As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. (Matthew 4:18-22)
IMMEDIATELY, THEY LEFT. Oh, to be as quick to obedience as these fine gentlemen! John, the brother of James and son of Zebedee, was a Hebrew fisherman and another of the 12 men who left it all to follow the Messiah. He’s known as John of Patmos, the Beloved Disciple, John the Apostle, John the Revelator, and John the Evangelist. According to history he outlived all the other disciples and was the only one who died of old age instead of martyrdom, excluding Judas Iscariot who died by suicide.
John is one of the frequent writers of the New Testament authoring The Gospel of John, three Epistles of John, and the Book of Revelation. He wrote what is perhaps the most famous Bible verse of all time: John 3:16. John and his brother James were cousins to Jesus. It was a different John, John the Baptist, who leaped in his mother’s belly when Jesus leaped in Mary’s belly upon meeting. But John the Beloved was Jesus’ best friend in many ways. He was with Peter and James when they saw Jesus resurrecting Jarius’ daughter, the Transfiguration, and Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. He and Peter ran to the empty tomb upon Mary’s exclamation that it was empty.
Often Jesus referred to James and John as ‘Sons of Thunder,’ probably because of their intense passion. John was a disciple of John the Baptist and rushed home to tell James about Jesus because he witnessed the baptism of Christ. Soon after, they both became disciples of Jesus. I think if I had a favorite disciple it would be John. I want to be like him in some ways not just because he was the one who rested his head on Jesus’ chest at the Passover, but because of his steadfast love. John not only loved Jesus dearly, but took care of Mary on Jesus’ behalf after the Crucifixion. John also loved the Church, the Body of Christ. He had a passion for bringing people together to love one another and care for one another as worship to our Savior and obedience to God our Father. He along with Peter in particular were pillars of the Church according to the Apostle Paul and were miracle-workers for the glory of Christ.
John outlived his brother James by nearly 50 years, but he didn’t escape persecution. John was often pursued, imprisoned, and abused. The authorities attempted to murder him a few times including throwing him in a pot of boiling oil. He was even exiled for his faith to the island of Patmos where Jesus visited him and John experienced the revelations recorded in the last book of the Bible.
The older John got the more he seemed to value God as Love and the importance of loving others as Jesus loves us. It really is perhaps his most enduring legacy, even more than the miracle healings and the miraculous escapes from death. In 1 John 4:8 he wrote, “Whoever does not love others, does not love God because God is love.” 1 John is one of my favorite books of the Bible; I learn from this disciple so many things. But more than anything he forces me to recognize God as True Love, not just the inventor of it, and John directs me to be like Jesus – loving and serving others more than myself. It starts at home, in my private life. It can be easy to prefer others on a website or at work or even in public, and especially in ministry. But the true proof of a love like Jesus starts with those closest to me.
Forgive me, Kathy Rose, when I’m not loving as I should and want to be.
Jesus, thank you for loving me and continuing to make me into your image. I am not John the Beloved, but I am one of your beloved disciples. Like John, you saved me by grace through faith and made me a saint through your own righteousness.
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for Godis truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining. Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.