John, the son of Zebedee, seemed to realize early on that the humble carpenter of Nazareth was no mere mortal at all. After Jesus called John to leave his fishing nets and become a ‘fisher of men, John never once looked back.
Especially in his younger years, the apostle was a ‘son of thunder’—tempestuous, vengeful, zealous, and loyal to a fault. When John spied a man unassociated with Jesus casting out demons in Christ’s name, he immediately told him to stop or suffer the consequences. But when John then told Jesus of his loyal rebuke, Jesus replied that those doing good works in His name should be left alone.
In another case, when a Samaritan village refused to allow Jesus and his disciples to pass through their town, John and his brother, James, tried to show loyalty by asking if they should call down fire from heaven to consume the upstarts. Jesus corrected them, saying in effect that their vengeful attitude wasn’t from God.
The two brothers must have decided that such staunch loyalty as theirs’ certainly deserved top positions in Christ’s coming kingdom. So they came to Jesus with their mother, asking if each of them could be granted the chief positions next to His throne. Jesus refused them, explaining that those places of honor were not His to give.
Yet as John received these gentle rebukes and closely observed Jesus day by day, he found himself becoming more caring, more compassionate, and less self-serving. Christ saw John’s spiritual potential and invested in him extra time and more responsibility. John, James, and Peter were the ‘inner circle’ with Jesus at the resurrection of Jairus’ daughter, on the Mount of Transfiguration, and in the Garden of Gethsemane.
As the tough, vengeful John mellowed, he became known as the disciple whom Jesus loved. Just as we’ve often wished we could lie back and rest in the Father’s arms, John rested his head against Christ at the Last Supper. He did not realize then how soon His Master would be taken away to a lonely mountain to die.
Throughout his ministry the apostle was more of a thinker than an outspoken leader. Almost every time we hear of him, he is with another disciple and the other one is taking the lead or at least doing most of the talking. Yet how John could write! He had so meditated on the words of Christ that his gospel seems to contain significantly more spiritual depth and insight than the other gospels. His account is full of Christ’s symbolic claims regarding Himself and he includes some teachings not mentioned in the other gospels.
To John, the great and preeminent message Jesus had for His followers was and always will be Love. A church father relates that, as a very old man, John was asked to preach to a huge crowd of believers. After the attendants carried John in and made him comfortable, John said to the crowd, “Little children, love one another.” That is all he said that day. And that’s okay, because that had become the one overwhelming theme of the great apostle’s life.
What can we learn from John?
Loving others did not come easy for John from the start. As a young disciple his tendency was to shut out all but the Twelve and immediately consign the hostile to fire from the heavens. Like John we can learn the gentleness and compassion of Christ toward both believers and nonbelievers in our lives.
Bible Verses about John
Matt. 4:21; Luke 5:10; Mark 1:29, 5:37; Matt. 17:1; Luke 9:49; John 13:23; Mark 14:33; John 19:26, 20:2, 21:7, 20; Acts 1:13, 3:1, 8:14; Gal. 2:9; Rev. 1:9, 10:11
What questions does this help to answer?
- Who was John in the Bible?
- Who were Jesus’ disciples?
- What is John’s main message?
Steve Fortosis served for six years as youth minister in several parishes. Meanwhile he was also working toward his masters, then his doctorate in religious education. Through the years he has enjoyed teaching on the college and seminary levels and writing professionally. He has published a number of books including story and prayer compilations, missionary biography, Biblical character biography, devotional lit, children’s lit, and even stories of Bible translation. Presently he resides in Florida with his wife, Debra, where he teaches part-time and writes on a free-lance basis.Steve Fortosis