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John the Apostle

QUESTION: Who was John the Apostle?


John the Apostle is thought to have been a disciple of John the Baptist before meeting Jesus (John 1:35). Although John is not specifically identified as a disciple of John the Baptist, his habit of not naming himself is set in the context of John 1:35-40 when he cites only Andrew. This is seen by many Bible scholars as the first incident of John’s omitting of his own name, which is continued through out his gospel and is attributed to his humility. Though nothing is specifically said about it, John, with his brother James and friends Peter and Andrew, had traveled from Bethsaida to the Jordan, a distance of some 75 miles (John 1:44). This indicated the interest all of them had in the messianic kingdom that John the Baptist's ministry represented.

John the Apostle was the Lord's half-cousin, his mother Salome being Mary's sister (compare Matthew 27:56, Mark 16:1, and John 19:25). He was one of two disciples with John the Baptist when he proclaimed Jesus as God's Lamb. He and Andrew became the Master's original disciples (John 1:35-39).

John the Apostle was a faithful disciple of Jesus during His early Judean ministry (John 2:1-4:54). He and the others then returned home, and to their fishing business, where they worked as partners with John's father Zebedee until Jesus came and called them to permanent discipleship (Mark 1:19-20, Luke 5:7, 10).

John the Apostle was a subordinate disciple during Christ's ministry. Reflecting his secondary position as a disciple, John is mentioned after his brother James in each disciple listing (Mark 3:13-16). Matthew 10:2 and Luke 6:14 list Andrew before John. Knowing the brothers' dispositions, Jesus nicknamed both "Boanerges." The Sons of Thunder revealed ambitious, (Mark 10:35-37), and intolerant natures (Luke 9:51-54).

John the Apostle was a classical servant of Christ. Despite his obvious human failings and sins, John enjoyed an affinity of kindred minds with Jesus that led to him being called "the beloved disciple" by others in the group (John 13:23, 19:26, 20:2). He felt so comfortable with Jesus that he put his head on the Master's chest to inquire about the betrayer (John 13:25).

John the Apostle was a disciple who obviously developed spiritual grace during Christ's ministry. This is seen in two ways: first, he braved danger by entering the High Priest's residence during Christ's trial (John 18:15). His ability to enter the house, then to bring Peter in, means that John's family had access to the High Priest. Second, when he joined Peter in the tomb, John saw the meaning of the careful arrangement of grave clothes, and perspicaciously believed in Christ's resurrection (John 20:8-9). This spiritual insight may account for John's listing as second only to Peter when the apostles gathered in the Upper Room after Christ's ascension (Acts 1:13).

John the Apostle was a great apostolic leader in Acts. He helped preach the Pentecost sermon (Acts 2:7-8), accompanied Peter when they healed the lame man (Acts 3:1-10), was jailed with Peter (Acts 4:1-3), was with Peter when they reported to their brothers (Acts 4:23), and Peter and John were sent by the other apostles to investigate the Samaritan revival (Acts 8:14). This key verse reflects the equilibrium in apostolic leadership. Peter and John were sent, meaning the other apostles trusted them. Peter and John were sent by the others, meaning they went as emissaries of, and with the authority of, the whole.

John the Apostle was a brilliant author of christological teaching. John isn't mentioned by name in Acts after the visit to Samaria (Acts 8:17), but he continued to exercise significant church leadership. Paul called him a pillar of the church (Galatians 2:9). His most lasting contribution to God's work came in the five books that bear his name, including the magnificent Gospel of John and the inimitable Revelation. He was likely the last surviving apostle (Revelation 1:9-10).

Learn More About the Gospel of John!

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