who is the "disciple Jesus loved" in the gospel of John?

One of our other discussions at our high school Bible discussion group as we finished up the Gospel of John was about John's other #humblebrag, the title "the disciple whom Jesus loved" which he uses twice in the last chapter 21:7 and 21:20. The students enjoyed piling on John a little bit for that. But then I asked them, are their any disciples Jesus doesn't love? If not, aren't all of us who believe on Jesus and try to follow him disciples whom Jesus loves?

That is so cool.

Peter had denied knowing Jesus three times a few nights before the events of this last chapter. Perhaps his leap of faith into the lake that he may have hoped would have been a walk instead of a swim (see the last blog post) was an attempt to prove to Jesus how much he did believe him, despite his lame showing at Christ's trial. That didn't pan out. He probably felt even more ashamed when he finally got to the beach with Jesus. Jesus knew that Peter was ready to restore his relationship with him, but Jesus didn't make him do any act of penance. He is so generous. In John 21:15-17 he asks Peter the same question three times, "Do you love me?" He knew the answer, but this is what brought healing to Peter by affirming his love three times to Jesus. In response to Peter, Jesus instructed him to care for those sheep that belong to Jesus, not the woolly animals but the clueless losers that would be joining Team Jesus, including some of those who joined in condemning him to the cross.

In Acts 2 when Peter tells the Jewish crowd that they were guilty of killing God's Son who came back to life exalted by God, and they feared the consequences of their choice and asked what should they do, Peter did not take the opportunity to turn the screws on them. But he didn't .
Acts 3:36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified." 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" 38 And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself." 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation."
He told them to repent, which means to make a U-turn from the path of  destruction you are on, as you learn about it from God, and get baptized, the outward sign of the inward change. That's it. There was no sin-checklist. Since every believer receives the Holy Spirit, Peter will let the Holy Spirit does his ongoing work in us, gently restoring us on our beach encounters with Jesus.

Why is Jesus gentle with us? Why was he gentle with Peter? Because he loves Peter. And he loves us. All of us who are disciples of Jesus are disciples whom Jesus loves!

update: My friend Pastor Eric Stillman shares the same insight on his blog, I am the one Jesus loved.

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