4th Character in our Lenten Journey

Interestingly, John is never named in the Gospel that has traditionally been attributed to him. The Gospel of John mentions the two sons of Zebedee only once, in the last chapter, where they were two of the seven disciples who met the risen Lord by the Sea of Galilee. Even there, however, they are not mentioned by name. Instead, tradition has identified John as being the anonymous “disciple whom Jesus loved” who was present at the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, the empty tomb, and in Jesus’s final Sea of Galilee appearance.

In every other context where this disciple remains unnamed, other disciples are carefully identified by name.  The same is true of Jesus’ mother in the Gospel according to John.  They seem to share an invisible bond of anonymity which reflects the profound journey of discipleship, especially the process of discernment.

He may also have been the “other disciple” who, along with Andrew, had been a follower of John the Baptist and heard him testify that Jesus was the Lamb of God (see John 1:35–40), and it is likely that he was the disciple who accompanied Peter after Jesus’s arrest and helped Peter gain access to the court of the high priest (see John 18:15–16).

In the Gospel of John, the beloved disciple emerges as a close, personal friend of the Lord. Along with Martha, Lazarus, and Mary, John is described explicitly in this Gospel as one whom Jesus loved (see John 11:3,5). His position at the table during the Last Supper reflected not only honour but also closeness.

Beyond his friendship with the Saviour, other passages reveal him as a powerful witness of the most important events of Jesus’s mission: he stood at the foot of the cross to witness the Lord’s death as a sacrifice for sin.  The fact that he was standing together with the mother of Jesus at the cross indicates a profound bond between the two, which is ratified when Jesus addresses them.  They are called by Jesus to contemplate each other in the path of discipleship.  He also ran to the tomb after the Resurrection to confirm that it was empty, and saw the resurrected Saviour.

Twice the Gospel of John mentions that it is based upon the eyewitness of the beloved disciple and emphasizes that his witness is true.

Scholars still debate the identity of the beloved disciple.  If he were the Apostle John, then he was the source of the material in the Gospel, if not its original author.  Why then did he remain unnamed, never being directly identified as the Apostle John? The answer might partly be because he intended his own experiences to be types for believers and disciples in every age. By remaining anonymous, he could allow us to project ourselves into his experiences, learning how to love and be loved by the Lord and then gaining our own witnesses, which we are then called upon to share with others.

This week you can also pray the Via Crucis together as a family. Follow the steps here.

St John the Evangelist is known to be one of the apostles of Jesus. Names in Hebrew all have a meaning and the name John means that God is gracious.

In the life of the apostle John we see that God has been gracious in his extraordinary self-giving love to all humanity. John uses the expression “the beloved disciple” to refer to himself. This expression led to many artists to paint John always very close to Jesus attentive to what Jesus is saying.

In many paintings like that of the last supper and many icons John has his head lying on the heart of Jesus. This was done to show that John hears the way Jesus loves the world. In fact, the way he writes in his gospel shows that he has an intimate knowledge of the heart filled with love of Jesus.

Many artists painted John very close to Jesus, showing him attentive to what Jesus is saying

How wonderful it is to be called a beloved disciple and to know Jesus intimately. May we too try to be close to the heart of Jesus and try to do what he asks from us, as St John did. This week we can try to spend time with Jesus in prayer to be close to his heart and pray that we learn to love others as he loves us.  

While drawing the picture of John the Evangelist, we think of our catechists, teachers and leaders in the church: we pray that they too, like John the Evangelist, keep following Jesus.

This is the fourth figure from Jesus’ Passion that we are discussing during this Lent. Visit the site again next week to learn about other figures, and by the end of Lent you would have the entire scene of Jesus’ crucifixion!

Lent with Father John

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