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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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What a friend we have in Jesus | Now Jesus loved… the one closest to him

After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, ‘Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.’

His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, ‘Ask him which one he means.’

Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, ‘Lord, who is it?’

Jesus answered, ‘It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.’ Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.

So Jesus told him, ‘What you are about to do, do quickly.’ But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor. As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.

JOHN 13:21–30

‘Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me’, he said.

Say what, Jesus? One of us, who have walked every dusty road by your side? One of us will betray you?

I imagine these were the thoughts racing through the disciples’ minds as they sit together after dinner. They look at one another. Sidelong glances somehow communicating both confusion and mutual suspicion. But then Peter takes the initiative. He tells the disciple nearest Jesus to ask him what he means.

It’s interesting that Peter himself does not ask. It’s interesting, too, that he entrusts this task to the one who knew he was loved by Jesus, the one near enough to lean back against Jesus.

To the one closest to Jesus.

Friends share intimacies to the degree that the friendship permits. And Jesus’ intimate sharing of coming treachery is reserved for the closest of friends. For the one near enough to lean back.

Peter, we must assume, did not hear the answer about bread and a betrayer. No one did or they would have understood Jesus’ cryptic words to Judas.

Only the one closest to Jesus’ heart heard his whisper at the table. Only the one who could be trusted not to respond by cutting off Judas’ ear. For the Father’s plan must not be derailed nor Gethsemane’s obedience delayed: Judas must do what he intended without intervention.

So, Peter and the others did not hear this answer, odd though that seems when all of them were staring and wondering. One alone was granted to hear from Jesus the truth. One alone was trusted to share his burden.

The friend who was closest to Jesus.

Psalm 25:14 says the Lord confides in those who are close to Jesus – those who are pursuing friendship with him and obeying his words. Consider what confidences, if any, Jesus has been entrusting to you.

In a similar way, how trustworthy a friend are you? Ponder your frontline friendships. How safe are they for intimacy? For example, gossip and backbiting can feel like fun, whether we do this at work, at home, in the pub, or at the school gate. But though this seems to create immediate camaraderie, really it destroys the possibility of intimacy. If our friends know we gossip, they’ll never feel safe to share their secrets with us. Think today about how you might intentionally build friendships where others feel comfortable to share their heart.

Dr Chloe Lynch

Lecturer in Practical Theology, London School of Theology

How can you demonstrate your trustworthiness as a friend, this week? Join the conversation below.


  1. What a privilege to know and be known by Jesus as a friend! No matter stage of life, joys or troubles faced, the best advice is always to stay close to Jesus. How can I be a good friend? Facilitate their relationship with Jesus.

    By Justine Fowler  -  26 Jun 2023
  2. This has been a helpful mini-series so I don’t want to be critical but am not sure it’s quite right to say that Psalm 25 says the Lord confides in those who are ‘close to Jesus’ – that may be our New Testament interpretation but we perhaps need to be careful how we phrase our conclusions to avoid what could look anachronistic. What does Psalm 25 mean in its context?

    By Janet  -  26 Jun 2023

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