I think one of my favorite human experiences is when I am hugged.
There is a delightful splash of oxytocin that floods the system when eyes light up, arms open, and two bodies are pulled into an embrace. Hearts up against one another, you breathe deeply, and remember you are safe and free to be yourself because you are wrapped up in the reality that you are loved and among friends; you are home.
Why does this desire run so deep?
There are a host of cited reasons for hugging: decreased feelings of isolation and depression, increased self-esteem and sense of security, strengthening the bonds of a relationship, and increased immune system.
Could it run deeper still?
John describes Jesus as someone from “the bosom [kolpos] of the Father.” “Bosom” in Greek is the word “kolpos,” the space in the chest between the arms--it’s the anatomy we use to hug each other.
Can you imagine this with me?
God the Father, embracing Jesus, holding his head tightly against his chest and whispering, “You’re my Son. I’m so pleased with you. I love you so much.” Jesus in that moment, never more fully Himself, never more fully connected to the ones He loves. The embrace of the Trinity is a picture of how God can be one person, yet very much three.
John himself wanted to have that kind of experience with Jesus.
I have always thought that if the apostle John were to read Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages, he’d learn that his love language was touch. The other disciples likely became annoyed with him from time to time because I am sure he was a hugger. At least six times he names himself in his gospel as the disciple Jesus loved, but it seems to me that can be traced to the last supper when John finds himself next to Jesus, head resting on his chest (here’s that word again, kolpos), hearing his heartbeat. Can you imagine the tenderness of that moment: breathing in and out, resting on the chest of Jesus? No wonder he couldn’t stop talking about it!
This kind of love helped John to embrace others.
This week I found myself hugging a friend who had lost someone, and I felt like I could hold my friend close because others have held me. If you Google “The Embrace of Jesus,” you will find lots of pictures of Jesus hugging, but scroll a little further and you will find a man with his arms outstretched on a cross, a setting where John once again learned to embrace:
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, "Woman, here is your son,"and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.