This Sunday past I was asked to present communion in our morning service and this is what I felt the Lord wanted me to share. I’ve added a couple of little bits, things I’ve thought of or realised since Sunday morning, but everything I said is still here.
When I was a young Christian I did not like the Gospel of John very much. In his gospel John, refers to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. That always seemed a little bit arrogant to me. After all, doesn’t Jesus love everyone? Why did John think he was so special? The Greek word for love which the gospel uses is agape, which is the self-sacrificial kind of love, the kind that led Jesus to give His life on the cross. The love Jesus has for everyone, not just John.
I told a young Christian sister about my dislike for John’s gospel and she rebuked me quite sternly; she thought I was being arrogant, daring to not like any part of scripture. So I went to the Lord with my difficulty. I asked Him what I was getting wrong about John’s gospel. After all, it didn’t make sense that God would put up with an arrogant gospel or a self important gospel writer. This is the way that the Lord explained it to me.
If I was introduced to John at a party and said “John, tell me a bit about yourself.”
I believe he would say, “Jesus loves me.”
“OK, well what else?”
“There is nothing else, nothing worth mentioning.”
For John, not even his name mattered to him as much as the fact that Jesus loves him. That was the important part he wanted to share with the world, the love of Jesus. When we read his gospel, it’s there to see. He’s the one who gives us “For God so loved the world He gave his only begotten son.” (John 3:16) John also remembers Jesus’ words at the last supper; “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” (John 15: 9 & 10)
John is the one who would not put his own name in his own gospel, because, I believe, that wasn’t the point, not to him. The point was Jesus and his love for all of us, and each of us.
Nowadays we’ve heard that ‘God loves us’ so often that perhaps the words have lost some of their meaning. But John reminds us in his gospel – nothing is more important, not in his life, not in my life; not in anyone’s life. Not your car, not your house, not your career! Not your family or even your marriage is this important – not even your name is as important as this fact – God. Loves. You.
God made you so that He could love you. That’s your purpose; that’s my purpose. It’s right there in Jesus’ commands at the last supper. Love me and love the father and love each other. This is the way to be fulfilled in life – and lest anyone think this is a selfish or greedy idea, Jesus tells us exactly what He means by love – he means lay down your life (John 15: 13).
John wasn’t being arrogant when he called himself the disciple whom Jesus loved. He was remembering and reminding himself (and all of us) of his purpose, the reason for his existence. He was also remembering that it was a difficult purpose, a purpose that could only be finally fulfilled by sacrifice; even to giving up his own name, if necessary.
So as we take the elements of the communion, remember the Lord’s love for you. Not a wishy washy, half-hearted idea rattled off in memorized scriptures. No, it is a love so potent and passionate for you that it will consume your whole life, it will transform you and it will complete you.
There’s a story that’s not in the Bible, but I believe it’s true. When John returned from his exile on the island of Patmos, he was an old man. The Christians in Ephesus heard that John was arriving by boat and they went down to the docks to greet him. Here he was, an old man, with not many days left in his life, and when he arrived they grabbed him and shoved him up on something and begged him to preach to them. John looked at them all and said, “Love one another.” Then he got down and went off. Even at the end of his life, the message and the commandments did not change. That’s the ‘disciple whom Jesus loved’, the disciple who remembered His commandments, and kept them, and taught others to do the same!
Thank you Lord for the witness of your love that John has left to us. Bless us to keep your commandments and rightly teach others to do the same.
Images in post are attribution free. The featured image is Guido Reni [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.