We’re continuing to look at the group of men Jesus chose to train and teach, with the end goal that they would go preach His message. They were an interesting mix with widely different backgrounds, temperaments, and even politics. But we can learn some important things about how to follow Jesus from each of them. Last week, we learned from James, the older son of Zebedee. This week, we’ll take a look at his younger, better-known brother, John.
We know John perhaps better than any of the disciples. Or at least we think we do. Heavily influenced by no less than Leonardo da Vinci, we may have an image of him as young, delicate, soft … He was the Apostle of Love after all. John – like James, and Peter and Andrew were a lot closer to the History Channel’s Deadliest Catch than the Renaissance depictions of him. He was also called a Son of Thunder. He was hot-tempered, self-promoting, and intolerant. But, when Jesus taught, he listened and he was completely transformed. That in itself if a lesson.
John knew mentors were important.
We first meet John as a disciple of John the Baptist. He follows Jesus. Then as Acts opens, we see him sticking close to Peter. John saw the value of having a mentor. He understood there was much to learn and in spite of the bumps in his training, he was a good student. When we get to his epistles, we see him as the mentor, giving advice, admonishing and encouraging those entrusted to him.
If we want to follow like John, we need to see how important it is to be BOTH learning and passing on what we’ve learned. Faith in Christ is meant to be lived, not simply studied and examined. We need to make sure we are “in the middle” with someone challenging us to deeper faith and someone we are coaching.
John knew love was important.
John learned love was important, anyway. His gospel records Jesus’s command to love each other five times as He taught in the Upper Room. In his letters, he warns us not to love the things of the world (1 John 2:16). But he reiterates Jesus’s words. For this is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another (1 John 3:11). That gives the impression that John spoke about love A LOT.
If we want to follow like John, we must make love for each other a very high priority. This is the distinctive, giving, sacrificing kind of love that sets us apart and marks us as followers of Jesus. We must reach out, shoulder burdens, take risks for our brothers and sisters. It is hard, messy work. That’s why John returns to it so often.
John knew truth was important.
When John introduces us to the incarnate Christ, he says “We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). He goes on to mention “truth’ two dozen more times in the gospel and another twenty times in the relatively short letters he wrote. As false teaching spread and took root in the body of Christ, John saw that it was imperative the proclaim, believe and hold to the truth. And he found particular satisfaction when his admonitions were heeded. “I have no greater joy than this: to hear that my children are walking in truth
(3 John 1:4).
If we want to follow like John, we too must be devoted to truth. We can’t compromise because of culture or convenience. We have to be on guard against false teaching, and we can’t be bashful about calling it out. John learned how to balance love with truth and we have to work toward that as well. If the body of Christ doesn’t stand up for truth, no one else will.
While his brother James was the first martyr among the disciples, John lived a long life. That doesn’t mean it was a life of ease. He faced unrelenting opposition and persecution. That is yet another lesson from the apostle. His testimony never changed. It simply became more sure.
Next week: Philip