In my small childhood church, we had many guest speakers. This was for two reasons. One was the fact that we were a new church and many guests would come. The other was that in our country, guests are always asked to bring a word from the Lord.
I remember many sermons that were preached in our church. There were sermons about repentance, godly living, obedience, the Holy Trinity, everlasting life and heaven and hell. There were some preachers whose sermons I can hear as though I heard them yesterday because of their oratorical skills. One preacher came and preached on the topic of the woman who was crippled for eighteen years. The text says: She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. (Luke 13:11) He was so dramatic in his preaching of how she could not straighten up that almost everyone in the congregation felt that they had the same predicament.
However, I must confess that some of the best sermons I heard as a child were on the love of God. Thus for the next few weeks, I will try to look at the passages that I call the love stories of the Bible.
The first one is the identification of John, the author of the gospel. In contrast with Peter who introduces himself as an under-shepherd and a servant of the Lord and Paul who introduces himself as an apostle and a slave of the Lord, John introduces himself as the disciple that Jesus loved.
This is an explosive statement. What does John mean? Did Jesus love him more than the other 11 disciples? I do not believe so. Rather, I believe that John was so captivated by the love of Jesus that being known as the disciple that Jesus loved was the best introduction.It is interesting to see how John introduces the verses about Jesus loving him.
At the Last Supper, he is seated next to Jesus. “One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved was reclining next to him. Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said: Ask him which he means.”(John 13:23)
The next time this expression is used by John is at the cross. When Jesus saw his mother there and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said: Dear woman here is your son. and to the disciple, Here is your mother. From that time on, the disciple took her into his home. (John 19:26)
In the day of resurrection Mary Magdalene is frightened because she cannot find Jesus in the tomb. The text says: So she came running to Simon and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have put him.” (John 20:2)
The last time the relationship is mentioned is when Jesus asked Peter about his love for him. It is after the relationship between Jesus and Peter is firmly established that we read: Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (John 21:20) Because he is Christ’s beloved disciple, the first century church believes that John will not taste death. John wants to correct this false information and he tells us: This is the disciple who testifies about these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. (John 21:24)
There are no other gospel writers who mention this specific relationship between Jesus and John. John is asking us to take him at his word. When he wrote the gospel there were other people who knew about this relationship. However, the second strongest confirmation of this relationship is that John is known as the apostle of love. Even in his epistles, he cannot get far away from the topic of love.
The love that connects God the Father with God the Son and the Godhead with us is expressed in 1 John 4:15-16: If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.
He writes to the church: Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (John 4:11) A few verses later he reinforces this idea: We love because he first loved us. (John 4:19)
Of all the things that John learned from Jesus, love was the most important. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, loved him and John responded wholeheartedly to this love.
The Bible tells us to speak the truth in love. Are you known as the person who loves the people that you train, the people that work with you? Do they talk about you as the person that loves them?