One of the most common needs in the world is to be loved. We can see a multitude of ways people act, dress, speak, etc. to try to get attention, gain a following, or be respected, in other words: be loved. As Christians, we realize this need as well. Even among our number there is often behavior exhibited that shows the aspiration to be loved. But when the world is unkind to us, and our friends do not seem to be as loyal as we thought, when at times we feel unloved, we can always go back to the simple yet profound truth of that famous song we learned as children: “Jesus loves me, this I know for the Bible tells me so….”
John the son of Zebedee wanted a place of prominence. He, like us, wanted to be respected and placed in a position of honor. His mother, Salome, wanting this as well for her sons, asked Jesus that her boys, James and John, sit on His right and left when He came into His kingdom (Matthew 20:20-21; Mark 10:35-37; cf. Matthew 4:21). Jesus showed that she didn’t know what she was asking, and when the other disciples heard of it they were angered and envious of the move to become prominent (Matthew 20:22-24; Mark 10:41).
Christ changed James and John. These brothers, whom Jesus named the “sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17), on one occasion recommended that Jesus send fire down from heaven to consume the disrespectful Samaritans (Luke 9:52-56). When we read John’s inspired writings that make up 5 books of the New Testament, he is known as the apostle of love because love for God and one another is so prominent in his books. In writing his gospel account, instead of trying to place himself in a prominent position, he never even names himself, but rather uses the “other disciple” (John 18:16; 20:2-8) or simply “the disciple” or “that disciple” (John 19:27). His mother, Salome, is probably the one mentioned in relation to Jesus as “his mother’s sister” (John 19:25; cf. Matthew 27:56). Instead of a family movement to become prominent as was displayed when Christ was on earth, when Christ sat on His throne as king, this family of Zebedee chose to be unnamed. John’s habit is not to name himself nor any of his family members in his gospel account.
His most exalted reference to himself is “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 19:26; 20:2; 21:7; 21:20). John learned from Jesus’ death that it was enough for him to be loved by Jesus. He did not need fame or a following. If Jesus loved him, that was all that mattered. I hope and pray that you and I can learn the lessons that “the disciple whom Jesus loved” learned. Christ loved us enough to die for us even we were sinners (Romans 5:8). We too can turn from being vengeful to being loving, from seeking prominence to being satisfied by serving humbly in anonymity. Because Jesus loves us, and that’s all that matters.