The Identity of the Beloved Disciple – Br. Jim Woodrum

Br. Jim Woodrum

John 13:21-32

In our gospel lesson from John two supporting characters emerge at center stage with Jesus.  One of these characters has been in our field of view the whole time.  The other makes his official debut in the gospel, somehow avoiding notice until this moment at supper where the flickering candlelight makes shadows jump dramatically on the perimeters of that upper room.

The gospel writer says that Jesus heart was troubled as he announces that someone at the dinner table will betray him.  As the disciples’ eyes dart around the room we can feel their uneasiness, perhaps because each of them at one point on their journey with Jesus had considered jumping ship and going back to their old lives and families, back into their individual realms of safety and the familiar.  We read earlier in John that as many of Jesus’ followers were abandoning him, He turns to his disciples and asks if they too want to leave.  You may remember Peter’s response:  ‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.’*Jesus replied:  ‘Did I not choose you, the twelve? Yet one of you is a devil.’

Sitting at supper with Jesus that night, perhaps they had forgotten this reply to Peter’s affirmation.  After all, each of the men in the room had made it to Jerusalem with Jesus.  They had stuck it through and had entered the city with him through the crowds waving palms and shouting “Hosanna!”  Yet now Jesus reminds them of the imminent betrayal and for a second each one of them experience the panic of implied conviction.As Jesus hands the dipped bread to one of the men sharing center stage with him:  Judas is exposed as the betrayer.  Jesus turns to him and says, “Do quickly what you’re are going to do.”  Yet the rest of the men at the table fail to see this because they themselves are lost in their own shadows of doubt and fear.  In the impending hours they will all abandon Jesus, fleeing into the night to avoid being exposed themselves.  All but one; the other disciple sharing center stage with Jesus.

This unnamed disciple is reclining intimately in the bosom of Jesus, perhaps listening to His troubled heart beating rapidly.  In the tension of the moment he knows that there is nothing he can do for Jesus except abide with Him there in the comforting assurance that he will not flee.  And for the rest of Holy Week we strain to see through the shadows, hoping to catch a glimpse of the face of this disciple.  We want to know who is so beloved by our Lord, who follows close at hand with him during his trial and conviction; who it is that Jesus entrusts the care of His mother at the foot of the cross before giving up His spirit.  We come to know in John’s telling of the resurrection that it is this unnamed disciple who when arriving at the tomb at once believes that Jesus is alive and we are awed by his faith in spite of the evidence at that moment being circumstantial.

Who are you in this story?  What is your relationship to Jesus at this point in your life?  In the great drama of Holy Week we are asked to consider this question and at several points a piece of bread will be put into our hands.  Will you be tempted to flee in fear and panic, abandoning the intimacy that Jesus longs for with you?  Or will you stay a little longer, reclining on His bosom; accepting the invitation to have your feet washed; following him to the cross and waiting in the wee hours of the morning for the sun to rise.  If you have the courage to stay with Jesus,you may find as the Easter sun shines through these stained glass windows that the identity of the beloved disciple all this time has been you.



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  1. Louise Pearce on April 14, 2017 at 00:23

    This reflection of being beloved has followed me through the past few months, this is my beloved, with whom I am well pleased. Beloved of god, now the possibility of us all being the beloved disciple, intimate, being there, following. It’s given me a different focus this week for Holy Week that I just haven’t been able to leave behind. Thank you Br Jim 🙂

  2. Nicki on April 13, 2017 at 14:11

    Thank you Brother Jim, for bringing us to the Last Supper as pensive members of the group, sharing the meal, listening to Jesus, reacting to what he’s saying and then linking us closely to loving, learning, committed apostleship. This is so helpful.

  3. Martha Paine on April 13, 2017 at 13:40

    Wow..your homily delivered an ending punch…..who me??? I am a woman and never thought about gender as I followed Jesus, just as I was a lucky one to have brought him into my life focus and join the many other believers! The path has been long and I had many detours, but my feet are firmly walking behind Jesus and now I hear I am a favored disciple! “wow, who me Lord?” What a Maunday Thursday gift. Thank you Br. Jim……M.L.P

  4. Verlinda on April 13, 2017 at 10:05

    Thank you for making me think about who I am in this week of shadows and light. Holy Week blessings to all.

  5. Christina on April 13, 2017 at 09:13

    I fear I may be among those who ran away although I would like to think I was with the women who remained with Jesus as he was on the cross, and who went to the tomb on Easter Sunday.
    Easter blessings.

  6. Rhode on April 13, 2017 at 09:12

    As a woman of our times, I would love to hope women were at that last Passover even if only to serve and then sit by themselves to eat. It is enough for me to know Jesus rose above the culture of those times to allow women to approach, befriend and support him throughout his short ministry.
    So regardless of gender, I know whom I would have wanted to be (John or even Peter) but, knowing myself, I would have been one of the quiet disciples waiting for Jesus to reveal his majesty conclusively. I would want to be there when he called the angels to set up his kingdom…. but, did he not say his kingdom was not of this earth? Did he really mean he was going to die soon? Did we not just have a triumphant ride through Jerusalem?
    Yes, I would have been the one sitting near Thomas, towards the end of the table, irritated with Judas’s zealotry, hoping Jesus was really the Son of God, maybe a bit jealous of John…wondering if my family was missing me this Passover.
    Perhaps I am still that disciple, waiting for Jesus to reveal himself, going back and forth between passion and sceptical worry … wondering if there is anything I can do that would bring glory to God and what that would require. Maybe, for now, it is enough to want to be like one of the Mary’s, longing to be as close as I can be to the one who healed me.

  7. Marta Engdahl on April 13, 2017 at 07:14

    Thank you for the realization that we, each, are there, questioning, afraid, overwhelmed, etc. I am always struggling with the relationship with Jesus/GodSpirit, trying to make the right choices, always failing miserably, “putting foot in mouth”, not saying/doing the best thing, not doing “the better part”, and always struggling with being loved “enough”. Yet, never feeling rebuked, judged, . . . . . It is so hard to accept this much love . . . .

  8. Allene Taylor on April 13, 2017 at 05:55

    Br. Jim – Thank you for bringing the upper room to reality
    for me. But, along with Margo’s question last year, I keep
    looking for the women, who served the meal and had
    courage to stay with Jesus to the tomb. 4/13/17

    • Leslie on April 13, 2017 at 07:08

      Yes, I think the women were there, sitting on the floor against the wall. With the eyes of my heart, I believe Jesus washed their feet also. The women missed the Garden because they had to stay behind and burn the uneaten parts of the Passover lamb, so that nothing remained until morning.

    • Margaret A Fletcher on April 13, 2017 at 08:38

      Dear Allene, Margos knows they were there and she still is. Are you too? Margo

  9. Fr John E Harris-White on April 13, 2017 at 03:56

    Brother Jim,
    Thank you.
    I am about to leave for our Cathedral of St Mary in Edinburgh for our Chrism Mass.
    John has always been the special one for me. My prayer is always that like the beloved disciple, I may accept the Lord’s love, and be loved by Him.
    Easter Blessings,,
    Fr John.
    West Lothian

  10. Margo on March 25, 2016 at 09:54

    Br. Jim, This is lovely but what about the women? Where they not there too? Margo

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