I have to get something off my chest. All this walking with John through the various chapters, all the legalese speak, trying different ways to see Jesus in the language. All the debating with the temple guys, the legal guys, all of that stuff … all the while something rankled. It’s a petty kind of detail. I know I should rise above it … yet my human frailty is just that. Frail. And – dash it all – I wouldn’t be human if it didn’t snap and flap occasionally.
All through John it is the “the disciple whom Jesus loved” phrase. That phrase really rankles. Like he only loved you? Like he loved you better? That kind of rankle. Because I sit with my bible and my lord. I get the impression he is fond of me. Plays me a little. Joshes with me. Taps me on the shoulder. Points something out I never saw. Walks around the room. Lounges as only God can lounge. He even puts on his batman suits and revs up the batmobile.
Yet I never sit and write … “Jesus looked fondly at the chap he loved and put on his batman suit …” Never written that. I hope never to write that. But John? The disciple he loved this, and the disciple he loved that … on and on. Like he was the only one. That has been rankling my human frailty. Just a tad.
So I came to today’s passage and here we go again – the disciple whom he loved.
Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home. After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfil the scripture), ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John18
And something odd happened. A combination of odd things really. Something which has never happened before.
The first was three words. A question. “Where is it?” The second was a sudden overwhelming sadness. Empty confused sadness. The third was more familiar. It was The Lord connecting the first two.
The first? There are so many words missing. Where is all the pain and suffering and detail and nails and thorns and blood and scourging and splintered wood? It is all missing. Nada. Zilch. Nothing.
The second? As I looked and looked again … a real sadness swept over me. A real emptiness. Sitting here I felt the pain of sadness … emptiness … confusion …
And The Lord stepped in. Connected the two. And I knew. I suddenly knew why this “disciple whom Jesus loved” missed out so many words.
It hurts too much.
John’s love was that personal it hurt too much to write all the details. To see all that pain staring back as black marks on a page. The disciple whom Jesus loved? It was really the other way around. The “disciple who loved Jesus” is how it should read. That “disciple whom Jesus loved” hurt too much to use all the words. Not about this. Not about the death we have come to know so well. The death we will all “celebrate” this “Good Friday.”
John hurt too much.
And I read anew this phrase. The one that no longer rankles. This disciple whom Jesus loved. He really wanted to write this disciple Who So So So So So So,So So Loved Jesus. And Jesus so so so so so so so loved him back. And it was so so so so so strong and mushy and overpowering – words don’t do it. Words don’t do this love justice.
John the wordsmith. This … in the beginning was the word and the word was … John.
This Warrior of Words had a heart so big and full with love – he could not write the words of others. Those words we read and read again. The detail of frail flesh being impaled and crushed and torn and raw and bare. John could not bear to see those words come from his own pen.
Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus … Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
This is a not a gospel. Not a book. Not a bunch of chapters and verses. This is a love story.
And I have been reading a love story I never knew was. Because I have been reading black marks on a page. Struggling with language style. Struggling to see my lord. And by struggling I missed it. Missed the Love within. Infused on every page. The disciple whom Jesus loved … loved Jesus more than he could tell us. Not in words. John can only tell us how much he loved Jesus … by not using words.
And tonight in my heart there is Love. Again. As always. Always Love. And to this dearest dearest disciple whom Jesus loved … Whom I now love … I have just two words.