One of the first confessions of faith I learned as a child was this simple lyric: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Where the Bible tells me so is in the witness of the Apostle John who knew Jesus loved him because Jesus told him so. This is clearly expressed in John’s writings.
The Apostle John was loved by Jesus. So were his companions in the band of Jesus’s Twelve disciples (John 13:1; 15:9, 12). But John is the one who specifically made mention of it (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20).
As John wrote, no doubt he was recalling things Jesus said. He was envisioning things Jesus did. He was remembering Jesus’s gentleness, patience, and forgiveness. The scene of Jesus’s crucifixion was seared into his mind, and the joy of Jesus’s resurrection still enthralled him. In all these memories, John could think of nothing more amazing than that Jesus, the Son of God, loved him. When John described himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” he was not being arrogant; he was expressing his indebtedness to grace.
Paul, another Apostle, describes the influence of Jesus’s love this way, “The love of Christ controls us” (2 Cor. 5:14). It is not an abstract idea in our minds but an active force exercising control in our lives. On another occasion Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). In other words, the essence of the Christian life is working out the love of Jesus in our daily experiences. Our words, actions, decisions, and reactions demonstrate what it means to be loved by Jesus. As John makes clear in his own life, to be a Christian it to be transformed by the love of Jesus Christ.
John most likely wrote his Gospel as an old man with more of his life behind him than ahead of him. He possessed a perspective that the passage of time and the accumulation of experience provide. Of all the descriptions that fit John – significant things like his ethnicity, family, occupation, education, personality, and ministry experiences and accomplishments – the one that most shaped him was that Jesus loved him.
Identity is a critical issue for us humans because who we see ourselves to be shapes how we live our lives. For some, it is their ethnicity or family. Others are defined by their careers and accomplishments. The control that identity maintains in our lives is why we must be so careful about who or what influences that identity. In answer to the question, “Who am I?” John replies, “I am loved by Jesus.”
No doubt it is desirable to be loved by others. But there is also no doubt that if you are loved by Jesus, you are loved enough. Yes, Jesus loves me. And he loves you, too.