Rethink:Who was the disciple whom Jesus Loved? Part I

 

Note, this is a personalized abridgement of David B Curtis sermon. I’ve taken the whole thing and reshuffled it a bit, adding my own thoughts, removing some of his words, quoting him verbatim at length, and and in short essentially bastardizing what is a brilliant sermon and observation to suit my blog better. It is an amalgamation of both our minds [mostly his] using his sermon as the template and as the source material and my own intellectual endeavours to fill in the rest  [And yes, I have contacted David Curtis and he has given me his blessing and permission to do this]  To get a better, fuller and clearer picture that what you will read here, you can see the original which was preached on November 30, 2008, and which the full transcript can be found here; [http://www.bereanbiblechurch.org/transcripts/john/4th_Gospel.pdf]” 

I’ve historically attributed two things which will tie together in these next two posts. One, that the disciple “whom jesus loved” was John, and that that very same John wrote the Gospel of John. I’ve recently been challenged with both of those traditions and presuppositions. In light of that  I decided that I would make a case to suggest that neither are true.

Its probably worth mentioning up front that the historical idea that John was the disciple whom Jesus loved is not found in the Bible nor are we told in the scriptures that John was the one who wrote the Gospel of John. Strictly speaking the Gospel of John, like all the Gospels, are anonymous. Instead we find information regarding the authorship in the early Church fathers and traditions, primarily via Eusebius, Papias and a few others. I find it best to leave that alone for now and concentrate strictly on the biblical evidence, as there will be time enough to discuss the questions of tradition later on. At this point its probably a good idea to re-read the quote from J.I Packer that I posted yesterday, before we continue.

So putting aside tradition for now, we are told who wrote this Gospel in the book itself.

Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; the one who also had leaned back on His breast at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” [John 21:20]

Here the writer mentions “the disciple whom Jesus loved” and then states that this is the disciple that wrote this letter:

This is the disciple who bears witness of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his witness is true.    [John 21:24]

So we know who wrote this Gospel- it was “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. Now all we have to do is to figure out who that was. My whole life I have heard that John was the one whom Jesus loved, being part of his inner core with James and Peter.  But here’s the thing; nowhere does the Bible say that John was the “disciple whom Jesus loved”. We are not told that anywhere in the scriptures. Instead we see that only one person is explicitly named in the Bible as being “loved” by Jesus.

Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. And it was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.    [John 11:1-2]

Here for the first time we are introduced to Lazarus. Now notice carefully what we are told about him:

The sisters therefore sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.”    [John 11:3]

Lazarus’ sisters refer to him as a man who Jesus loved. That tells us something very important about Lazarus. But while that could simply be his sisters’ opinion, even more revealing is what the Spirit tells us through the inspired text

Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.    [John 11:5]

Please notice carefully what this says, “Jesus loved…Lazarus.” So Lazarus’ sisters said Jesus loved him, the text says Jesus loved Lazarus and notice that even the Jews said that Jesus loved Lazarus:

And so the Jews were saying, “Behold how He loved him!”    [John 11:36]

We are also told that Lazarus was Jesus’ friend, and knowing that Jesus had great affection for his friends, it seems to me that the Spirit of God is going to great lengths in John 11 to make it known that Jesus loved Lazarus. And recall, while we are told that Jesus has great love for his people, Lazarus is the only man named in the Bible that is specifically identified as being “loved” by Jesus.

Because of this love it should be obvious that Jesus and Lazarus have known each other for a while and must have spent some time together building and developing their friendship.  We don’t know when exactly this was, possibly during their childhood or even later in life, but the first we hear of Lazarus is in John 11. Or is it? That is the first time we hear of him by name anyway, but I think it is arguable that we see Lazarus very early in this Gospel, and possibly that he was a disciple of John the Baptists:

Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked upon Jesus as He walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.    [John 1:35- 37]

Here we have two of John’s disciples leaving him to follow Jesus. Who are these two?

One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.    [John 1:40]

Here we see that one of the disciples was Andrew. The other one is never named.  This would be consistent with the author’s practice of not naming himself! It seems safe to assume that when the Writer makes any reference to another, unnamed disciple, he has in mind this one particular disciple whom Jesus loved. It is hard to believe that the writer has a number of different disciples that he is committed to keeping anonymous. Returning back to the resurrection scene;

And when He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.” He who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings; and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”   [John 11:43-44]

Here we see the good friend of Jesus, the one he loved being raised from the dead. In terms of his miracles up to this point, this was quite spectacular, especially for Lazarus. Seeing as how they were good friends before he died, how much more would their friendship be cemented and their affection for each other deepen in light of this? Do you think that this resurrection had a profound life changing effect on Lazarus? I can’t help but think it must have. But being raised from the dead made Lazarus a celebrity of sorts which everyone wanted to see.

 The great multitude therefore of the Jews learned that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He raised from the dead. [John 12:9]

This large crowd is not gathering just because of Jesus, they also wanted to see Lazarus.  Lazarus was causing such a stir that the Jewish leadership wanted him dead and wished to have him executed, a detail I hadn’t considered before or thought about when I considered what happened to him after his resurrection.

But the chief priests took counsel that they might put Lazarus to death also; because on account of him many of the Jews were going away, and were believing in Jesus. [John 12:10-11]

And we learn something interesting here. The crowd was there because of Lazarus:

And so the multitude who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of the tomb, and raised him from the dead, were bearing Him witness. For this cause also the multitude went and met Him, because they heard that He had performed this sign. [John 12:17-18]

Lazarus had become a big celebrity; everyone was talking about him and wanted to see him. Some even wanted to kill him. It makes sense that this is reason that the author of the Fourth Gospel wanted to remain anonymous and why instead of naming himself and putting himself out there, he calls himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved”, “the beloved disciple” and the “other disciple”. In fact, we see the disciple whom Jesus loved, or “the beloved disciple” is mentioned five time in the Book of John, and then we don’t hear a single mention of him in any other of the Gospels or anywhere else in the New Testament.

And this is something that strikes me as particularily significant. John 12 is the last time we hear of Lazarus. While he is being raised up and spoken about as to become a major character in the continuing narrative, after chapter 12 this man disappears from Scripture. This good friend of Jesus, this man who Jesus loved and raised from the dead suddenly disappears.

Notice where we see him last:

Jesus, therefore, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they made Him a supper there, and Martha was serving; but Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him. [John 12:1-2]

The last time we see Lazarus he is reclining at a table with Jesus. Then he disappears from the pages of Scripture. What is really interesting is right after Lazarus disappears someone else appears that we have never heard of before:

There was reclining on Jesus’ breast one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.   [John 13:23]

The last time we see Lazarus he is reclining at a table with Jesus and the first time we see the “disciple whom Jesus loved” he is reclining at a table with Jesus. The only man named in the Bible as being “loved” by Jesus abruptly vanishes from this Gospel and then the only disciple singled out as being “loved” by Jesus abruptly appears in this same Gospel. It is my contention that this “disciple whom Jesus loved” is Lazarus. This seems so clear from the text but we miss this because the title of this Gospel is, “The Gospel According to John” so we assume that John is the disciple whom Jesus loved. But the inspired text tells us that “Jesus loved Lazarus”.

We also get to see another glimpse of the great affinity that Jesus had for this disciple. We see that after Jesus makes a comment about his betrayal that Peter, one of his inner core, does not ask Jesus directly who he is speaking of but rather appeals to the disciple whom Jesus loved and uses him as an intermediary to clarify what Jesus meant. This both disqualified Peter from being the one whom Jesus loved and reiterates the deep sense of intimacy, friendship and love shared by these two men must have. If anyone is going to know, its going to be the one Jesus loved.

When Jesus had said this, He became troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me.” The disciples began looking at one another, at a loss to know of which one He was speaking. There was reclining on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. So Simon Peter gestured to him, and said to him, “Tell us who it is of whom He is speaking.” He, leaning back thus on Jesus’ bosom, said to Him, “Lord, who is it?” [John 13;21-25]

Now some will argue that only the 12 were at the last supper and Lazarus was not one of the 12. But where did the idea come from that only Jesus and the twelve were at the Last Supper? Most likely from DaVinci and his paintings and not the Scripture. The Scriptures never tell us that Jesus and “the twelve” were alone at that last Passover. In terms of the last supper, in Mark 14:13 Jesus sends two of his disciples off to find a venue, and then later arrives with the twelve apostles. There is no suggestion that the two who went ahead were from the twelve, and so they, at least, would probably have joined him for the supper in addition to the apostles.

As a matter of fact they were probably very rarely alone. Acts 1, tells about the time when the eleven remaining Apostles named a replacement for Judas. They began by selecting two men. But notice what is said about the group from which these two came

“It is therefore necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us–beginning with the baptism of John, until the day that He was taken up from us‑‑ one of these should become a witness with us of His resurrection.” [Acts 1:21-22]

This text teaches us that Jesus had many loyal disciples who accompanied him throughout His time here on earth. Is it hard to believe that some of them would have been at the Last Supper? Something Jesus says also indicated the presence of others at the Last Supper. Jesus tells them that one of them will betray Him and when they ask who He replies:

And He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who dips with Me in the bowl.  [Mark 14:20]

The twelve” is a specific designation to refer to the twelve Apostles:

And when day came, He called His disciples to Him; and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles:    [Luke 6:13]

The term “disciple” is a broad term that refers to any follower of Jesus. If Jesus and “the twelve” were the only ones at that last Passover, then why would Jesus need to say “one of the twelve”?  If “the twelve” were the only ones present, wouldn’t Jesus have said, “One of you”? And given that, doesn’t this further indicate that the “disciple whom Jesus loved” was not one of the twelve, as a delineation of sorts is drawn between the twelve and this man who leaned on Jesus?

Food for thought. I’ll be posting the conclusion to this very soon.

9 thoughts on “Rethink:Who was the disciple whom Jesus Loved? Part I

  1. I can go with you that John did not write the gospel of John, but I’m not sure it’s reasonable to conclude that it was written by Lazarus. It seems that if Lazarus did write it, he probably would have used the first person to make a stronger case for the miracle that had taken place in his life. Why wouldn’t he say “Oh, yeah, Jesus raised ME” not “Jesus raised some dude from the dead”. Doesn’t seem like great writing to me.

    Not to mention… I just really think you’re stretching the text wayyyyyyyyyyyy too far to say that Lazarus is the disciple whom Jesus loved. Seems too far-fetched to me, and i’m all about questioning this type of thing.

    In this case, I think I actually side with tradition here. I think the disciple John was the one who wrote the gospel of John. There is a pretty strong case for it.

  2. And that’s not even taking into consideration that Chapter 21 probably was not original to the Gospel. So it would stand to reason that it probably did not have the same author.

  3. So it’s safe for me to assume that someone posed the question to you. You probably laughed it off at first. Then they pointed out a few details, like the ones in your article, and it made you wonder.

    You might have read the Gospel straight through looking for more clues. (Did you find any? I bet you did.) The first time I became acquainted with the idea I read it twice in one day, AND the Revelation.

    On a side note, do you think the Revelation was written by the same author as the Gospel? Its credited to a John, but the Apostle John Son of Zebedee? Seems fairly unlikely to me…

    A good point you might have overlooked (but probably not), whoever wrote the Fourth Gospel is generally thought to have remained intentionally anonymous. The casual reader will note that John is one of the disciples not mentioned by name. But isn’t he?

    Read closely, John 21:2, a list of disciples whom Jesus appeared to as a group: Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples. In v7 we see that one of the disciples is the one who Jesus loved. If anonymity is his game, we can rule out Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James and John as candidates. It only makes sense that in this story, like every other in the Gospel, the disciple Jesus loved is one of the two unnamed. (Maybe the other was Andrew, a la 1:40. Seems poetic anyway.)

  4. TheDiscipleWhomJesusLoved.com has a free eBook and printable copies of a presentation of the biblical evidence that exposes the problems that occur when we set aside the authority of God’s word and put confidence in men and the non-Bible sources they like to point us to.

    The fifth edition of the book is now out and it contains additional evidence and arguments that were not in the earlier edition that David Curtis had used. Those who are willing to receive biblical correction may find it worth their time and even those who are familiar with this topic may find it highlights facts in evidence which they have overlooked.

    The web site also has a Q & A page that takes on a lot of issues related to this topic that you might enjoy, as you will no doubt encounter some of them when you encounter those who are determined to drink the Kool-Aid and stick with tradition rather than go with truth.

    Also http://BelovedDiscipleBibleStudy.com/mp3/Better-Bible-Study.wma is a link to the audio message, A Better Bible Study Method. which helps to put the whole issue of the beloved disciple in the right context.

    Hope it helps.

  5. You broke this down, as I read the Holy Spirit lead me to see the truth about, what I once was wondering myself. God Bless You. He used you to show me the truth. Thank You & Bless You😊

  6. Cannot be Lazarus because he’s nominated first and there’s no logic in giving his name and then talking about him as someone anonymous. That’s true, they call them the one Jesus loves but it says Jesus loved Martha and Mary too. If we follow this logic so Jesus had several beloved disciples…

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