The author of the fourth Gospel is never named, but early theologians attribute John the Evangelist as the originator. Its cadence is different from the other three Gospels and contains rich stories of healing that are not included in other accounts.
I’ve studied the Gospel of John, his letters and Revelation many times, and I’ve been bothered by John’s reference to himself as the “disciple whom Jesus loved.” We see this reference in many scenes where he is loyal to Jesus (John 18:15-18, John 19:26-27), he is at the empty tomb (John 20:3-8), he recognizes the risen Jesus from afar while the others do not (John 21:7), and he leans back on the chest of Jesus at the Last Supper in John 13:25. It appears that John is the “chosen one” but not a particularly humble man.
I had interpreted this phrase, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” to mean that the other disciples were not loved, or not loved as much. But was that really what John was saying?
It is only if we believe that love is limited that the interpretation holds true. In our world, love seems to be a zero sum game where my love is exhausted on select individuals or causes and not extended to humanity at large. When I am stingy with my love, I believe that everyone else acts the same way.
What if John’s reference to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved”, is not about a competition for Jesus’ love, but instead is John’s recognition that he, John, is loved by Jesus. Really loved. Not wondering if Jesus likes someone else better, or that others have earned “more” of God’s love.
Jesus loved the beloved disciple because he loves us all equally. It is this recognition that we are beloved that makes us whole so that we can in turn go out and love others. Not selectively love when we feel like it, or to love only certain people or certain causes, but instead to love all.
We are all the disciples whom Jesus loves.