The apostle John is one of the most important Christians who ever lived. He was a loyal disciple to Jesus and a powerful leader in the early church. He contributed major portions of the New Testament. And he survived the other apostles, thus demonstrating a lifetime of faithfulness.
John was one of Jesus’ twelve disciples. When Jesus called him, he was fishing on the Sea of Galilee with his brother James and their partners, Simon and Andrew (Luke 5:9-10). He and James were included with Peter in Jesus’ “inner circle.” So he enjoyed closer access to Jesus than the other disciples.
John frequently calls himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” It seems he and Jesus had a special relationship. He “leaned back against Jesus” during the Last Supper (John 13:25). He stood at the foot of the cross while Jesus died, and Mary was entrusted to his care (John 19:26). Some speculate he and Jesus were cousins.
Yet John had his shortcomings. When a Samaritan village refused to welcome Jesus, he and James asked if they should “call down fire from heaven to destroy them” (Luke 9:54). He and James presumptuously asked to sit at Jesus’ right and left in His kingdom (Mark 10:37).
John is often associated with Peter in the book of Acts. He was at the temple when Peter healed the lame man (3:1-25). He and Peter spent the night in jail and stood trial before the Sanhedrin (4:1-21). When the Samaritans believed the gospel, he and Peter laid hands on them so they might receive the Holy Spirit (8:14-17).
John’s brother James was the first apostle to be put to death (12:1-2). But John became a “pillar” of the church in Jerusalem (Galatians 2:9). Later he moved to Ephesus where he wrote the Gospel of John and the letters 1 – 3 John. Toward the end of his life he was exiled to Patmos, where he wrote the book of Revelation.
John outlived the other apostles. He was the only one to not be martyred. Tradition tells us he was dipped into a vat of boiling oil in the Colosseum, yet emerged unharmed. He also mentored Polycarp and Ignatius, who became two of the most prominent early church fathers.
Legacy of Love
John’s writings emphasize love. He penned the most memorable verse in all Scripture, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). He records Jesus’ command, “By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).
He asks, “Let us love one another, for love comes from God…Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:7-8). Indeed, our love for one another verifies our love for God: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar…Whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:20-21).
He passes along Jesus’ rebuke to the church in Ephesus, “You have forsaken your first love” (Revelation 2:4).
John reminds us that love is at the core of Christianity. Our obedience to God flows naturally out of our love for Him. His example shows that our role as pastors is to love our congregations as they progress toward spiritual maturity. Although at times they reject our love and resist our leadership, our love for them must remain unshaken.
How does John’s life and ministry inspire you? Leave your thoughts with a comment below!
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