The Beloved Disciple as a Witness of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus
By Michael Kok
A Profile of the Beloved Disciple
• The anonymous follower of John the Baptizer in John 1:35-42?
• The figure reclining next to Jesus at the Last Supper in John 13:23-25.
• The “other disciple” present in the high priest’s courtyard when Jesus was on trial before the Jewish Sanhedrin in John 18:15-16?
• The disciple who looked after Jesus’s mother after his crucifixion in John 19:25-27.
• The one who witnessed a Roman soldier pierce Jesus’s side with a spear in John 19:35?
• The disciple who outran Peter to the empty tomb and believed in Jesus’s resurrection in John 20:2-10.
• The disciple who recognized the presence of the risen Lord after a miracle on the Sea of Galilee in John 21:7.
• The disciple who is credited as the foundational witness behind the Gospel of John by the later community that cherished this Gospel in John 21:24.
The Beloved Disciple was probably not the Apostle John
• The tradition of the early church was that the Apostle John was the beloved disciple and that he published the Gospel while living in Ephesus in Asia Minor.
• The sons of Zebedee (i.e. John and James) were named in John 21:2, but the beloved disciple is purposefully kept anonymous in the text.
• Unlike the Synoptic Gospels (i.e. Matthew, Mark, and Luke), the Gospel of John does not focus as much on the twelve apostles of Jesus, nor on Peter, James, and John who formed the inner circle of that group.
• The beloved disciple appears almost exclusively in Jerusalem for the events immediately leading up to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. He arguably hosted the meal of the Last Supper and Jesus’s mother was welcomed into his home.
• If the anonymous figure in John 18:15-16 was the beloved disciple, it is more likely that the beloved disciple was a prominent individual from Judaea with aristocratic connections rather than a poor Galilean fisherman like John to be known on personal terms to the Jewish high priest.
The Role of the Beloved Disciple
• The beloved disciple was a key eyewitness to the events of the Passion of Jesus, including the announcement that Jesus was about to be betrayed, the denials of Peter, the crucifixion of Jesus, and the empty tomb that the risen Jesus left behind.
• The beloved disciple was a uniquely perceptive follower of Jesus. He did not just witness the death of Jesus, but he interpreted the significance of the “blood and water” that poured out from Jesus’s side and the new family of faith that was created at the cross. He did not just see Jesus’s former linen clothes folded up and lying in the empty tomb, but he believed that Jesus had been vindicated by God.
• The beloved disciple remained completely loyal to Jesus regardless of the circumstances, staying close to Jesus during his final meal, his trial, and his crucifixion.