The Disciples: John, whom Jesus loved

(Written by Ange van der Leeuw)

John Boanerges was the son of Zebedee and Salome and brother of James. His second name Boanerges meant son of Thunder. Matthew describes the calling of John in this way: “Going on from there, Jesus saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. And he called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him” (Mt 4:21 22). On the face of it, being a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee sounds like a fairly humble occupation. Yet apparently, John and James came from a more-well-to-do family than the other apostles for in Mark’s account of his calling, we learn that the family had employees. He writes, “Immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and went after him” (Mk 1:20). John also had a house in Jerusalem, for in his own gospel, we are told that after the crucifixion, he took Jesus’ mother Mary to “his own home” (Jn 19:27). Furthermore, he was personally acquainted with the most important man in Judaism: the high priest. It was John’s influence that caused Peter to be allowed into the high priest’s courtyard when Jesus was being questioned before the crucifixion. Referring to himself in this passage as “that other disciple,” he wrote, “Peter stood at the door outside. Then that other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to her who kept the door, and brought Peter in” (Jn 18:15,16).

It is thought that John remained in Jerusalem for some years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, before eventually moving to Ephesus, which in the second half of the first century came to be a major centre of Christianity. He preached among the churches of Asia Minor. He wrote the Gospel of John, I John, II John, III John and Revelation. Sometime around 90 A.D., he was banished to the isle of Patmos during a persecution of Christians by the emperor Domitian. This had arisen over the refusal of Christians to obey Domitian’s command that he be worshipped as a god. John will already have been an old man by this time, probably in his eighties or nineties. He was later freed and was the only one of the 12 to live to a ripe old age and die of natural causes. His final vision in Revelation –

John was a man of action; he was very ambitious, as we see when he and James asking Jesus if one of us [could] sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory. (Mark 10:35-45) Since John and James’ father had hired servants, in his fishing business they may have felt themselves above the rest. John suggests in his gospel that even among the three inner circle disciples, he had a special place, for he refers to himself five times as the disciple ‘whom Jesus loved’. He was close to Peter and they often worked together in ministry. In his younger days, he had an explosive temper and an intolerant heart. John mellowed with time but was passionate about the Lord’s command of love. He is known as the beloved disciple who was close to Jesus and who cared for Jesus’ mother, Mary. (John19:27)

Legend has it that an attempt was made on John’s life by placing poison in his chalice but God spared him. A chalice with a snake in it is his symbol.

PRAYER: Lord God, May I, like John, shed away all of my own ambitions, my bad temper and my lack of self-control and become zealous about your commands to love, to show mercy and to offer grace. May I too, like John, remain steadfast and sure so as I too will see the Lord in all His glory at the end of this life. In Jesus Name, AMEN

SONG: Hosanna by Hillsong