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JOHN xiii. 23.
Now there was leaning on Jesus's bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved.
OUR blessed Lord, having nearly finish
ed his work on earth, and knowing that the time of his death was just at hand, expressed an earnest desire to celebrate the passover once more with his disciples. Preparation being made, according to his instructions, he sat down with them to the feast. This precious season he employed in such discourse as was adapted to their present circumstances. When the first meal was made ready, he, to teach them condescension and love, went round among them, and washed their feet; giving them notice, at the same time, that he should soon be delivered into the hands of his enemies, and be betrayed by one of them. This he knew would be surprising intelligence; he therefore communicated it with
caution. When he had washed their feet, he said, Now ye are clean, but not all. An intimation this, that there was among them one who was not clean, and who had no part in him. He had reference to the traitor; but the disciples did not fully comprehend his meaning. He therefore, a little after, speaks more plainly. If ye know these things, which I have done, happy are ye, if ye do them. I speak not of you all; I know whom I have chosen: But that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me, hath lift up his heel against me. Now I tell you before it come, that when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he. This premonition put them on thinking. But that one of his own family should join his enemies, seemed so incredible, that they scarcely yet understood him. While he dwelt on the melancholy subject, his spirit was greatly troubled But painful as it was, he at length speaks out the matter fully-Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. Struck dumb with horror, the disciples sat, and looked on one another, doubting of whom he spake.
Now there was leaning on Jesus's bosom one of his disciples, whom he loved. This, as we learn from the last chapter in this gospel, was John himself. He is often called the beloved disciple. At supper he sat next to Jesus, and reclined on his bosom. Peter, seeing John in this attitude, beckoned to him, that he should ask Jesus, which was the disciple of whom he spake. John then lying on Jesus's breast, says to him, probably in a low voice, Lord, Who is it? Jesus, in the same manner, answered, It is he, to whom I shall give the sop, when I have dipped it. And he dipped the sop and gave it to Judas. That this conversation between Jesus and John was unheard by the other disciples, is evident; for they knew not that Judas was the traitor, until afterward, when Jesus pointed him out by his dipping his hand with him in the dish.
The circumstance of John's leaning on his Lord's bosom at supper, is several times mentioned, and may be supposed to import something worthy of our notice. Surely it was not by accident that he sat in that posture, nor without design that it is so often marked in the history.
It will doubtless suggest to us some thoughts. pertinent to the similar occasion now before us : And happy the disciple, who, at this supper, shall by faith and love, lean on the breast of his Redeem
1. Christ, by admitting this disciple to lean on his bosom, shewed a special and peculiar affection
It is observed in the text, that he who leaned on his breast, was the one whom he loved. He loved the others; but this he loved with superiour affection. In the temper and behaviour of John, there was something which recommended him to his. Lord's particular esteem, and entitled him to this endearing appellation, the disciple whom Jesus loved.
The writings of this Apostle shew him to have been a man of a warm and affectionate turn of mind. This sensibility of his heart, and his constancy and fidelity in duty, pointed him out as a person capable of the strictest and most endearing friendship. None of the sacred writers dwell so much on beneyolence and brotherly love; introduce the subject so often, or urge the temper with so much earnestness. The argument from which he principally deduces our obligation to love one another, is the wonderful example of love exhibited by Jesus Christ, in giving himself for our sins. As this argument seems ever to be uppermost in his mind, we may conclude, that he felt it to an uncommon degree. None were more strongly affected with a sense of the love of Christ, or had more of the same mind which was in him. That benevolence which ope
rated so powerfully in his own breast, he wished to see transfused through the hearts of all.
As he was distinguished by a kind and friendly disposition, so he shared largely in the love of Christ, and was admitted to special intimacy with him. He was one of the three disciples, who accompanied Jesus, when he went to heal the ruler's daughterwhen he ascended into the mountain to display the glory of his transfiguration-when he retired to the garden for prayer, just before his crucifixion. This was the disciple to whom he, on the cross, committed the care of his aged mother. He placed particular confidence in John, as one who would faithfully execute the tender charge.
Every sincere Christian is an object of the Redeemer's love. But some are admitted nearer to him than others. His love is not, like human affection, arbitrary and capricious; it is guided by a clear discernment of the comparative degrees of holiness in his different disciples. As the graces of religion, especially the more amiable graces of humility, meekness, condescension, constancy, fidelity and benevolence, abound in them, they share more largely in his approbation and regard. We are often attached to persons by things foreign to their character; by the comeliness of their form, the dignity of their station, the politeness of their manners, the brilliancy of their wit, the pleasantness of their natural temper, or the elegance of their dress and appearance. But these are circumstances on which the love of Christ will never turn. It is real virtue and righteousness, rectitude of heart, and purity of life, which entitle us to his esteem. The more we have of that mind which was in him, the greater and stronger interest have we in his friendship and regard.
John was highly honoured in being the disciple whom Jesus loved. But let us remember, that the same temper which was so pleasing to Jesus in this
disciple, will equally meet his approbation whereever it is found.
2. John's leaning on Jesus's bosom, denotes intimacy and familiarity.
Between Christ and his other disciples there was an endearing friendship. He allowed them near access to him, and communicated to them many things, which he imparted not to the world. He says, I call you not servants, for the servant knoweth not what his Lord doth; but I have called you friends, for all things which I have heard of my Father, I have made known unto you. To them he expounded in private many things, which he had publicly delivered in parables. To them he foretold many events, of which he gave no general notice. To them he opened the mysteries of the kingdom of God, before he saw fit to reveal them to the multitude. He admitted them to join with him in his prayers. He often retired with them for devotion, and they well knew the place whither he usually resorted. With them he celebrated the last passover, and the first supper. He conversed with them freely, attended to their inquiries, and resolved their doubts. Thus familiar was he with them all. But John enjoyed a peculiar intimacy. While they sat at the passover, he took his seat by Jesus's side, and reclined on his bosom: And in this nearness to his Lord, he enjoyed a converse which was unknown to his brethren.
When Christ testified to them, saying, One of you shall betray me, they knew not whom he meant. Peter beckoned to John, to ask him who the traitor was. His beckoning to John on this occasion, is an evidence that John had, before now, enjoyed special intimacy and freedom with his master. John asked him, of whom he spake this. Jesus said, It is he to whom I shall give the sop, when I have dipped it. This conversation was not heard by the other disci