Jesus’ Disciples: John

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, August 24, 2020 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

Last week, we discussed Jesus’ disciple James, son of Zebedee. The disciple for this week is John, James’ brother. John was also present in many of the stories we read in the gospels about James, so I’m not going to write about those same narratives again here. Just like with the name James, there are multiple Johns we hear about in the New Testament. John the apostle is the son of Zebedee, not to be confused with John the Baptist or the John who was also known as Mark (or John-Mark).

John the apostle was one of Jesus’ inner circle along with Peter and James. These three witnessed the raising of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:21-43), witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus together (Matthew 17:1-13), and went further into the Garden of Gethsemane with Jesus and were commanded to watch and pray (Matthew 26:36-46). John had an occupation as a fisherman before he was called by Jesus to be a disciple.

But John has an identity among the disciples that’s all his own as well. He wrote the gospel of John in the New Testament, which is believed to be the last of the four that was written, possibly as late as 90-100 AD. The other three gospel accounts are very similar in nature and contain many of the same accounts, but John approaches the story of Jesus from a slightly different perspective. The purpose of writing this gospel is stated clearly in passages such as this: “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). John gives his own testimony so that the believers who receive it will experience their faith as he has. John’s gospel was written primarily for those who already believe to be able to fight heresies (beliefs that go against Christianity), whereas the other gospels were written to unbelievers at earlier dates.

One of the main heresies of John’s day was Gnosticism, believing that Jesus was not fully human. John’s gospel provides a more detailed character sketch of Jesus than the other gospels. He starts by showing Jesus as the divine Word from the Father, but then also shows Jesus’ humanity. Another heresy of the day was that John the Baptist had the same religious authority as Jesus, which John shows in his gospel to be clearly false. John the Baptist was a fully human prophet, whereas Jesus was fully God and fully human.

An interesting fact about John’s gospel is that he appears to never mention his own name. As a follower of Jesus, even though his mom wanted him to be one of the great ones in Jesus’ Kingdom, John modeled humility. Rather than bragging on himself, he would call himself “another disciple,” the “beloved disciple,” or “the one whom Jesus loved.” These phrases are used many times in the gospel, and it’s clear from the context and other historical accounts that they refer to John. While He was on the cross, Jesus showed His love for John by entrusting him to take care of Jesus’ mother Mary (John 19:26-27).

While brothers James and John share many experiences during Jesus’ life and ministry, we often find Peter and John together as well. They follow Jesus after His betrayal and to the high priest’s courtyard (John 18:15-16). Mary Magdalene tells the two of them first the news of the resurrection, and they are the ones who run to see what happened (John 20:1-10). After the resurrection, Peter and John are fishing with some others when Jesus revealed Himself to them (John 21:1-7). Peter and John do ministry together in Acts 3-4, doing healings, sharing the good news of salvation through Jesus, being put in jail, then being sent to testify before the religious authorities.

John became a leader at the church in Jerusalem, but then much of his personal history goes unrecorded. He wrote the letters of 1 John, 2 John, and 3 John, as well as the book of Revelation. It is believed that he retired to Ephesus, as we see him having a special affection for the seven churches of Asia in Revelation 2-3. We know that John suffered persecution for his work with the early church and was banished to the island of Patmos. It is believed that he returned to Ephesus later where he died, probably around the year 98 AD, having outlived all of his companions from the early days with Jesus on earth.

So what can we learn from John about being a disciple of Jesus? The main theme we can learn from John’s life is to keep the faith. Many of the original disciples died young as martyrs, while John was able to live a long life. But he never gave up his faith in Jesus, from the time Jesus called him as a young fisherman until his death. His writings and his leadership in the church helped educate the early church so they would remain true to the gospel message and the facts about Jesus. He did not compromise the truth even when faced with persecution.

What are you doing to live a consistently faithful life, to help educate yourself and the other believers around you as John did?

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