Thursday, February 3, 2011

John the Baptist's Erstwhile Disciple, John the Apostle

The apostle John was one of the sons of Zebedee, from a wealthy family and educated in several languages: Hebrew, the language he prayed in and heard the scriptures in, Aramaic the common language of that area, and Greek, the international language of his day. It’s possible that he also spoke Latin because of the Roman occupation.

John worked in his father’s thriving fishing business, and owned his own boat and his own house. We know he had at least one brother, James who was probably the older brother since he name was almost always mentioned first in passages.

John's mother Salome was a woman of faith, who believed in the kingdom that Jesus was teaching about, and she was also an ambitious woman, who asked Jesus outright if her two sons could sit on thrones at Jesus’ right and left hands when He came to reign in glory.

Salome was one of the faithful who stood with her son John and Jesus’ mother Mary, at the foot of the cross, as Jesus died. And she also was one of the women who brought spices to Jesus’ tomb early Easter morning. THere is some evidence that Mary and Salmoe were sisters.

John’s brother James was the first apostle to be martyred, in 44 A.D., when Herod killed him with the sword, as recorded in Luke's book, Acts 12

John was one of the first four men to follow Jesus. He and Peter had been disciples of John the Baptist (which he tells about in the first chapter of his gospel) and began to follow Jesus at the Baptist’s urging.

John did not refer to himself by name in his book, but called himself "the one Jesus loved." That truth must have gone very deep for John, because by the end of his life love is what he wanted to write about.

John and James were called the sons of thunder, because of their fiery tempers, and for their bold, zealous natures. One outburst is recorded in Luke 9, shortly after the transfiguration, when James and John asked Jesus if they should call down fire from heaven on a Samaritan village to wipe it out Sodom-and-Gomorrah style, because the village had refused to follow Jesus, or let them to pass through on their way to Jerusalem.

John was also one of three disciples, along with Peter and James, who became very intimate with Jesus. Jesus took only them when he healed Jairus’ daughter, when he was transfigured, and Jesus invited these three to go with him to Gethsemane to pray. John was the only one of the twelve to go all the way to the cross with Jesus.

In Acts 4 Peter and John stood up boldly to the Sanhedrin when they were commanded not to proclaim Jesus. In fact Peter and John were constant companions in those early years as they preached the gospel together and built up the church.

John outlived all the other disciples, and as he aged he became known as the apostle of love. Along with this gospel John also wrote three letters, and the Revelation that was given to him near the end of his life, when he was exiled on the island of Patmos.

John found in Jesus not only his closest friend, but also the focus of his life.

He started out as a fiery hot head, and he became the wise and loving man we see reflected in his writings. He started out as a prosperous fisherman and he became a fisher of men.

The first three gospels, Matthew Mark and Luke, are called the synoptic gospels - syn for "alike" optic for "look" because these three gospels look alike, they correspond to each other in many ways, each with its own nuance, or emphasis.

John’s work is called the supplementary gospel because his goal was not so much to add facts to the account of Jesus’ life and ministry, but to supplement the facts already written with spiritual insight. Your notes go into more detail about how each of the gospels is both unique and harmonizes with the other gospels.

The gospels are not biographies, but different portrayals of the same person as seen through the eyes of four different men. They are complementary, not contradictory.

Matthew speaks of – the coming of a promised saviour
Mark speaks of – the life of a powerful savior
Luke speaks of – a perfect savior
John speaks of – the possession of a personal savior

For the most part, Matthew, Mark and Luke are set in Galilee, while John is mostly in Judea. In the synoptic gospels, Jesus is in action, addressing multitudes, performing miracles, giving teaching and parables. Whereas in his gospel John records his own reflections, like in the first chapter, and shows Jesus often in meditation, speaking to His disciples, or in prayer with the Father.

The synoptics include things John omits. John does not discuss much of Jesus’ early years of ministry, he doesn’t record the institution of Lord's supper, and he doesn’t describe Jesus’ ascension into heaven.

In fact the feeding of five thousand is one of the few events found in all four gospels, it was that important, but John is the only one who explains the spiritual significance.

John had been the closest to Jesus, sensitive to Jesus’ thoughts and meaning. Now, as he came to the end of his life, the Holy Spirit inspired the apostle John to write a reflective gospel, one that would bring out the deeper truths that Jesus had taught.

John presented Jesus not just as the Son of Man, but as the unique Son of God, so he began his gospel not at Jesus’ birth but in eternity, time before time, when Jesus eternally existed as God.

John set out to write a deeper story, one that brought out the wisdom of Messiah Jesus, a spiritual gospel that revealed Christ’s divine nature and would stir readers to believe in their hearts that He was God. John wrote his gospel sometime between 80 and 90 A.D. and concluded his account with the promise of Christ’s return.

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