Jesus was clearly in anguish of soul, and he added solemnly, “I tell you plainly, one of you is going to betray me.”
At this the disciples stared at each other, completely mystified as to whom he could mean. And it happened that one of them who Jesus loved, was sitting very close to him.
And, with those words, we arrive at the wonderful conundrum of John’s famous descriptions of “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” this faceless figure that is, most of the time, thought to be John himself. Whoever he is, he’s getting it right on two accounts: 1) his awareness of Jesus’ love, and 2) his proximity to Jesus.
Especially set against Jesus’ statement of Judas’ upcoming betrayal – the very definition of stepping away from Jesus – consider the language of how close the beloved disciple was hanging to Him: “There was reclining on Jesus’ lap one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.” Picture that. such closeness that this disciple would know the scent of Jesus’ breath. Such non-separation that the very idea of betrayal would’ve seemed foreign, even confusing.
My friends, without a constant proximity, our love for Jesus becomes mere approximation, a series of best guesses. But it’s the one who lounges TONIGHT on Jesus’ lap who TOMORROW will be the only disciple who stands at the Cross and sees it all. Nearness is better than dearness; nearness to Jesus is life.
So Simon Peter nodded to this man and said, “Tell us who he means.”
He simply leaned forward on Jesus’ shoulder, and asked, “Lord, who is it?”
To make an inquiry, the disciple-whom-Jesus-loved now only has to lean his head over a few inches. He hardly has to move a muscle to be in prayer. Again, may this be us! May our normalcy be so near to Jesus that our prayers and intercessions are just an inclining of the head, a subtle shift in the spirit. After all, when your head has already been resting upon a person, it’s a different sort of conversation, isn’t it?
I think those are Jesus’ favorites.