Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Mystery of The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved

This blog probably will seem like a theological debate that you aren't interested in. It may be somewhat controversial to some. But give this a chance as I think you will like the message at the end. I propose to solve a mystery in the bible. Whether it is really right or wrong is probably not as important as the message.

One of the longstanding mysteries of the bible is the unknown disciple ("The Disciple Whom He Loved") who was at the foot of the cross at Jesus's crucifixion:

  • John 19:25-27: Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

This "disciple whom he loved" has been a subject to debate amongst biblical scholars for centuries. The general consensus is that it was John The Evangelist. Some believe it was James, others believe it was Mary Magdalene, Mark The Evangelist or Lazarus.

This wording of the "Disciple whom he loved" is found four other times in the bible, curiously enough all in the Gospel of John (John 13:23, John 21:7, John 21:20 and John 20:2). This is why many think it was John and that it was a more neutral way for an author to refer to himself.

Well, yesterday, from completely out of the blue, it hit me like a bolt of lightning. That this disciple whom Jesus loved was worded that way in scripture to be symbolic for all Christians (part of my theory) so that we could identify with being at the foot of the cross with Jesus. I did some research online and found that Martin L. Smith, an Anglican priest and writer, theorized the same idea:

Perhaps the disciple is never named, never individualized, so that we can more easily accept that he bears witness to an intimacy that is meant for each one of us. The closeness that he enjoyed is a sign of the closeness that is mine and yours because we are in Christ and Christ is in us.

This makes sense until you do more research...

What We Know About The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved

So here are some things that what we know about this disciple:

1) The disciple was male. In (John 19:27) it states that this disciple took her (Mary) into his home. For conspiracy theorists who think it was Mary Magdalene, both the Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus (early manuscripts of the Greek Bible) both confirm that it was a male who took Mary into this disciple's home.

2) He had to been one of the Twelve Apostles. He was at the Last Supper the night of Passover. Although Leonardo Da Vinci's painting of the Last Supper depicts a womanly looking figure next to Jesus, chalk this up to artist interpretation. There are only Thirteen people in Da Vinci's painting (Jesus plus the 12 Apostles). Plus, there is no mention of anybody else (not Mary or Mary Magdalene) being with Jesus at the Last Supper other than the Twelve apostles:

  • Matthew 26:20: When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve.
  • Mark 14:7: When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve.
  • Luke 22:14: When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table.

3) He was a real person, not fictitious. Simon Peter asked him a question ("Ask him which one he means?" John 13:24) and then this disciple asks Jesus who will betray him ("Lord, who is it? John 13:25).

So this couldn't have been a fictitious character to symbolize all Christians if "The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved" had dialogue with Peter and Jesus.

Who Was The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved?

So who is this disciple whom Jesus loved? I propose it was Judas Iscariot. You might be saying "Nonsense" and want to quit reading. I know what could be going through your mind right now from an emotional level or biblical scholar standpoint but I will address them all:

1) The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved was the one who betrayed him? You might be insulted because there aren't a lot of positive feelings associated with the name Judas Iscariot. Most view him very negatively as a traitor. Judas was also referred to as a thief (See John 12:4-6). Even Jesus likened him to the devil John 6:70-71: "Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!"

2) You might say Judas Iscariot couldn't have been this disciple at the foot of the cross because he hung himself shortly after he helped turn Jesus over to authorities:

  • Matthew 27:5: So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.

Note that this scripture passage does not confirm that Judas was successful in hanging himself. In fact, there is an apparent scriptural contradiction on how he died. Read on.

Controversy About How Judas Died

The following scripture found in Acts suggests that Judas Iscariot did not die from hanging:

  • Acts 1:18: With the reward he got for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out.

There are good arguments to show that these two scriptures don't really contradict themselves. But I won't go into them because they don't matter with my theory. There are other scriptures that support my belief that Judas could have been the disciple at the foot of the cross and that he lived long enough to see the resurrected Jesus.

Sidebar: One thing I have wondered, this field Judas bought in Acts, could it have been the field where Jesus was crucified (or a symbolic reference) because it was referred to as the "Field of Blood" in Acts 1:19?

Proof that Judas Saw the Resurrected Jesus

To set the stage for my contention that Judas lived to see the Resurrected Jesus, read this passage:

John 21:20-23: Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, "Lord, who is going to betray you?") When Peter saw him, he asked, "Lord, what about him?" Jesus answered, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me." Because of this, the rumor spread among the brothers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?"

Who was the first apostle to die or the closest apostle to death? The overwhelming consensus is Judas Iscariot. But when?

Now here is proof that supports that Judas saw the resurrected Jesus. Luke 24, Matthew 28, Mark 16, and John 20 give accounts of the Resurrected Jesus appearing to the apostles. PLEASE NOTE: that ELEVEN apostles were there in Luke, Mark and Matthew's testimony.

  • Luke 24:33-37: They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, "It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon." Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread. Jesus Appears to the Disciples While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost.
  • Matthew 28:16-17: Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.
  • Mark 16:14: Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.

The assumed missing apostle has always been thought to be Judas. But in John 20, Thomas (also affectionately referred to as "The Doubting Thomas") appears to have been the missing apostle:

  • John 20:24-25: Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it."

The real defining truth that Judas did see the Resurrected Jesus comes from Apostle Paul where he says Jesus appeared to the Twelve:

  • 1 Corinthians 15:3-5: For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.

Some will argue that the Twelve disciples here includes Matthias who replaced Judas (See Acts 1:18-26). However, earlier reading in Acts Chapter 1 show that this occurred after Jesus was taken up into Heaven.


Why wouldn't this "Disciple Whom Jesus Loved" have been Judas Iscariot? Doesn't this test you as a Christian about being judgmental? Does it test your faith in Christ since Jesus asked this disciple to take Mary into his home? Could there have been a more perfect and greater example of the depth of Christ's love and forgiveness if this were Judas Iscariot?

Judas was a thief. We have all stolen something at one point in our life, it doesn't have to be property.

"Attribute to God every good that you have received. If you take credit for something that does not belong to you, you will be guilty of theft." - St Anthony of Padua

Judas betrayed Jesus. We have all betrayed Jesus at some point in our life. We betray Jesus and His teachings when we don't love our neighbor, when we lack humility, when we allow people to starve, when we fail to forgive and have a hardened vengeful heart, when we treasure worldly things above our Father, etc.

And we betray Jesus's teachings when we fail to love our enemies...

Jesus Still Called Him Friend

Just like us, Jesus knew that Judas was going to betray him. Shortly before Jesus was arrested, Judas told the authorities that he would signal who Jesus was by a kiss on the cheek. What did Jesus say to Judas?

Judas Repented and Returned The Silver

Judas was a sinner just like us, but most importantly he was remorseful and repented:

  • Matthew 27:3-4: When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. "I have sinned," he said, "for I have betrayed innocent blood."

This is why it makes perfect sense that Judas was this unknown disciple who was at the foot of the cross. Jesus's death was something he freely accepted. Judas was merely an instrument in a divine plan. Jesus died on the cross for our salvation, so that sins could be forgiven. And so He could understand the humiliation, pain, agony and suffering we have to go through in life.

Sadly, we have all been somewhat like Judas Iscariot yet...

Jesus still calls us friend

And when we turn our back on Christ, and move away from his open-stretched arms, we all become "The Disciple Whom He Loved"

Join Jesus at the foot of the cross every day.

Repent your sins and feel the power of His Love and His Forgiveness.

Peace be with you,

© Michael J. Cox


  1. The betrayal of Jesus is not a crime but a necessity. The betrayal is simply the revealing. Judas reveals who Jesus is. "This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, "Lord, who is going to betray you?", meaning Judas knowing who Jesus was, wondered with him who would take up the task of revealing him. In a previous portion of the story of the boat, it says: "Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord...", meaning the characteristic of this disciple is that he reveals to others the identity of Jesus.

  2. Thanks for your comment John Wendel. Somewhow I accidentally deleted it and cannot recover it. Please repost your previous comment if you see this because you made such excellent points.