“ One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was lying close to the breast of Jesus” – John 13:23
We like to have personal space with other adults. Children, especially babies and toddlers, we don’t mind holding close to us. And a hug when we greet or say, ‘good-bye,’ to a good friend or relative is fine. But, to have grown people laying up on one another is a little too ‘touchy-feely’ for most people. I confess; in a time of mourning I will lay my head on probably any man or woman offering me consolation and I would offer such another in need. But, watching a game; ‘dude, I’m good.”
Middle Eastern cultures were different in ancient times (and even today). Men kissing each other on the cheek, holding hands in public, and laying one’s head or back on a good friends chest were not unheard of. Expressions of brotherly love seen back then would produce all sorts of strange looks in a modern macho culture.
The relationship between Jesus and John is what we can all strive toward spiritually. John is described as the disciple whom Jesus loved. Of course, the Lord loves us all. But, this disciple made such an effort to spend time with and understand Him that allowed him to draw closer to Christ than most. Close enough to speak with Him. Yes, the Lord hears our prayers. A seafood dealer sells fish to anyone with the money. Those who frequent the store ask questions about freshness, what’s in season, how to prepare a meal. The dealer shares his knowledge and tends to give the best products to such a customer. Jesus answers prayers. But, the prayers of those who want to grow are answered more deeply for those who want more than a quick blessing or miracle.
John was given more than what he asked for. Jesus loved and gave him the strength to stand at the cross when the other disciples scattered and hid. There the Lord gave him a mother-son relationship with the Mother of God. Years after the resurrection and ascension, John received a revelation of Christ in His great glory. Had John limited his closeness to a shallow modern macho stereotype, or if he sat apart from the Master loudly declaring his loyalty, John would have not become one who knew God, the Theologian. But, this former fisherman learned to love Jesus to lean on His breast.
Educator Benjamin Mays gave wisdom that applies to the spiritual life as well, “Failure is not the problem. The problem is low aim.” Let’s strive to lean and lay our heads on the highest place possible, the breast of our Lord whom we love.