I have made the statement that God loves me the best. I am His favorite. But, then I add that we are all tied for first. Cute saying, but is it the truth? Does God love us all equally? Scripture would say yes…and no. Let’s take a look.
The Bible says God loves each of us the same. He loves the Christian, just like He loves the Jew, the same as He loves the Muslim and the atheist. He doesn’t want to kill the Muslim (despite what many Christians believe); He wants to save him. Just like He wants to save the atheist, and save the Jew, and all gentiles. Romans 5: 8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”. We all were sinners and Jesus died for all of us. One sacrifice made for all mankind.
But, then I turn to the gospel of John and I see something else. John, throughout his writings, calls himself the disciple that Jesus loves. That’s interesting. Did Jesus love John more than everyone else? That is what John believed. John was a young guy when he walked with Jesus, probably a decade younger than the other disciples. We know little about his childhood. We do know that when Jesus came into His ministry, John was already pursuing ministry by being a disciple of John the Baptist. John didn’t seem to have a lot of trauma or major baggage from his childhood. We see him laying his head on the breast of Jesus while they are lounging around the table. That is pretty intimate stuff between two grown men. None of the other guys did that. And, most still don’t. Jesus did not seem to mind that John was that intimate or close. We call John, the beloved because he regularly refers to himself as “the disciple that Jesus loved”. Interestingly enough, none of the other disciples ever dispute that.
Now lets look at Peter. We give Peter a hard time because he is the one that takes big risks and therefore fails the most often. He denied Jesus three times on the night of His betrayal. But, we forget that he was the only one who placed himself in harm’s way and hung around when Jesus was arrested. After Jesus’ resurrection, he meets some of the disciples out by the sea. They have gone back to fishing. John is the only one that recognizes Jesus’ voice. Intimacy helps us recognize His voice, even when it is a whisper. John had that with Jesus. But, Peter is the only one that jumps out of the boat and swims to shore while the others row back to shore.
Back on shore, after eating, Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me more than these”? And Peter replies, “You know that I do”. Wow. Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him more than the other disciples, including John, in their presence, and Peter says “yes”. And, Jesus never contradicts him. He asks three times about Peter’s love and never challenges whether Peter loves Him more than John. So, John is the disciple that Jesus loved and Peter is the disciple that truly loved Jesus.
What if God does love us all the same, but we each RECEIVE His love in different levels of intimacy. What if each of the disciples could have FELT they were the one Jesus loved best, but their baggage, or age, limited what they could experience. Is it possible that we begin in our walk with the Lord, with the Peter love? The Peter level of love is grateful for what God has done for us, is thankful He suffers through our insecurities and that He is painfully aware of our failures and betrayals. We love Him because we are broken and grateful for His mercy. But, what if there is a greater love? What if the John love of just laying on His breast with nothing to prove and no limitations is available to all of us? I don’t think Jesus loved John more than the other disciples. I think John was more aware of Jesus’ great love and RECEIVED more love from Jesus than the other disciples. He really loves you the best, if you only knew. For more information, visit http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons/get-your-glory!.html