The men Jesus chose to be His disciples also represented a wide range of personality and interests. One of the most notable of them was John. He came from a prosperous fishing family based in Capernaum (Mt. 4:21-23; Mk. 1:19-21). He and his brother James were partners with Peter and Andrew (Lk. 5:1-11). The four partners heard Jesus’ call and followed Him at the same time (Mt. 4:18-22; Mk. 1:14-20). John, his brother James, and Peter comprised what scholars call Jesus’ “inner circle”. He was an eyewitness to several special events during Jesus’ earthly ministry: the Transfiguration (Mt. 17:1-8; Mk. 9:2-13), the raising of the synagogue leader’s daughter (Mk. 5:35-43; Lk. 18:49-56), and Jesus’ ordeal in Gethsemane (Mt. 26:36-56; Mk. 14:32-42).
In the Scriptures we learn that John had a fiery temper (Lk. 9:51-56). He initially expected Jesus to have an earthly kingdom and along with his mother asked for a position of authority in it (Mk. 10:35-45; Mt. 20:20-28). He was also fiercely loyal to Jesus and was given the responsibility of taking care of Mary (Jn. 18:15-16, 19:25-27) after Jesus’ death and resurrection. While his temper may have gotten the best of him in his younger years, a transformation took place in his heart. In the Book of Acts John is recognized as a leader along with Peter (Acts 1:13, 3:1-26, 4:1-22, 8:14-15), although it is often Peter who does the speaking. In Galatians 2:9 Paul calls him a “pillar of the church”. After his ministry in Jerusalem, he settled in Ephesus where he wrote his Gospel and letters. He was exiled to the island of Patmos under the emperor Domitian and wrote the Book of Revelation there. Tradition also holds that as John was surrounded by those he loved and about to die, he repeatedly admonished them, “Little children, love one another” a sentiment which echoed the words of His Master and was repeated throughout his writings (Jn. 13:34-35, 15:12-17; 1 Jn. 3:11; 1 Jn. 4:7, 11; 2 Jn. 1:5).
While Matthew, Mark, and Luke present the life, ministry and resurrection of Jesus in a similar fashion (focusing more on Jesus’ ministry in Galilee and what led up to Passion Week in Jerusalem), John’s Gospel presents Jesus in a very different manner. Gone are the parables and birth narratives. John instead builds his Gospel account around 7 “I Am” (Ex. 3:13-15) statements and the miracles that attest to the truth of them (Jn. 6:35, 8:12, 10:7, 10:11, 11:25, 14:6, 15:1). Instead of the short pithy sayings which characterize Jesus’ message in the first three Gospels, when Jesus speaks in the Gospel of John, it is in lengthy discourses that explain Who He is, why He came and what He desires for His followers. It might be tempting to say that this is due to John’s unique personality, however within his Gospel and throughout his letters, John is addressing a specific heresy called Gnosticism, which had begun to make inroads into the growing church. John’s passion for the truth and Jesus as the ultimate expression of Truth fuels John to record some of the most beautiful analogies and illustrations that Jesus applies to Himself (Jn. 3:1-21, 4:4-26, 5:19-47, 6:26-59, 8:12-59, 10:22-38, 12:20-50, 13:31-14:31, 15:1-16:33, 17:1-26).
Gnosticism claimed that the material world was intrinsically bad and the immaterial or spiritual world was good. The way to escape the material world and free the soul from it was either to punish one’s body until some special knowledge was received or to live in complete sensuality with the thought that anything you did outwardly would not have an effect on the immaterial good that was within. In response to this John makes it quite clear that Jesus was both human and divine (Jn. 1:1-14), salvation is only possible through Him (Jn. 14:6), and that a “special knowledge” of God is available to all who hear John’s account and believe (Jn. 20:31) in Jesus. John also emphasizes that life should be lived in obedience to the Lord’s commands as this demonstrates one’s love for Him (Jn. 14:5, 21, 15:10; 1 Jn. 1:4-6, 4:21). Heresy insipidly creeping into the life of believers has not subsided. Even today we encounter other religious tenets being mixed into the Christian faith or lives being lived in contradiction to basic Scriptural principles so that “grace may abound” (Rom. 6:1-2). What John has recorded for us then becomes all the more important. John’s writings are a measuring stick to discern what Jesus truly desires from us and for us to discern whether or not what we are hearing as “Truth”, really is THE TURTH.
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
Week of 9/13/2015