Today I want you to meet someone, his name is John. His father, who’s name is Zebedee, owns a large fishing company, with several employees. John also works there together with his older brother James, who is most likely to take over the family business one day. It’s a hard life, being a fisherman, but it’s the life they love.
One day, while they are fishing, a man is standing at the shore, and he calls out to them to put everything aside and follow him. I don’t know about you, but this man must be a bit crazy, why would these two young men give up a good life with good prospects for the future, and follow Him. But this was no ordinary man; this man was Jesus of Nazareth. And so, John and his brother, left everything behind and followed Jesus.
Together with the Apostle Peter, James and John were the three disciples that became the inner circle of Christ. Jesus had 12 disciples, but these three disciples would see more of Jesus then anyone else. They were elected to join Jesus on special occasions.
For example, we see that these three young men accompanied Jesus when het went to Jairus, who was the leader of the synagogue. His young, 12 year old only daughter was very ill and he wanted Jesus to come and cure her. It’s funny, most of the leaders all doubted Jesus, questioning him, but when it comes to the point that one of them needs Jesus for his own benefit, then they suddenly can put everything aside. While Jairus was with Jesus, one of his servants came and said not to bother anymore, because his daughter had died. But Jesus said, Do not fear, only believe and she will be saved. So, the whole crowd went with Jesus to Jairus his house, but he only allowed the family and Peter, James and John to go with him in the house. And there he raised the young girl back to life. (Luke 8:40-56).
A second occasion when Jesus was accompanied by these three disciples was during his transfiguration. It is one of the most beautiful moments in Jesus’ life, and I really love this passage. Jesus is going up the mountain to have a time of prayer. While Jesus was praying, He suddenly started to change, his clothes became white and He started to shine all around. And then he was visited by Moses and Elijah, who were the representatives of the Law and the Prophets, the two major parts of the Old Testament. And together they were speaking about the coming death of Jesus. It was a very, very significant moment, and Peter, James and John were allowed to be present (Luke 9:28-36).
A third occasion was when Jesus went the garden of Gethsemane to pray. It was in the night before Jesus would be arrested, and he had chosen to spent this night with his Father. So he went to Gethsemane left the 9 other disciples behind and took Peter, James and John with him. Then he left these three as well, and while he continued to a solitary place, He asked them to stay awake and pray for Him as well. Jesus knew what was coming, and He was scared. He prayed hard, so hard that He even started to sweat drops of blood. Interesting in this story is that Jesus had just told Peter that he would betray Jesus three times, before the night was over, and still Jesus decided to take him with Him. It shows that Jesus is aware of our weaknesses, but that doesn’t mean that He gives up on us, He has a plan for our lives, and He sticks to that, despite our wrongdoings and mistakes, He doesn’t give up. He trusts us, isn’t that great?
We see in the Gospels that John is mentioned on special occasions a couple of more times, he was asked for example together with Peter, to prepare the Passover meal, and during the Last Supper he was sitting next to Jesus. John was also the disciple who is identified as ‘the beloved disciple’. When Jesus was hanging on the cross, he entrusted his mother to the care of John.
So John had a very special place among the group of disciples, he was one of what we would call today, Jesus his inner circle. But was he really so special. No, not really, he was just an ordinary guy like you and me. He was uneducated, he was the youngest of the group of disciples, and he made some strange requests to Jesus. For example, he tried to stop someone from casting out demons, he and his brother wanted to destroy an entire village, because they did not want to receive Jesus in their midst, and he and his brother also were so bold to ask if one could sit to the right and the other to the left of Jesus, when He would establish His Kingdom. You see, you don’t have to be very special, to be Jesus his special friend. All you have to be is to be willing to follow Him, and then He will accept you, and guide and teach you.
But being part of this inner circle of Jesus had its consequence. As the Apostle Paul puts it, Peter, James and John were the pillars of the church, they were the acknowledged leaders. Although I have to say that the James Paul mentions, is not the brother of John, because he was executed by the Romans, this James was actually the brother of Jesus.
John was together with Peter, when they went to the temple and saw a crippled man lying there begging. Peter told the man that he had no money to give, but in stead, in the name of Jesus, he ordered him to stand up and walk. They then continued to speak to the people all about what Jesus had done. This was much to the annoyance of the priests, so they were brought before them, and were told to keep quiet about these things. But Peter and John said that this was impossible, and so the kept teaching and preaching to the people. Later they would even become missionaries, when john and Peter went together to Samaria, to baptize the believers there with the Holy Spirit.
But then it becomes quiet, and we do not hear much about John anymore. The focus in the Bible is mostly on Peter and on Paul. I once read a book about John, and the author made a nice comment about John. You see, according to the traditions of the church, all of the Apostles have become martyrs, they were killed because of their faith and their boldness to speak about Christ, all except John. Many have become important figures within the church, but John faded into the background. The author said about John that He had chosen affection above ambition. Many, many years John must have spent as a Christian operating in the background, searching for an intimate relation with Christ, through the Holy Spirit. But these years have changed him. Jesus once called him and his brother, the sons of thunder, which no doubt reflected their character. Remember that I told you that they wanted to destroy a whole village once? But now after all these years, John had become more like the son of love.
The Apostle John is generally regarded as the author of the Gospel according to John and as the author of the three letters that carry his name. There are no books in the Bible that speak more about love then these books, it reflects how John had become after spending all these years in affection with Jesus.
But that was not all, John is also traditionally regarded as the author of the book Revelation, one of the most special books in the Bible. He was chosen by God, while being in exile because of his faith, to see the far future. This special man had one more special task to fulfill at the end of his very long life. It is believed that John died at an age of around 90 years old in the city of Ephesus.
In the weeks that lie ahead of us, while I will be bringing God’s word to you, I plan to choose texts that have been written by John. I pray and hope that we will learn much from this very special Apostle, the apostle whom Jesus loved.