“One of His disciples, whom Jesus loved [whom He esteemed and delighted in], was reclining [next to Him] on Jesus’ bosom.”
John 13:23, Amplified
“One of the disciples, the one Jesus loved dearly, was reclining against him, his head on his shoulder.”
John 13:23, The Message
The apostle, traditionally John, is found sitting at the table with the rest of the disciples. It is an intimate and relaxing affair as they eat and talk and rest in a cool, quiet room. John has learned to lean.
John sits next to Jesus, an informal place of honor. The scripture says that he just rests his head on Jesus’ shoulder. And Jesus did nothing to stifle such behavior. Often, with men it would be very uncomfortable and distracting. I remember in Mexico watching men holding hands, as good friends. (I’ve heard that this is true in other cultures as well.)
The intimacy between Jesus and John strikes us as a little weird. But for Jesus it was encouraging. He felt John’s love and perhaps John confidence. There certainly was no impropriety or anything suggestive. It was an immensely precious moment, especially for the apostle John. Artists always paint John with a sincere and peaceful countenance. This moment most likely contributed to his serenity.
Tradition was he was once boiled in oil.
It was getting dark. Jesus had just hours before the nightmare would begin. When the black rolls in, and it begins to get scary, resting your head on Jesus’ shoulder is a wonderful place to be. We may not look at it like this, but I believe Jesus is comforted by our love. He is encouraged by our affection.
We can make Him happy and content by our simple tokens of affection.
The ‘arm of the Lord’ is spoken of repeatedly by the prophets. They had a prophetic insight into the strength of God. We call it, ‘omnipotence’, and our understanding is that He has all strength, and all power– all of the time. I think that John was leaning on that omnipotence. But it still was motivated by his affection and love for Jesus. Our Savior is strong enough to carry our immense burdens and all of our loads.