“So, she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’” (John 20:2)
Today, we are celebrating St. John the Apostle, the beloved of Jesus. John was the closest Apostle to Jesus, so close that it was to him that Jesus handed over his mother while he was dying on the Cross. The life of St. John the Apostle speaks a compelling truth: that Jesus Christ took our human flesh; that He grew up like us; that He had close friends; that He loved real people, and had human feelings.
Was it necessary for Jesus to have had a best friend? Wasn’t he supposed to love everybody equally? Our human experience already shows us that no matter how we try to love everyone, there would always be some very dear ones. John was that special one. Everyone knew how close John was to Jesus. As our Gospel passage tells us, it was John that Peter asked about who was to betray Jesus. Jesus confided in John saying that his betrayer was the one to whom He gave the bread dipped in wine. (John 13:23-26).
Based on how close Jesus was to John, some of Jesus’ disciples assumed that John will live forever. In John 21:21-23, we read: “When Peter saw him (John), he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, what about this man?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If it is my will that he remains until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!’ The saying spread abroad among the brethren that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, ‘If it is my will that he remains until I come, what is that to you?’”
John had a close and personal relationship with Jesus. When he wrote his letter as contained in today’s first reading, John aimed to prove that Jesus was not a figment of imagination but “that which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands…”
John ran faster than Peter to the tomb not because he was younger, but out of a feeling of love and devotion to a dear friend. He got there first but waited for Peter (as a mark of respect) before going in. John gave an eye-witness account of the resurrection and concluded by declaring his faith: “he saw and believed.”
Now, where do all these lead to? As part of our Christmas celebrations, the story of John the beloved draws us to open our hearts to love Jesus as a friend and brother. It is not enough that we eat rice and chicken to celebrate Jesus’ birth, we must also enter into a personal relationship with Jesus just as John did.
Let us pray: Heavenly Father, make me open my heart to you just like John did. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Bible Study: 1 John 1:1-4, Ps. 97:1-2,5-6,11-12, John 20:2-8)*
© Rev. Fr. Evaristus Abu