You can learn a lot about people by how others describe them. You can also learn a lot about people by how they describe themselves.
If you ever read a book that describes me as a young, attractive columnist who everyone loved, you can bet I wrote that book.
I wouldn't be the first to be guilty of that.
The Apostle John described himself in the gospel he wrote. You can doubt the authorship of some books of the Bible, but not the Gospel of John. In the book, John gave himself a title. Six different times he calls himself "the disciple who Jesus loved."
Didn't Jesus love Peter? If Jesus were an editor, his favorite disciple would have been Mark because he makes his points succinctly and doesn't ramble on. (If that is how Jesus chooses disciples, I would be in big trouble.)
But John calls himself the disciple Jesus loved. John didn't stop with the self-promotion there. If you read the Easter story in his gospel, you see after Jesus' resurrection, Mary Magdalene found the tomb open and empty and ran back to tell the guys. When they heard, Peter and John took off running for the tomb to see what was up.
In painting that scene, John made it clear that he was not only Jesus' most beloved disciple, he was also the fastest.
John 20:4 says, "Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first." Come on, John, just because you don't name yourself and just say "the other disciple" we know there were only two running. We get it, you're faster than Peter.
What John doesn't point out is that Peter is also much older than he is. If I go cover a track meet today and one of the guys running the 400 brags that he outran me, don't be impressed. I wasn't even fast as a young man, if we sprinted to an empty tomb today, you would win.
John also points out that he reclined on Jesus' chest and that the Messiah asked him to take care of His mother from the cross.
So is this an example of a braggadocious disciple extolling his relationship with Jesus?
I don't think that's the whole story here.
John's entire gospel is about how good Jesus is. He doesn't start with a manger scene. John starts his gospel pointing to Jesus' divinity. the first verse says, "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God."
He goes on to tell about many of the things Jesus did.
He finishes his gospel in John 21:25 by saying, "Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written."
I don't think John is bragging about himself at all - except maybe that he beat Peter in a footrace.
John isn't the only disciple that Jesus loved. He wrote his entire book showing how Jesus loved and took care of his disciples and followers and even those who meant Him harm. He even reattached a soldier's ear after Peter sliced it off with a sword.
I think the gospel of John was written to show how good Jesus is and how everyone can be the disciple that Jesus loves.
After all, other than winning a race to an empty tomb, John never tells us anything that he does to earn that love. He was there. He followed Jesus during His ministry. When other disciples fled, John was at the cross when Jesus died.
John never called himself the best disciple. He called himself the disciple Jesus loved. He saw himself the same way all of us can still see ourselves if we follow Jesus the same way he did.