Jesus taught on the love of God in a way that astounded those who heard Him.
The Son brought the Father to earth in human form. “If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:7 NIV)
He came as the Word made flesh and thwarted manmade traditions without breaking the Law of Moses. His parables and miracles exposed to Israel that their sin was the barrier between Jehovah and man. It wasn’t the Almighty who was withholding anything, it was man’s rebellion.
The love message was received by some and rejected by others. The Jewish leaders were so hard-hearted all they cared about was their power. And the Messiah they refused to recognize was a threat to that power. Concern for the ordinary man was not on the Sanhedrin’s agenda.
People flocked to the new Rabbi who appeared on the scene to hear Him because He taught as one who had authority, but also expressed compassion.
He chose His twelve disciples, and they were privileged to hear many of His teachings in private. And despite this knowledge, we read about one apostle who seemed to get it more than the others did. John referred to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved on more than one occasion.
And Mary of Bethany is depicted in the gospels as one who put more importance on Christ’s presence than on her daily chores.
Jesus loved them all, but did these two followers of the Lord have the revelation of His tenderness more than others did?
John Is Shown at Different Times in Close Proximity to the Lamb of God
John’s humility is evident in referring to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved. He doesn’t name himself, but because he is the author of the gospel of John, we know he is speaking of himself (John 21:24).
John was sitting closest to the Master during the Passover meal before the crucifixion.
“One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him.” (John 13:23)
We don’t know how their positions were decided, but John seated himself closest to his Lord to be near the one who loved him.
As one of the disciples, John spent as much time with the Savior as the others did, yet his affection for the Master is displayed in the gospels more than the other disciples’ portrayal was.
John was part of the three whom Christ often took aside with Him on special occasions such as at the Transfiguration and at the raising of Jairus’ daughter.
John Was the Only Disciple Who Stayed with Jesus after Gethsemane
At first, they all fled, but John followed the crowd that arrested Jesus to the high priest’s house (John 18:15). Peter was there also, but he stayed outside and when the pressure was on, denied Christ (John 18:17).
John Was the Only Disciple at the Cross
The others all hid, but John was at the cross comforting the mother of the Son of Man.
We know from Matthew 13:55-56 that Mary and Joseph had other children. As Joseph was not mentioned any further after Jesus was twelve years old, it is presumed that Joseph had died. Otherwise, Mary’s Son would not be giving her care to another.
“When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, ‘Woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.” (John 19:26-27)
Why would he endow this responsibility to John and not the next oldest son? It could be that up until this time, his brothers did not believe in Him. The opinion of some scholars is that John’s mother was Mary’s sister, making John a relative. This would enforce the tradition of the caretaker’s position as one of the family in the place of another brother.
Christ knew of John’s faithfulness and He knew Mary would be cared for by this disciple.
John Was the First to Recognize the Risen Lord on the Shore
After the crucifixion and resurrection, they all went fishing because they didn’t know what else to do. Their Redeemer was on the shore and called out to them. The Lord had already appeared to them in His resurrected state, but John was the first one to recognize Him from the boat (John 21:7). Maybe it was because he had focused on Jesus so much while the Savior was with them.
After breakfast, the risen Christ had the famous conversation with Peter where He restored the fallen follower from the denial. John followed Jesus and Peter as they walked along the beach. John still wanted to be close to the one He knew cherished him so much.
John’s revelation of the love of Christ is portrayed in his writings in the book of 1 John.
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” (1 John 3:1)
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Mary Was Part of a Family Who Cared for Jesus’ Physical Needs
Jesus often stayed in the home of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. They welcomed their Master and the disciples. This family cared for these men’s needs by feeding them and giving the weary group a place to rest.
On one occasion, Martha wanted everything to be perfect. She flitted around the kitchen preparing a meal and when she noticed she had no help, she probably started banging pottery to get Mary’s attention.
When subtle hints didn’t work, she blatantly asked the Teacher to tell Mary to help. Jesus’ rebuke, though spoken in affection, showed Martha what was more important.
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’” (Luke 10:41-42)
Mary was drawn to her Messiah in a way that superseded anything else she needed to do. His words were so important to her life she didn’t want to miss anything.
Mary Gave a Costly Gift in Response to Jesus’ Love for Her
Because Mary absorbed the Savior’s words, she knew how much He loved her. Her expression for Him was evident in the gift she poured out upon the Savior’s feet while He sat at supper on another visit to the trio’s house.
“Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” (John 12:3)
When Judas reprimanded the gift as a waste, the Lord rebuked His future betrayer and instead acknowledged what Mary did as anointing Him for burial.
When Jesus visited Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, He was in the presence of all three of them. Yet Mary’s actions reveal she is the one who comprehended His revelation of love more than the others.
All the Disciples Knew Jesus Loved Them
But they all didn’t appear to have the knowledge of the depth of that devotion until after Pentecost.
Peter transformed into the leader of the early church (Acts 2:14). His boldness was used to preach the gospel of forgiveness, repentance, and salvation instead of powered in vengeance by cutting off an ear.
All except John (and tradition tells us they tried to boil him in oil) were martyred for their faith in Christ. Without knowing Christ’s heart for them, the apostles could not have given their lives for the sake of the gospel.
Mary was commended for her fragrant offering. It was her expression of delight back to her Master for the compassion shown to her and her family. John was given the revelation of Christ on the island of Patmos.
The Son loved all His followers. But those who were willing to listen to Him and put His words into practice are the ones who knew that love. Mary and John are both related in the gospels as staying close to the Lord to hear His words.
We Learn by Staying Close Too
John’s revelation of Christ’s love displays how he received that passion. He listened, learned, and lived what the Son taught. His soul absorbed the fervor of those words.
The twelve-year-old Son of God knew He needed to be taught about His Father (Luke 2:49). Mary and Joseph found Him in the temple learning from scholars about the Torah.
If the Son of God shrouded in a body as the Son of Man needed to listen and learn, how much more do we need to do the same thing? He laid down His life for all of us (John 3:16), but for us to gain spiritual knowledge of Him, we need to sit at the Lord’s feet and learn. We can know we are a disciple whom Jesus loves too.
“To know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:19)
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Barbara Latta is a true southerner and is transplanted from Arkansas to Georgia. She writes a monthly column in her local newspaper and contributes to devotional websites, online magazines, and has stories in several anthologies. She is the author of God’s Maps, Stories of Inspiration, and Direction for Motorcycle Riders. She enjoys traveling with her Harley-riding prince on his motorcycle taking in the creativity of nature. Drinking coffee on the patio while the sun comes up is her favorite time of day. Barbara shares about walking in grace and thriving in hope on her blog, Navigating Life’s Curves, at www.barbaralatta.blogspot.com. She cherishes her role in life as a wife, a mom to two grown sons, and Mimi to one granddaughter.