APOSTLE AND EVANGELIST JOHN (Fr. Varghese Paul, S.J.)

Among the twelve apostles with the exception of Simon Peter we know most about the evangelist John. The Gospel according to John and his three letters as well as the book of Revelation give much information about their author.

Jesus calls John and his brother James immediately after calling Simon Peter and his brother Andrew. The gospel of Mathew says, He went on and saw two other brothers, James and John, the sons of Zebedee. They were in their boat with their father Zebedee, getting their nets ready. Jesus called them, and at once they left the boat and their father, and went with him (Mt 4, 21-22).

We know that John was a special friend of Jesus along with his brother James and Simon Peter. These three apostles were the privileged disciples chosen by Jesus to witness the Transfiguration (Mt 17.1), the raising Jairus daughter to life (Mk 5, 37) and the agony of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane (Mt 26,37).

When Jesus predicted about the betrayal during the last supper at the prompting of Peter John asked Jesus about the betrayal, So that disciple moved closer to Jesus side and asked, Who is it, Lord? (Jn 13, 25).

In the Gospel of John, the apostle is referred three times as the disciple whom Jesus loved.

First, seeing John at the foot of the cross, Jesus entrusted him the care of his mother. Jesus saw his mother and the disciple he loved standing there; so he said to his mother, He is your son.

Then he said to the disciple, She is your mother. From that time the disciple took her to live in his home (Jn 19, 26-27). Among the twelve disciples only John was there at the foot of the Cross!

Second, after the resurrection Simon Peter and his companions went fishing in the Lake Galilee. Then, Jesus came and stood on the shore. It was John who recognized Jesus first. The disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, It is the Lord! (Jn 21, 7).

Third, on the occasion of Jesus entrusting Simon Peter with the responsibility to lead the Church, John is referred to as the disciple Jesus loved, Peter turned round and saw behind him that other disciple, whom Jesus loved the one who had leaned close to Jesus at the meal and had asked, Lord, who is going to betray you? When Peter saw him, he asked Jesus, Lord, what about this man? (Jn 21, 20-21).

In the four Gospels two incidents specially reveal the character of John. In listing the name of the twelve apostles Mark specially mentions that James and his brother John, the sons of Zebedee (Jesus gave them the name Boanerges, which means Men of Thunder) (Mk 3,17).

In another occasion the two disciples are portrayed as very ambitious people. In the Gospel of Mathew it is the mother of James and John who comes to Jesus asking him for special places for her sons in the kingdom of God. But in Marks Gospel, the two disciples themselves come to Jesus with their special request.

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus. Teacher, they said, there is something we want you to do for us.

What is it? Jesus asked them.

They answered, When you sit on your throne in your glorious Kingdom, we want you to let us sit with you, one at your right and one at your left. (Mk 10, 35-37; Mt. 20, 20-21).

The unique friendship of Jesus with John is also seen in the last supper of Jesus with his twelve disciples. Jesus chose John and Simon Peter to go ahead and prepare the supper for Jesus and the chosen twelve. Luke notes, Jesus sent of Peter and John with these instructions: Go and get the Passover meal ready for us to eat. The went off and found everything just as Jesus had told them, and they prepared the Passover meal (Lk 22, 8-13).

The Gospel of John is totally different from the first three synoptic Gospels.

As John presents the life and message of Jesus, he also gives us the theology. So Johns Gospel is compared with eagle the king of birds. The theology in Johns Gospel soars high in the sky as if on the wings of an eagle. So there is no surprise that eagle is considered the symbol of evangelist John.

John must have remained in Palestine after Accession of Jesus. But during the persecution of King Agripa I, John has gone to Asia Minor in the region of present-day Turkey. In the Roman Empire Ephesus was a flourishing centre in Asia Minor. Ephesus was a flourishing centre of Roman empire. Based at Ephesus John must have founded the seven churches and have taken care of them. John has written his Gospel at Ephesus.

John must have live at Ephesus till ripe old age. He constantly gave his disciples and all the followers of Jesus one message till the end: Dear brothers, you love one another. My children, our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action (1 Jn 3,18).

John in his first letter says God is love. Dear friends, let us love one another, because love comes from God. Whoever loves is a child of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love (1 Jn 4,7-8).

John believed not only in the talk of love but also in translating love into action in our every day lives. We love because God first loved us. If someone says he loves God, but hates his brother, he is a liar. For he cannot love God, whom he has not seen, if he does not love his brother, whom he has seen. The command that Christ has given us is this: whoever loves God must love his brother also (1 Jn 4, 19-21).

The message of John and the purpose behind his message of love are very clear in Johns mind. Dear friends, if this is how God loved us, then we should love one another. No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in union with us, and his love is made perfect in us (1 Jn 4, 11-12).

The Apostle and Evangelist John are specially honoured by the people in the region of Turkey Asia Minor as their Patron and Protector Saint.

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