“It’s so cool to be studying the last days of Jesus’ life right before Easter like this.” Amanda observed, thoughtfully sipping her iced mocha latte.
“I agree.” Jason said, leaning back in his usual chair by the window. “I’ve heard most of this before, but reading it now and talking about it with you guys has been eye-opening to say the least.”
There was a murmur of agreement around the group. These four college students had made a habit of meeting in a cozy corner of Milagro’s Coffeehouse every Thursday afternoon.
“I know what you mean – for instance, I never realized that John was the only disciple to witness Jesus’ crucifixion.” Zack pulled his feet off the coffee table and sat up in his chair to page through his Bible. “Do you think that’s why he was Jesus’ favorite disciple?”
“What makes you think that John was the golden boy?” Amanda was interested. “Jesus didn’t play favorites did he?”
“Right!” Kate interjected, “We studied that passage in Romans a few months back – the one that says God doesn’t show favoritism.” She grabbed her Bible and started flipping pages – she wanted to double-check her facts.
“I know, I remember that passage too. But in our readings for this week it says…” Zack cradled his Bible in one hand and found the passage with index finger extended, “Right here in John 19:26: When Jesus saw his mother and his favorite disciple with her, he said to his mother, ‘This man is now your son.’” Zack looked up triumphantly.
The others scrambled to find the passage in their own Bibles. “What version are you reading from Zack?” Amanda asked.
“CEV. Why? What does yours say?”
“I have the NIV, and it calls John ‘the disciple whom he [Jesus] loved.’” Amanda wrinkled her eyebrows thoughtfully, “Hm. I’ve heard John called that before, but I never gave it a lot of thought. Do you really think that John was Jesus’ favorite?”
Jason had retrieved his handheld computer from his backpack, and scooted closer to the group. “This is interesting.” He said, “I just used the search function on that phrase here in my e-Bible, and I’m finding that it’s only used in John’s gospel. I wonder if John only thought he was Jesus’ favorite? Nobody else bothered to point it out!” Jason chuckled.
“That’s a little big-headed isn’t it?” Kate chimed in, smiling.
“And don’t forget that incident where John’s mom asked Jesus if her sons could have places of honor in Jesus’ kingdom – maybe John was still holding out for a favored position.” Zack was having fun with this controversy.
“I dunno,” said Amanda a bit more seriously, “I remember memorizing verses from John’s other books in the Bible – remember 1 John 3:1: How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” She paused, “Does that sound like an arrogant, power-seeker? Not to me.”
“You’re right Amanda.” Kate spoke up. “I remember another one too – 1 John 4:10. I have it underlined in my Bible: This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. That sounds like John knows he is undeserving of Jesus’ love and sacrifice.”
The group sat silent for a few moments wrapped in thought before Jason spoke again. “Maybe John’s calling himself Jesus’ favorite disciple wasn’t an attempt to make himself look important. Maybe he just felt so loved by Jesus that he couldn’t think of a more fitting reference.”
“I think you’re on the right track.” Zack added with enthusiasm, “I bet John reached a point in his walk with God that he didn’t see himself as just John anymore – he may have even felt like he had no identity apart from the love of Jesus.”
“Awesome!” Kate said, “Can you imagine a faith like that?”
“Yeah, and you know what else?” Amanda beamed, “John wasn’t any more favored that I am. So that means I am the disciple Jesus loves… I am his favorite!”
Nods and smiles spread around the circle of friends as they silently raised their mugs to toast their newly realized identity.
To the casual observer, the four young people who left the coffee shop that afternoon were the same ones who’d come in ninety minutes earlier. But Amanda, Zack, Jason, and Kate knew better – they were disciples with a most favored status.
Except as noted, all references are taken from the NIV.
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