Wednesday, September 9, 2009

bosom buddies

I laid down on Emma's bed this afternoon, and she snuggled up to me, putting her head on my chest. Such a sweet moment of quiet together!

I had just been working through John 1:1-18, and wrestling with the tricky grammar in verse 18. My own translation is this: "No one has seen God at any time. The uniquely beloved God, the one who is nearest to the Father's heart, He made Him known."

I elected not to use the word "bosom" (NAS) since it has become quite obscure. But seeing that word triggered my memory of another unusual verse in John. During the last supper Jesus is preparing his disiples for what is to come. They are all reclining at the table together (in Jesus' day, tables were low to the ground, surrounded by cushions for reclining), but one disciple, the "one whom Jesus loved", is said to be "reclining on Jesus' bosom" (John 13:23 NAS). This has always struck me as so strange! Evidently men's need for 'personal space' was less, and there's no indication that we're to read anything queer going on. But why does John tell us that he and Jesus were, in effect, snuggling?

The "bosom" idea throughout Scripture seems to indicate intimacy (though not in a sexual sense), something or someone held very dear. It can describe the embrace of a husband and wife, or holding a child on a parent's lap. Here it appears to describe a unique friendship.

So why are John and Jesus said to be bosom buddies? I think John was being very deliberate.

Jesus, he argues in chapter 1, is the one most intimate with the Father, and therefore the best person to "explain" Him to us. His testimony can be trusted. John, called "the disciple whom Jesus loved", was the one most intimate with Jesus, and therefore the best person to testify about Him to the church (i.e. by writing this gospel). In case that sounds like bragging, John does remain anonymous in the book. It's clear he's not looking for accolades. But he did leave enough clues about his identity that we can figure it out. And he concludes the book:

"This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and wrote these things, and we know that his testimony is true." (John 21:24 NAS)

How do we know his testimony is true? Because he and Jesus were bosom buddies. He is the best qualified to "explain" him to us.

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