Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. - John 13:23
Concerning this verse, a number of commentators make a point that the one leaning on our Lord’s breast was the apostle John, and that like John, there are other believers whom our Lord favours above the rest. In light of the Gospel, there is nothing more reprehensible than that.
Such teaching makes of our Lord one who respects persons. There is no Scriptural warrant for saying that Christ loves one of his own more than another. John 13 begins with these words, ‘having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.’ No distinction is made between believers by our Lord. They are all equally sinful before Him in their nature. They are the Lord’s only because of the Father’s eternal electing grace, the Saviour’s redeeming sacrifice, and the effectual, regenerating work of the Spirit of God, 1 Peter 1:2.
Those who teach degrees of reward in glory, or degrees of God’s love for believers, do so based on a foundation of works and not grace. I recently read a tract by a renowned preacher who said that ‘those are loved best by Christ who live nearest him.’ He went on to write that the ones leaning on Jesus’ breast are those who read His Word with greater diligence and who live for Him with greater consecration.
While I long to read His Word more and live a life of greater consecration for Him, I must insist that this is not the reason for Him to love me more. ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends’ John 15:13.
Look carefully at the passage in John 13:21-27 and you will see why it refers to the one whom Jesus loved. It is in contradistinction to Judas Iscariot, who was not one of His beloved. There is a distinction in the love of God for sinners. It is not between one believer and another, but, between believers and unbelievers. Who are the ‘Beloved’? All who are in Christ Jesus! He is their wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, I Corinthians 1:30. The hope and confession of every child of God is this, ‘Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins’ 1 John 4:10.
Who are the hated? Those who are outside of the Lord Jesus Christ, who look to their own works for righteousness. The wrath of God abides upon them, John 3:36. Do you long to know something of the eternal love and favour of God? It is in His Son without measure!