It’s the word that defines John and his written work, from his gospel, to his epistles, and even the book of Revelation.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. – John 3:16
The Gospel of John is brimming with the message of God’s love for the world, as encapsulated in and transmitted through Jesus. The word love is used 39 times in John’s account. It’s used just 27 times in the other three gospels combined!
Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. – John 13:1
But to me, the most touching use of love in John’s story is in how he referenced himself.
After John was chosen as one of Jesus’ disciples, he rarely referred to himself by name (though he often referred to John the Baptist). Rather, he called himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”
In John 13, the disciples gathered around Jesus for their Last Supper. Peter was given a lesson in foot-washing. Judas was revealed as a traitor. As Jesus explained that the final hours before the Crucifixion were upon him, the other disciples struggled to understand what would actually come to pass.
“The disciple whom Jesus loved” alone seemed to comprehend that his dear friend, teacher, and master would not be with them for much longer.
He lay on Jesus’ breast as a child with his father, and he listened as Jesus reminded them to love.
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. – John 13:34
John found his identity not as a fisherman, or as a disciple, or even through his given name, but in the realization that the Messiah loved him. To me, he represents each of us who have believed this almost unbelievable fact: though unworthy and unwashed, we are loved by Christ.
Which disciple do you think you are most like?
What appeals to you most about John’s story?