IT’S THE QUESTION OF THE WEEK.
It comes from Debbie Curto, who gets a free book for her trouble.
I’ve condensed her question quite a bit because Debbie gave me lots of info, to help me understand what she was talking about.
Here’s her question:
The Bible says God doesn’t play favorites. So why did Jesus play favorites with his disciples, since John was one of his three favorites?
Jesus did seem to have three favorite disciples, and John was one of them. John’s brother James was another. Peter was the third.
They were Jesus’s best friends, as the Gospel writers reported it.
He hung out with them more than he did with the others. He took them places he did not take the others.
- “Jesus took Peter, James, and John up on a mountain to pray” (Luke 9:28 NLT).
- “Jesus… wouldn’t let anyone go with him except Peter, James, and John” (Mark 5:37).
- After the Resurrection, “Mary Magdalene… ran to Simon Peter and another disciple, the one Jesus loved” (John 20:2 NIRV). Many scholars ID John as the “loved” disciple and also the writer of the book bearing his name.
Clearly, Jesus had his favorites – at least as the New Testament writers tell his story.
But Debbie says she wonders how that lines up with this verse, which, ironically, comes out of the mouth of one of Jesus’s favorites, Peter:
“God plays no favorites!” (Acts 10:34 The Message).
Not true of Jesus.
Thumbs up for
- Kids. “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them!” (Matthew 19:14 NLT).
- Roman soldier. “I tell you the truth, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel!” (Matthew 8:10 NLT).
Both thumbs down for
- Religion scholars: “Frauds! You’re like manicured grave plots… six feet down it’s all rotting bones and worm-eaten flesh. People look at you and think you’re saints, but beneath the skin you’re total frauds” (Matthew 23:27 The Message).
It seems to me that some Christians today go overboard trying to defend a rigid interpretation of the Bible here.
They argue that Jesus did not show favorites. And they do it as a of show allegiance to a starched interpretation of what Peter said.
I don’t see the value of the starch.
Peter was talking about something entirely different than the kind of favoritism Jesus was showing – which is the same kind of favoritism we show to our closest friends and family and to people who do good things. As for people who do bad things, we show them the door – which is pretty much what Jesus did with the religion scholars of his day.
Addressing a Jewish crowd, Peter was making a case for the spiritual acceptance of non-Jews. He was saying God is not a racist.
“It makes no difference who you are or where you’re from—if you want God and are ready to do as he says, the door is open” (Acts 10:34 The Message).
God is not going to build a wall to keep out Hispanics or Palestinians.
He is not going to gas the Syrians.
He is not going to water board Americans. (Including the ones I would like to water board.)
That’s what Peter meant when he said God does not pick favorites. Or as the Contemporary English Version puts it:
“God is pleased with everyone who worships him and does right, no matter what nation they come from.”
It’s in that sense that God doesn’t play favorites.
Jesus, walking the planet, was allowed to have best buds.