A Favorite Son                                                    Study No. 263


We think of the term “a favorite son” as a political term meaning an up-and- coming local leader who shows potential for national office. In a more familial sense, Jacob and Esau were “favorite sons,” but one was the father’s favorite and the other was the mother’s, which led to sad consequences. It seems we often wish to manipulate and control, rather than accept God’s plan.

Let’s take a short trip in our “imaginarium.”


·        Imagine living in the time of Christ in the Roman Empire, seeing the temple, the Coliseum, the Parthenon, soldiers, ox-drawn carts, the Agora (market­place), and the Appian Way. The Romans had a penchant for building roads to celebrate their victories. The Appian Way was the most famous of these. The Appii Forum, mentioned in Acts 28:15, was about forty-three miles southeast of Rome and was located on this road. It was renowned for its unscrupulous innkeepers.

·        Imagine being in Jerusalem, a disciple, hearing Jesus speak, observing the Pharisees and Sadducees, keeping the Festi­vals, and seeing the sacrifices.

·        Imagine being an Apostle, hearing, seeing, even performing miracles, walking with the Master and observing the Feasts, even the last supper with Him.

·        Imagine yourself being the one person (Apostle) with a special relationship, closest friend, teacher’s pet, the one with inside track, loved of Jesus, the favorite son of the Master.

Now I think you know where this is leading, but keep in mind, you are to imagine yourself in this position. Peter, James, and John seemed to be the three “pillars.” All the apostles were in the Garden, but only three advanced to pray with Him.


The Way They Were


At the Last Supper:  “When Jesus had thus said, He was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray Me. Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom He spake.  Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.  Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom He spake.  He then lying on Jesus’ breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it? 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 13:21-26.

It is curious that Jesus and John were both within earshot of Peter; yet Peter asked John to ask Jesus “of whom He spake.” John had the “inside track,” not in a pretentious or self-seeking way, at least not now. But, was it always that way?

Peter and the others were a jealous bunch. They were carnal, bad-mouthed fishermen and men of the world. And, John fit right in. Peter and Andrew called first, then James and John. They were the sons of Zebedee, called Boa­nerges — sons of thunder. We might look at them as typical brick and mortar men, tough, irreverent, cursing, backslapping men of the laboring class (although I believe that style permeates all segments of society today).

An example of their character is in John 21:20-23:  “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? Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou Me. Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple 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?”

Jesus had to tighten the reigns, a para­phrase might read: “mind your own business; you take care of Peter.”

Reminds me of the story of the bucket of crabs. Crabs are trapped when you put them in a bucket. When one tries to get out, the others will reach up and pull him back down. People are a lot like that. Somehow, that gives me a picture of some of us. I see a bucket full of saints; and I ask, factiously, if that is where the saying “Holy buckets” comes from.

 Matthew 20:20-26 says:  “Then came to Him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping Him, and desiring a certain thing of Him. And He said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto Him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on Thy right hand, and the other on the left, in Thy Kingdom. But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto Him, We are able.”

Notice their macho, cocksure attitude.

Verse 23 “And He saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on My right hand, and on My left, is not Mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of My Father. And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren. But Jesus called them unto Him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister.”

We see jealousy arising, instigated by — dear, sweet, mom. The char­acter of John (and others) was impulsive, intolerant (he wanted to call fire upon the Samaritans), power seeking, ambitious, with a vola­tile temper. This was John — in early years.


A Change in the Heart


Those qualities can be good or at least tolerable if channeled correctly. At least part of  the key to John’s change of character was listening to correction, and learning to control and direct emotions. Did John learn and change? Yes, and not only from personal reprimands from Jesus, but the reprimands for others. I believe the door to his change was his awareness.

Now we come to a strange passage that has always intrigued me. John 19:25-27 says:  “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple standing by, whom He loved, He saith unto His mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith He to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.

Why did Jesus address His mother and tell her to behold John as her son? Perhaps it was because John was as a brother to Jesus. So much so that Jesus felt Mary, His mother, was John’s mother also. Proverbs 18:24, “there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.”


Back to the Imaginarium


Is it hard to imagine yourself as a favorite son?  A few years before her death, my mom sent me a letter saying all sorts of nice things about me and concluded with the intimation that I was the favorite son. I immediately had a flashback to the story of Joseph, and, if I told my brothers, I would be sold into slavery. But, knowing mom, I presumed she had sent my other brothers the same letter.                

We cannot enjoy the close personal, physical relationship John did, but how close could we be to Jesus as a spiritual brother?

1. We are called to be sons of God. And brothers with Christ.  John 1:12, “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.”

2. We are His friend if we do whatever He commands. John 15:9-10: “As the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you: continue ye in My love. 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.”

3. We are to learn the same lessons John did. It helps to know we have the same Teacher.  It’s a matter of how well we learn.

4. We shall do greater things than the Apostles (by His Spirit and power).  John 14:12, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto My Father.”

5. We have received the same gifts as John and will receive the same reward of Eternal life.




Matthew, Mark, Luke, and the rest of the writers of the Bible think and write like I and maybe you, logical, clinical, methodical, factual. Not to say that that is bad, but John takes this relationship thing to a whole new level, love. The books of James, Peter, and John speak of faith, hope, and love in that order. The greatest of these is love (I Corinthians 13:13). We are reminded of the love and kinship of David and Jonathon.

Why was John a favorite son? I think because he learned it and he earned it? We can learn it and earn it too — from the example of John.

— by Steven J. Kieler Ω