In John 13: 24-25, Peter asked John to ask Jesus who it was that was going to betray Him. These verses don’t name John outright, they only refer to him as “the disciple Jesus loved.” John isn’t named until the last chapter of the gospel, and even then it’s as “one of the sons of Zebedee” (21:2).
The close connection between Peter and John in chapter 13 is sustained throughout the rest of the Gospel. When Christ was arrested, Peter was left out in the cold until “the other disciple” spoke to the doorkeeper at the high priest’s house to let him in (John 18:15-16). In chapter 20, verses 4 and 8, John outran Peter to the tomb and believed in the resurrection first. Peter jumped into the Sea of Galilee to join Jesus on the shore, but it was John who was the first to recognize him (John 21:). “The disciple who Jesus loved” was already following Jesus when Peter asked about his place in Christ’s post-resurrection plans (John 21:20-22).
Gerald Borchert makes a fascinating point in his commentary on the Gospel of John. Borchert states, “One cannot avoid the observation that in all of these cases, the beloved disciple is shown to be superior to Peter in some way.” John and Peter are lifted up as models of discipleship. John is described as an ideal model of what it looks like to follow Christ, and Peter is depicted as the more realistic model of a Christ-follower.
This two-model approach to discipleship is encouraging for followers of Jesus in the real world. Sometimes we live up to our best intentions and follow Jesus with a responsive and fast-paced faith. There are other times, however, when our best intentions end in failure. These portraits of discipleship are helpful, but ultimately, they should remind us to keep our attention on Christ. Instead of comparing ourselves to someone else, we should follow Jesus and the path He has laid out for us.