I WAS THE OTHER DISCIPLE (John 18:16; 20:2-8).
Let me begin by saying, “I am not the beloved disciple, but the ‘other disciple.'” The disciple Jesus loved and had a special feeling for was John Zebedee. He was next to Jesus during the Last Supper, at the cross to take in Jesus’ mother and at the seaside to point out the Risen Lord to Peter. He was the one that did not figure in Peter’s commission to pasture Jesus’ flock. And he was the one that wrote this Gospel. I wished that he had said something more definite about me. It puzzled me why he left me in the shadow of the disciples and Jesus’ students. I know that names did not matter for John because he wanted Christ illuminated. But without my help, could Christ have been illuminated?
Follow me for a while, perhaps for three weeks; that is all. Think of me as the boy of a wealthy family from Jerusalem that set out of curiosity to meet men like John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth. That is how I met Andrew and John. Andrew induced me to share my five loaves and two fish with Jesus and five thousand people. I invited Andrew and his friends to stay at our home when they came to Jerusalem. He took me up on it and Jesus with His followers had their last meal in my mother’s banquet room. I was acquainted with the priests, the leaders, and the Romans. They all had business with us. I knew what Judas was doing and I was in the Garden of Gethsemane when Judas betrayed Jesus, our Teacher. I saw Jesus pray, and as His disciples slept. I escaped naked when they were apprehended. Who do you think let Peter inside the High Priest’s Courtyard and home? Who was it that gathered the disciples after they had scattered when our Lord was tried and crucified? Only one had followed Jesus from a distance and then he denied his Lord three-times, he too left. Who was left as a witness to what was being done to Jesus by the Jewish leaders and by the Romans? That leaves only me, the other disciple.
If you need further proof that I had a separate identity, let me remind you of a few additional facts. Turn to the Gospel of Mark. Note the simple style in which the Gospel is written. It has no eye for details or theology, just facts. These facts I have witnessed over a period of three years – ample time for a lad that shared his lunch with more than five thousand to grow into a young man. You recall that a rich young ruler had kept all the Commandments, but could not part with his wealth. The young man was not lost, only unwilling to follow Jesus without his riches to fall back on. Could I not have been that young man that left Jesus? Could I have been the one that changed his view on riches and offered our holdings to Jesus and His followers in Jerusalem when He needed earthly assistance? How did the disciples of Jesus know what man to follow that carried water in a large city with thousands of residence carrying water? Who would let a strange group into the house to eat a meal and provide for it? Who would let his Garden of Gethsemane be used for prayer and secret meetings? This olive grove was private property and belonged to my family. Then there is “Simon from Cyrene” who was coerced to bear Jesus’ cross. Why were his sons mentioned? Well, I grew up with Alexander and Rufus. We played together as children and explored both Jewish and Roman surroundings. Their names should suggest that they were my Gentile friends and helped me to get inside the Roman courts. How else could I have know so much about Jesus’ treatment inside the soldiers’ quarters? To these boys, I was known as “Markus” and to my family as “John” – “the other John.”
Turn to the last scene of Jesus’ life. I was there for the duration of the three hours that Jesus hung on the cross before He died. I heard Him cry out in Aramaic, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” I saw a merciful person trying to offer Jesus a pain-killing drink. The others refused the drink because they understood that He was calling Elijah. They wanted to see Elijah come to His rescue. I saw Him, breathe His last breath. His death was instant as if He put out the light. And while He died, darkness fell on all of us. Even the Roman commander over one hundred soldiers spoke out loud, “Truly, this man was the Son of God!” Then there was the cry coming from the Temple up to Golgotha via messengers, “The curtain in the Temple is torn in two from top to bottom!” I knew then that God had moved His seat from the Temple to the Cross. As I watched, I saw another acquaintance take a keen interest in what was taking place. I did not know that he was a secret admirer of Jesus. I knew that he was looking for the Kingdom of God to come. I did not know that he would come forth and use his influence to give Jesus a proper burial. Yes, Joseph of Arimathea was brave enough to face Pilate and ask for the body of Jesus. He, and his friend Nicodemus, wrapped the body in linen and placed it in a tomb that was cut out of rock. With the help of the Roman soldiers, they closed the tomb by rolling a huge stone on top of it. There was no way anyone could escape from such a tomb. The rock-tomb became symbolic for our faith in Jesus the Christ.
Jesus rested the next three days because of the Passover. He rose from the dead early on the first day of the week. The women, that had watched Jesus’ crucifixion and burial from a distance, returned with spices to anoint the body of their Master. They found an empty grave and a young man, in white, telling them that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead. He also told them to tell the disciples and Peter that Jesus would meet them in Galilee. But the women were too bewildered and fearful to tell anyone, except Mary Magdalene. She loved Jesus very much and wanted to know where He was taken? She spread the resurrection news. Who was that young man in white that gave Mary the message?