“While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 And going on from there he 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. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.”
Jesus called James and John the Sons of Thunder. (Mark 3:17). Although no reason is given, we know Jesus named people with purpose and with a knowledge of who they were. Jesus knows each of us, exactly as who we are and who we are meant to be. (John 2:23-25). The name reveals the brothers passion and action nature which is revealed in the account of Jesus’ rejection from a Samaritan village in Luke 9:51-56.
“When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. 53 But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54 And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” 55 But he turned and rebuked them. 56 And they went on to another village.”
John was one of Jesus dearest friends, perhaps even His closest. He referred to himself in John as the disciple whom Jesus loved. (John 13:23, John 21:20). He was in the inner circle of the Apostles whom Jesus brought with Him for more private time and teaching.
Peter, James and John were the ones whom Jesus asked to stay awake with Him the night before His arrest. (Matthew 26:36-38). Jesus bared His soul to them. The three went with Jesus to the mountain top and saw Jesus shine as The Son of God. Matthew 17:1-13 records that amazing event which these three were privileged to witness.
“And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. 3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son,[a] with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified.7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” 8 And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.
9 And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.” 10 And the disciples asked him, “Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” 11 He answered, “Elijah does come, and he will restore all things. 12 But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.”
That is not the only amazing disclosure Jesus entrusted to John as we will learn when we read Revelation. God gave John the vision and experience that he recorded for us in order to understand the end times and the awesome eternity in store for believers and non-believers. Revelation 1:1-3 reads,
“The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. 3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.”
Jesus not only entrusted these great words to John, He entrusted the care of His mother to him, the only one of the apostles not to abandon Jesus as He gave up His life on the cross. John 19:25-27 reads,
“but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.”
John was a fisherman, and so the probability was he was not highly educated, but he had a very distinct writing style. He had the heart of a poet. His wrote in imagery and in contrasts of love and hate, dark and light. 1 John 2:7-11 is an example.
“Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. 8 At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. 9 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”
Unlike Paul’s linear and academic logic, John’s circular logic was often lyrical but no less authoritative. 1 John 2:12-14 reads,
“I am writing to you, little children,
because your sins are forgiven for his name's sake.
13 I am writing to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,
because you have overcome the evil one.
I write to you, children,
because you know the Father.
14 I write to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
because you are strong,
and the word of God abides in you,
and you have overcome the evil one.”
John began as a fiery fisherman, a Son of Thunder but he became the Apostle of Love, a pillar of the early church who along with James, the brother of Jesus and Peter led the church in accepting Paul as an Apostle. (Galatians 2:9). Jesus takes who we are and makes us into who we are meant to be. He took John’s fierce temper and tempered it with love. He changed him from a man who wanted to call fire out of the sky to punish the people who rejected Christ to the man who wrote to defend love and teach us to love in order bring people who rejected Christ into His great love.