take control of your heart, and seal your soul with the gift of the Holy Spirit by his grace and for his glory.
“O Lord God, you are good. When I am in the pit of despair, you rescue me. You make my days count. You know the hairs of my head and you fill my lungs with your breath. Come now, Holy Spirit and bring your presence close. Help me know the power of your love and the significance of this life today. I pray that I might be your hands and feet, the disciple whom you love, and the bringer of good news. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen