The Disciple that Jesus loved

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JohnThe Gospel of John is as unique as the author himself. While the other three gospel accounts share similarities in their descriptions of Jesus’ earthly ministry, John’s is quite different in both focus and the details of the situations he shares. Scholars have debated as to why this is the case – but one reason may be that John was a different sort of disciple then the others. While Matthew wrote to the Jews and Luke investigated from a scientific/rational perspective, it was John who spoke of love. Known as the “Apostle of Love”, the account of Jesus’ ministry that John left us with is saturated in the love of God. Why is this?

For one, John the disciple clearly loved Jesus in a deeper way then the other disciples. Perhaps you remember that John was the first to follow Jesus (John 1:35-39) and the last to remain at the foot of the cross (John 19:26). According to NT scholar Everett Harrison, “John was more alert than the others to the greatness of Jesus and was conscious of being at the center of an epochal, transforming movement in human history”. John was part of the inner circle (with James and Peter), which afforded him several rare opportunities to witness parts of Jesus so few humans ever have to this day. For example, John was 1 of only 5 who saw Jesus raise Jarius’ daughter (Mark 5); he was 1 of 3 who witnessed the amazing events on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mark 9); and it was John who was of the select few eye witnesses to the wrenching suffering of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14). We can only imagine how these monumental events deeply impacted this young man.

One thing is obvious; the effects of his three years with Jesus dramatically changed his life forever! It was John whom Jesus quietly revealed the identity of the one who would betray Him at the Last Supper (John 13:21-30); it was John who (along with Peter) overcame their fear sufficiently to watch the mock trial of Jesus (yet without denying Him) (John 18:12-16). Furthermore, it was John to whom Jesus entrusted His mother while dying on the cross (John 19:25-27); and it was John who first “saw and believed” in the resurrection of Jesus (John 20:2-10). John held a special place in the heart of Jesus – that would be the foundation of his ministry of love years later.

In his gospel, John would pen many of our favorite and most foundational scripture verses. Verses such as:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34-35

 “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” – John 15:13

And in another letter of his, John would pen the simple, yet clarifying, statement: “God is love” – 1 John 4:16b

So we can see that John was one deeply in love with His Master. Eventually, during the reign of Emperor Domitian (A.D. 81-96) John would be banished to the island of Patmos, where he would see the vision of the Book of Revelations. Upon release, John would become the Pastor to the Church of Ephesus – where tradition says that his disciples would carry him as an old man into the worship service of the community of Christians, where he would simply urge them again and again to “love one another”.

So as you read through this beautiful love letter from John, pay attention to the many ways this love of God purposefully points out the great love Jesus displayed. This love forever changed the life of this young Jewish man, and it will forever change yours as well!

 

 

Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK

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Can We Trust Luke’s Account?

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lukeThe writings of Luke provide us with many valuable insights into not only the life/teachings of Jesus, but the state of early Christianity and how portions of the Bible came to us. Luke’s gospel can more accurately be seen as part 1 (with the Acts of the Apostles being part 2). As we read through this gospel (and a bit later through Acts) it will assist us in knowing a bit about the author, what reasons he may have had for writing, and whether he can be trusted.

So first, who was Luke? Although, as in most cases, the author of the book does not name himself, we do have some clues to go on when determining his identity. We know that he was a direct eyewitness or an active investigator into many of the things he is describing based upon his statements in Luke 1:1-4 (as well as the “we” statements in Acts 1:1-2). Although we cannot tell for certain, early Christians (such as Ireneaus) asserted that Luke was a traveling companion of Paul. This label is given more credibility by the fact that no early Christian writers coming after Ireneaus dispute this claim. (Obviously they agreed with him!). Some have guessed that Luke may be Lucius the Cyrene who is addressed by Paul in Acts 13:1 and Romans 16:1 – but that is only a guess. Another thing we know about Luke is that he was a well-respected, well-educated doctor. Not only is much of the terminology used by Luke indicative of a higher degree of literacy and medical knowledge, but Paul specifically tells us this in Col 4:14. These facts alone place some high degree of trust worthiness upon what Luke documents.

Next, to when (and to whom) was Luke writing? Most scholars place Luke’s writings at (or before) 70 A.D. Since we know that Paul was beheaded in Rome around 68 A.D. – it can be safe to assume that Luke would have put his own memories of his journey with Paul down on paper soon after. The reason for doing this is stated by Luke’s addressing both books to the “most excellent Theophilus” (Luke 1:3 and Acts 1:1). Theophilus is evidently a wealthy early Christian convert who has been hearing the circulating message of Jesus through mainly oral accounts/teachings. He enlists Luke to investigate the facts and write them do for him. Perhaps Theophilus longs to confirm what he is hearing and believes? Perhaps he wants to ensure these details are not lost with the death of the original apostles? Perhaps he understands the importance of verifying events such as these? Whatever the reasoning, we have Theophilus to thanks for enlisting the scholarly Luke to his work. Through his financial support, Luke was able to not only investigate the claims to which he could not personally verify, but also to write them down (no small matter in those days!).

The name Theophilus means “friend of God” and has led some to believe that Luke was not addressing an individual, but a group of Christian in general. The problem with this belief lies not only in the language Luke himself uses (clearly speaking to an intimate individual) but the name is a typical name used in that period of time. It was not uncommon for an author to name his financial benefactor – something done in countless non-Biblical writings of the day as well. We can have no qualms with seeing both volumes as the result of a wealthy Christian leader (“most excellent”) named Theophilus who hired a respected scholarly Christian physician named Luke to verify the facts being spread around.

So what does this mean for us as we read through this Gospel? For me, it settles the tiring dispute against the reliability of the Bible. The fact that Luke is a respected physician serves to lend credence to what he confirms as “an orderly account” that was carefully investigated by himself (Luke 1:3). It is difficult to surmise that a man of learning and logic (such as Luke) would spin fables and tales in some 1st Century conspiracy theory. Instead what we have is a well-investigated account of what happened from both a historical and factual position. Therefore, as you read about the miracles of Jesus, the events of His crucifixion, and most importantly the details of His resurrection, you can be encouraged that much work was done to verify these facts. Let it be an encouragement to you in your quest to be His disciple.

 

Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK