John 13:1 — The Friends Whom Jesus Loved — LeGrand Baker

The purpose of this is to show that, in their purest state, love, friendship and joy are each products of the other, and are, therefore, equivalents, and so represent the very height of eternal glory.

Jesus loved his friends. Other gospels tell us Jesus was a kind and compassionate person, frequently telling his listeners that they should love one another, but it is John from whom we learn that Jesus had a very special relationship with his friends. Sometimes our perception of Jesus as the benevolent miracle worker gets in the way of our recognizing Jesus the person. Like all the rest of us, Jesus lived in a negative world where indifference ruled, contempt abounded, and where true friends and loved ones are treasured above all else. John reminds us,

1 Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end (John 13:1).

There is a fascinating pattern in the emphasis of John. It does not show a maturation or evolution in Jesus’s loving relationships, but it does show a shift of emphasis as John tells the story. In the first half of the gospel, John emphasized the relationship between Jesus and his Father. In the second half he focuses on the Savior’s love for his friends.

That shift begins when John tells us the story of Lazerus

1 Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.
3 Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.
4 When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.
5 Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.
6 When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was.
7 Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judæa again.
32 Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
34 And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see.
35 Jesus wept.
36 Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him!
………………..[now, at the cave where Lazarus was buried]
43 And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.
44 And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go (John 11:1-44).

Soon after that John makes the observation that is our scripture.

1 Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end (John 13:1).

It is at that feast, the last supper, that John begins to pay especial attention to Jesus’s love for his friends. His story is about both love and betrayal. This is the first time John mentioned “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” but he did not tell us that he was that disciple. As is typical of much of the New Testament narrative, John speaks of himself in third person as he tells us about his own intimate relationship with the Savior.

23 Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved.
24 Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake.
25 He then lying on Jesus’ breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it?
26 Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. (John 13:23-26)

John identified himself as that disciple at the very end of the gospel when Jesus promised John he would never taste death.

20 Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee?
21 Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?
22 Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.
23 Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?
24 This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.
25 And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen. (John 21:20-25)

John, still in character, is not telling us more about the personal details of his life than he feels we need to know, so to learn more about John we have to go to Jesus’s explanation to his Nephite disciples.

6 And he said unto them: Behold, I know your thoughts, and ye have desired the thing which John, my beloved, who was with me in my ministry, before that I was lifted up by the Jews, desired of me.
7 Therefore, more blessed are ye, for ye shall never taste of death; but ye shall live to behold all the doings of the Father unto the children of men, even until all things shall be fulfilled according to the will of the Father, when I shall come in my glory with the powers of heaven.
8 And ye shall never endure the pains of death; but when I shall come in my glory ye shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye from mortality to immortality; and then shall ye be blessed in the kingdom of my Father.
9 And again, ye shall not have pain while ye shall dwell in the flesh, neither sorrow save it be for the sins of the world; and all this will I do because of the thing which ye have desired of me, for ye have desired that ye might bring the souls of men unto me, while the world shall stand.
10 And for this cause ye shall have fulness of joy; and ye shall sit down in the kingdom of my Father; yea, your joy shall be full, even as the Father hath given me fulness of joy; and ye shall be even as I am, and I am even as the Father; and the Father and I are one (3 Nephi 28:6-10)

John records several intimate discussions when Jesus and only the Twelve were present. One is their gathering at the last supper after Judas left when Jesus washed their feet. It was then Jesus said to the rest,

34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another (John 13:34-35).

That is followed by the conversation in which the Savior promises his apostles that the Holy Ghost and second Comforter.

15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
19 Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.
20 At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.
21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
22 Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?
23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.
24 He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me.

He promised that the Holy Ghost would enable them to remember everything he had taught them.

25 These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you.
26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
28 Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I.
29 And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe.
30 Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.
31 But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence (John 14:15-31).

As an apparent continuation of that conversation, he described the relationship between those apostles, himself, and his Father, “that your joy might be full.” It is in this context that he calls them his friends.

7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.
10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down ** his life for his friends.
14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his Lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.
16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
17 These things I command you, that ye love one another (John 15:7-17).

{** Strongs # 5087 is a complex verb that means many things. “To die” is not one of them. “To commit” is probably the best choice in this context because it describes the nature of their relationships.}

This brings us back an to analysis of the verse where we began.

1 Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end (John 13:1).

There is a striking similarity between what Jesus told the twelve apostles and what the resurrected Christ told his Nephite disciples.

30 And now, behold, my joy is great, even unto fulness, because of you, and also this generation; yea, and even the Father rejoiceth, and also all the holy angels, because of you and this generation; for none of them are lost (3 Nephi 27:30).

John’s statement also underscores the fact that Jesus is also Jehovah the Creator God, and the Resurrected Christ. The words, “having loved his own which were in the world,” emphasizes his comradery with his friends in his mortal life, but it also acknowledges that he had other friends in other times and other places.

As Jehovah, the Savior spoke with Moses as a friend.

9 And it came to pass, as Moses entered into the tabernacle, the cloudy pillar descended, and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the Lord talked with Moses.
10 And all the people saw the cloudy pillar stand at the tabernacle door: and all the people rose up and worshipped, every man in his tent door.
11 And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. And he turned again into the camp: but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle (Exodus 33:9-11).

Abraham also talked with Jehovah face to face, and the Lord called him his “son” in a narrative that suggests an ordinance was performed.

11 Thus I, Abraham, talked with the Lord, face to face, as one man talketh with another; and he told me of the works which his hands had made;
12 And he said unto me: My son, my son (and his hand was stretched out), behold I will show you all these. And he put his hand upon mine eyes, and I saw those things which his hands had made, which were many; and they multiplied before mine eyes, and I could not see the end thereof (Abraham 3:11-12)

The resurrected Christ talked with Moroni, who describes the interview as being a casual discussion between friends.

38 And now I, Moroni, bid farewell unto the Gentiles, yea, and also unto my brethren whom I love, until we shall meet before the judgment–seat of Christ, where all men shall know that my garments are not spotted with your blood.
39 And then shall ye know that I have seen Jesus, and that he hath talked with me face to face, and that he told me in plain humility, even as a man telleth another in mine own language, concerning these things (Ether 12:38-39).

John describes one’s ultimate salvation as being part of a fellowship with each other, with the Savior, and with his Father in the fullness of joy.

3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. (1 John 1:1-10)

In his epistle written to his priesthood brethren, John described that love/joy as “fellowship”: transcendent love brings that ultimate joy in a union of souls, like John at the table of the last supper or Joseph Smith after the first vision where he reported he was filled with love and “great joy.”

And my soul was filled with love, and for many days I could rejoice with great joy, and the Lord was with me but I could find none that would believe the heavenly vision. {1}

On another occasion he described as filling him “with unspeakable joy.”

A pillar of fire appeared above my head; which presently rested down upon me, and filled me with unspeakable joy. A personage appeared in the midst of this pillar of flame, which was spread all around and yet nothing consumed. Another personage soon appeared like unto the first: he said unto me, “Thy sins are forgiven thee.” He testified also unto me that Jesus Christ is the son of God. I saw many angels in this vision. I was about 14 years old when I received this first communication. {2}

Not many years thereafter, in a revelation given through the Prophet Joseph, at Kirtland, Ohio, the Savior referred to Joseph and his friends as “my friends.”

62 Therefore, go ye into all the world; and unto whatsoever place ye cannot go ye shall send, that the testimony may go from you into all the world unto every creature.
63 And as I said unto mine apostles, even so I say unto you, for you are mine apostles, even God’s high priests; ye are they whom my Father hath given me; ye are my friends;
64 Therefore, as I said unto mine apostles I say unto you again, that every soul who believeth on your words, and is baptized by water for the remission of sins, shall receive the Holy Ghost.
77 And again I say unto you, my friends, for from henceforth I shall call you friends, it is expedient that I give unto you this commandment, that ye become even as my friends in days when I was with them, traveling to preach the gospel in my power (D&C 84:1 – 120)

Then in the following December he reaffirmed that friendship with the strongest possible words.

1 Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you who have assembled yourselves together to receive his will concerning you:
2 Behold, this is pleasing unto your Lord, and the angels rejoice over you; the alms of your prayers have come up into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, and are recorded in the book of the names of the sanctified, even them of the celestial world.
3 Wherefore, I now send upon you another Comforter, even upon you my friends, that it may abide in your hearts, even the Holy Spirit of promise; which other Comforter is the same that I promised unto my disciples, as is recorded in the testimony of John.
4 This Comforter is the promise which I give unto you of eternal life, even the glory of the celestial kingdom;
5 Which glory is that of the church of the Firstborn, even of God, the holiest of all, through Jesus Christ his Son— (D&C 88:).

The following spring, The Savior again called the Prophet and his associates “my friends,” using much the same language he had used with the Twelve in Jerusalem.

45 Verily, I say unto my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., or in other words, I will call you friends, for you are my friends, and ye shall have an inheritance with me—
46 I called you servants for the world’s sake, and ye are their servants for my sake— (D&C 93:45)

Thereafter, the Lord began six revelations given through the Prophet with the salutation, “my friends.” {3}

In all this there reverberates the message of our scripture: “he loved them unto the end (John 13:1).”


{1} Dean C. Jessee, “The Early Accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision,” BYU Studies (Spring, 1969, 287-91), 280-81.

{2} Jessee, Ibid., p. 284.

{3} D&C 94:1, 97:1, 98:1, 100:1, 103:1, 104:1


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