Bible Reading: Matthew 4:18-22
Five times John referred to himself in his gospel as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” [John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20]. It was John who had the privileged place of sitting next to Jesus at the last supper [John 13:23], and it was John who was asked by Jesus to take care of His mother, Mary [John 19:26]. This does not mean that Jesus loved John more than anyone else, but rather that there was a special and close relationship between John and Jesus. Referring to himself as, “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” is a reflection of how deeply John must have felt the love that Jesus had for him.
John and his older brother, James, were the sons of Zebedee and Salome. The Galilean fishermen, of whom John was one, were notoriously tough and volatile characters, and yet when Jesus called them they left their nets and followed Him [Luke 5:10; Matthew 4:21-22; Mark 1:19-20].
When he first followed Jesus, John was sometimes rash, impetuous, and aggressive. Both he and James were angry with the Samaritans, for not giving Jesus hospitality, and wanted to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them [Luke 9:51-56]. For this reason Jesus gave them the name ‘Boanerges’ meaning “Sons of Thunder” [Mark 3:17]. They were also highly ambitious, and encouraged by their mother, wanted the two top positions in the kingdom [Mark 10:35-37]. John even had to be rebuked because he forbade a man, who was not one of the twelve, to cast out demons in Jesus’ name [Mark 9:38-41]. He was certainly zealous, fiery, and ambitious, and yet he became known as a man of great love!
It is rumoured that in very old age, in Ephesus, John had to be carried to the church in the arms of his disciples. At these meetings, he was accustomed to say no more than, “Little children, love one another!”
We know little about John’s father Zebedee, but we know that their mother, Salome, also followed Jesus, and was at the cross when Jesus was crucified [Mark 15:40; Matthew 27:55-56]. Salome was the sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and so both James and John were directly related to Jesus as cousins.
This is John – fiery, ambitious, a relative of Jesus, yet chosen by Jesus to be a disciple and to become an apostle. Tomorrow we will take a further look at the life of John, before we take a closer look at his Gospel.
What is encouraging about the fact that Jesus did not choose perfect men to be His disciples?
What do you think it was that caused John to so change from being a fiery and ambitious man, to become a man famed for his love?
Why do you think that John felt so loved by Jesus, that he would call himself on five occasions in his gospel, “the disciple whom Jesus loved”?