There are 12 apostles in the Bible. Can you name them all? Specifically, do you know the one with the designation “the disciple whom Jesus loved?”
Perhaps, you have an idea who it was. You probably know something about this disciple. However, 24 unpopular facts about him will surely surprise you.
Who Was “the Disciple Whom Jesus Loved?”
Among the twelve, John was the one known as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Really? Does it mean that he was the only one?
Before knowing the answers to this question, how would you like to know them personally first?
Knowing his ancestral background
John was born in Bethsaida at around 6 AD (New World Encyclopedia). It was on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, part of the Roman Empire.
Luke 5:10 (ESV) says, “James and John, the sons of Zebedee.” Similarly, Mark 3:17 (ESV) states, “James, the son of Zebedee, and John, the brother of James.”
Meanwhile, Matthew 27:55-56 (ESV) mentions three women. One of them is “the mother of Zebedee’s sons.” Mark 15:40 (ESV) gives her the name “Salome.” She was with two other women, Mary Magdalene and Mary of Clopas.
With these, you can confirm that “the disciple whom Jesus loved” was one of Zebedee and Salome’s sons. James was his elder brother. Hence, he was the youngest member of his family.
(Image from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8jpqeg8Gws)
If you will trace John’s genealogy, his mother Salome was one of three sisters named Mary. As such, he was a relative of his fellow disciples – James, Simon, and Judas. He also had Jesus within his clan.
Discovering his occupation
Matthew 4:21 (ESV) tells you, “And going on from there He saw two other brothers.” Specifically, these were “James, the son of Zebedee, and John, his brother.” Interestingly, they were “with Zebedee, their father, mending their nets.”
As such, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” was a fisherman. He was working with Peter, Andrew, and James.
Besides, Professor Douglas Oakman, a biblical historian, said that they “were in a partnership from the gospels from Luke.” As such, they were under pressure to catch fish in order “to feed their families” and “pay the tax collector.”
Unfortunately, the fishermen couldn’t eat their catch of fresh fish like carp and sardines. Instead, they had to hand them over to the tax collector as part of their contract.
Their catch was solely for the table of the rich people. So, as a trade, they could only receive inferior, processed fish as their take-home. You may say it was an unfair exchange! Indeed, yes.
How would you feel if you were in this situation?
Becoming a disciple of Jesus
One day, Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee. The first ones he saw were Peter and Andrew. He told them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19, ESV). Without much hesitation, they left their boats and followed Him.
Going further, Jesus saw James and John casting down their fishing nets. He invited them. Without hesitation, they followed Him (|Matthew 4:21-22, ESV).
If you were in their place, would you make that decision right away?
Since then, they have been with Jesus in His ministry of preaching and healing. They have witnessed how He dealt with people and circumstances. Also, they have learned the lessons of heaven through His teachings.
With this, how would you like to be one of Jesus’ disciples?
Becoming an apostle of Christ
Did you know that Jesus had been with His disciples for three and a half years? Throughout His stay, He taught and trained them for ministry. Right before His ascension, He commissioned the twelve to become “apostles.”
“As Christ’s representatives, the apostles were to make a decided impression on the world” (Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles 22.3). That is, they had to continue Jesus’ ministry of preaching and healing. He gave them the Holy Spirit as their Comforter.
As an apostle, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” had been instrumentally successful. In The Sanctified Life 70.1, Ellen White mentioned, “With great zeal and success, he continued to preach the doctrine of Christ.” Significantly, he had “a testimony of power, which his adversaries could not controvert, and which greatly encouraged his brethren.”
Now, do you know someone with this gift of tongue?
Besides, John presented his faith with clarity, conviction, simplicity, and sincerity. With his powerful words from God, his hearers admired his wisdom and delivery. He even shut his opponents up with his sound reasoning (Ellen White, The Sanctified Life, 71.1).
With this, how would you like to witness John’s preaching in person? Like his listeners, you too would surely be amazed.
Moreover, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” played a significant role in the early Christian church.
Specifically, he partnered with Peter in the pioneering activities of the Christian movement. For instance, he helped him preach the Pentecost sermon, investigate the Samaritan revival, and others.
Diving into his writings
What are his books?
- Gospel of John
As the name implies, this book contains an account of John’s life. Written in 80-98 AD, it was his first writing.
Specifically, it features his firsthand experience with Jesus in His earthly ministry. Hence, you call it a Gospel book, along with those of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
If you notice, it begins by describing Jesus as the Word Who “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1-18, ESV). After which, it goes through significant events such as His baptism, transfiguration, healing, preaching, and others. Finally, you can see it ends with His crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension.
Honestly, there have been many things Jesus did. As such, John realized that his book was not enough to contain them all. He even exclaimed that the entire world would not have room for all the books he could write.
Can you believe it? How many books do you think would those be?
- 1 John
Unlike John’s Gospel, this book served a particular purpose. He wrote it in 90-95 AD.
Do you notice that the Bible does not mention specifically to whom the apostle addressed this writing? However, according to Nichol (1980), it was a letter to a known group of Christians. It was probably in Ephesus or Asia.
Specifically, John intended to give another testimony of the things he has heard, seen, and touched. He aimed at encouraging his readers to “have fellowship…with the Father and…Son” (1 John 1:3, ESV).
Aside from the theme of love and fellowship with God, John provided tests of true Christianity. You can read it in chapter 3.
Here, he enumerated the indications of genuine communication with God. Also, he discussed the life of active righteousness as proof of spiritual regeneration.
- 2 John
This book is the second shortest one in the Bible. It contains only one chapter with 13 verses. Despite that, it speaks for its purpose well.
Written at the same time with 1 John, this epistle is also specific. John wrote this for the “elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth” (2 John 1:1, ESV).
You may be wondering who that lady is? Do you know who those children are? Also, are they literal or symbolical?
The Bible does not give you a name for this lady nor specifies who it represents. However, Joe (2018) suggests that it is a metaphor referring to the entire church. As such, the children are its congregation.
Regardless of this, this book addresses its message to all believers. It intends to remind them to love one another and follow God’s commandments.
- 3 John
Do you know that this epistle of John is the shortest book in the Bible? While 2 John has fewer verses, the 15 ones of this book are shorter.
Now, the first two epistles generally target the church. Do you notice it? In contrast, 3 John is for a specific person. In particular, it is “the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth” (3 John 1:1, ESV).
John expressed in this writing his prayer for this man’s health and faith. Specifically, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4, ESV).
With this, how would you like to receive a love letter from a concerned friend?
Perhaps, you know that this book is John’s last writings. In particular, he wrote it in 94-98 AD.
Different from his Gospel and epistles, this one contains prophecies and events in the last days. Those books talk about the past, while this one reveals the divine mysteries of the future. Hence, scholars categorize it as an apocalypse.
Studying its content, it is a letter to the seven churches in the Roman province of Asia. These are Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.
Now, these are the central visions of this apocalypse:
- A description of Christ (Revelation 1:9-3:22, ESV)
- A glimpse of the coming events (Revelation 4:1-16:21, ESV)
- A vision about the punishment of the Great Prostitute (Revelation 17:1-21:8, ESV)
- The vision of the bride (Revelation 21:9-22:5, ESV)
How does he write?
Do you notice that John’s writings have an organization? That is, there is a chronological sequence of events that any reader can follow.
For instance, you can see that his Gospel has four sections:
- Prologue – true identity of Jesus
- Book of Signs – account of Jesus’ ministry
- Book of Glory – Jesus’ return to heaven
- Conclusion – the purpose of the Gospel
If you come to read 1 John, you can also see these parts:
- Prologue – Jesus as the Word of Life
- Body – walking in the light of Christ and loving one another
- Conclusion – the purpose of the epistle
Still, the book of Revelation has an organized structure. You will notice John begins with the vision of Christ. Then, he enumerates the signs of the times that lead to Jesus’ second coming.
At the center of the book, he shows you that Jesus is the Lamb. It provides its theme and theological significance. Finally, it ends with the promise of the new heaven and earth.
In most of his writings, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” communicates in the first-person perspective. Do you observe that? Specifically, he is the narrator. He develops the characters and unfolds the events in a personal way.
For instance, John presents Revelation from how he witnessed the visions God gave him. With this, you can get a visual glimpse of events.
Similarly, John speaks in his epistles through his conviction from God. Specifically, he brings His messages like a friendly counselor concerned for your faith.
In contrast, John’s Gospel, which bears his name, is in the third-person view. He does not reveal himself throughout this book. How ironic! However, John has a purpose for doing so.
Specifically, he wants you as a reader to focus on Jesus, the subject of the Gospel. He does not want to abuse his authorship by turning the spotlight on him, which can cause some bias.
- Use of Literary Devices
Another essential quality you may notice in John’s writings is his use of literary techniques such as the following:
- Multiple Allusions
- “The disciple whom Jesus loved” uses words that mean differently depending on situations and usage. For instance, “follow” in John 1:38 (ESV) means going after Jesus. In the succeeding verses, it goes on a high meaning of obeying and abiding with Him.
- John uses expressions that are contrary to what readers expect. For example, he wrote, “He was in the world…yet the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him” (John 1:10-11, ESV).
- John uses objects from nature to represent reality and stimulate his readers’ imagination and critical analysis. For example, John 7:38 (ESV) says, “Whoever believes in Me…out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” The living water represents Jesus.
Why Did John Call Himself “the Disciple Whom Jesus Loved?”
- It was a literary construct for modesty and polite reserve.
At your first glance, you may say it sounds as if John was bragging about himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved. It gives you an impression that he was the only one or that he was Jesus’ favorite. However, it’s not the case. Such a designation had its purpose.
Specifically, Köstenberger and Stout (2008) considered the title a “device of authorial modesty.” In other words, it is a polite way “to avoid self-promotion” (Smith, 2018). It is evident in the fact that John never told you his name in his Gospel.
Like Matthew in his Gospel, John never wrote in the first person. He would always refer to himself in the third person. It was an act of humility, according to Clough (2017). That is, he didn’t want to take the spotlight. Instead, he liked readers like you to focus on Jesus’ love.
- He was one of Jesus’ closest disciples.
John was among Jesus’ three intimate disciples. The other two were Peter and James. With this, all three of them had been with Jesus on most of His significant trips.
For instance, you can read from Luke 9:28 (ESV) that Peter, James, and John were there during Jesus’ transfiguration. Also, they were the only ones Jesus allowed to follow Him into the house of the synagogue ruler (Mark 5:37, ESV).
Still, they were the only disciples who went with Jesus to the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46, ESV). You may be wondering how special they were for Jesus.
Meanwhile, did you know that John had a more intimate relationship with Jesus among the three of them? For instance, he would love sitting next to Jesus and leaning on His bosom (John 13:23, KJV). Then, he would engage in an intimate conversation with Him.
Do you do the same with your closest friend? With this, how much time do you spend with each other?
- He was in awe of Jesus’ magnanimous love.
Being with Jesus in most of His activities, John had a close view of His loving character.
For instance, John witnessed Jesus’ love and compassion for the sick. A large crowd would always follow Him, and He would heal them (Matthew 14:14, ESV). Also, He would feed the hungry (Matthew 15:32, ESV). Still, Jesus would intercede for His disciples and the church (John 17:20-21, ESV).
Now, imagine yourself experiencing Jesus firsthand! What do you think it would be like?
However, John saw the most significant act of love in Jesus’ crucifixion (John 3:16, ESV). It was the most touching scene that melted his heart, knowing that His blood had saved the entire humanity.
Realizing the depth of Jesus’ love for humanity, John personally exemplified it in his Gospel. Hence, he referred to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” If you were in his place, how would you call yourself?
In Hope Channel, Fong (2016) claimed that “it wasn’t a statement of arrogance.” Instead, it was an expression of “sincere humility and a reflection of…God’s amazing grace.”
Hence, it does not mean that John was the only disciple Jesus loved like what you may have assumed at first. As a fact, “God shows no partiality” (Romans 2:11), suggesting that He loved all disciples equally.
How Was John the Beloved Related With John the Baptist?
Perhaps, you’re wondering if there was any relationship between John the Baptist and the so-called disciple whom Jesus loved.
Aside from the fact that they had similar names, you may be asking if they had blood relations. Did they belong to the same race? Also, have they crossed each other’s paths? What do you think?
Determining their ancestral relationship
First, you must know.” the relationship between Jesus and John the Baptist.
In Luke 1:36 (KJV), an angel appeared to Elizabeth, telling her that she would conceive a son. “And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age.” Are you familiar with this story?
Therefore, Elizabeth and Mary, the mother of Jesus, were cousins. It means that Jesus and John the Baptist were second cousins. Now, do you get the idea?
In The Desire of Ages 109.2, Ellen White mentioned, “Jesus and John the Baptist were cousins.” Their relation was “by the circumstances of their birth.”
Perhaps, you can remember earlier that Jesus and John the Beloved were direct cousins. Yes! Concluding from that, the two Johns were most likely second cousins.
Now, does it make sense to you?
Learning about their ethnicity
Ian Werrett (2019), in Bible Odyssey, stated, “John would have cut an imposing figure as he preached to his fellow Jews.” Hence, John was a Jewish prophet.
Now, you may be asking, “What about John, the disciple?”
Well, Matthew 15:24 (ESV) writes that the Father sent Jesus “only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” The lost sheep referred to the Jews, the focus of His earthly mission.
“The Jews were God’s chosen people” (Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles 374.3). They were “through whom He had purposed to bless the entire race.”
What do you think of Jesus’ twelve disciples? Besides, would He select non-Jewish individuals for this evangelistic mission? More importantly, would He spend three and a half years training the wrong people?
Acts 10:28 (ESV) talks about “how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with…anyone of another nation.” Since the disciples were able to worship with Jesus in the temples, they were undoubtedly Jews. As a fact, no Gentiles could enter the synagogues.
Being one of the twelve, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” was a Jew. Hence, you can confirm that he and John the Baptist had the same race.
Knowing their social relationship
“These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing” (John 1:28, ESV). However, this verse does not specify which between the disciple and the baptist this John was. Fortunately, describing that he was “baptizing” gives you a hint that he was John the Baptist.
Now, “John was standing with two of his disciples” (verse 35). “One of the two…was Andrew,” who went and “found his…brother Simon” (verses 40-41). Meanwhile, the author does not tell you who the other disciple was.
In his Gospel, Matthew mentions two pairs of brothers. “He saw two brothers, Simon…and Andrew his brother” (Matthew 4:18, ESV). Also, “He saw two other brothers, James…and John, his brother” (verse 21).
With Matthew’s description, you get James and John as the suspects for the unknown disciple in John 1:35. However, how can you determine which one?
“The unnamed disciple of verse 35 is…John, the writer of this fourth Gospel” (White, 1998). On this note, Utley (1999) added that “never, in this Gospel, does the writer refer to himself by name.” Instead, “he designates himself as ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved.'”
Therefore, you got it right that John the Beloved was a follower of John the Baptist.
24 Surprising Things You Should Know About The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved
- The name John denotes God’s grace and gift.
According to Behind the Name (2020), the name John originates from the Hebrew name Yohanan. It means “God has been gracious” or “Jehovah has been gracious,” Also, it is an abbreviation of the expression “God’s gift” (Rubia, 2017).
It implies that John had indeed been a blessing from God. That is, he had been a heaven-sent comfort for Jesus during His years of being with men. Like Jonathan to David, he had been a good friend to Him.
- He was a cousin of Jesus.
In the Bible, there were three sisters with the same name, Mary. Do you know them?
One of them was Mary, the mother of Jesus (Acts 1:14, ESV). The second was Mary, James, and Joseph’s mother (Matthew 27:56, ESV). Finally, the third one was Mary Salome, James and John’s mother (Mark 15:40, ESV).
As such, you’re right that Jesus and John the Beloved were cousins.
- He was once a disciple of John the Baptist.
You know that John was a disciple of Jesus. However, would you believe that he was once a follower of John the Baptist?
John the Baptist was a prophet in Judea. He preached about the coming of the Messiah, encouraging people to repent. Then, he would baptize them with water.
With this, he prepared the way for the Lord, making the paths straight (Mark 1:3, ESV). In a sense, he was Jesus’ forerunner.
Unfortunately, you cannot read from the Bible that John the Beloved was John the Baptist’s disciple. However, you can get a hint from John 1:35 (ESV) that the baptist was with his two disciples.
“One…was Andrew,” who called his brother Simon. Still, you won’t confirm the name of the other disciple here. However, Andrew and John were Jesus’ first disciples (Nichol, 1980, in SDA Bible Commentary).
Also, Matthew would always pair Andrew with Peter and John with James. “He saw two brothers, Simon…and Andrew, his brother” (Matthew 4:18, ESV). Likewise, “He saw two other brothers, James…and John, his brother” (verse 21).
Hence, most probably, the so-called disciple whom Jesus loved was the second follower. White (1998) supported this idea. As the author of his Gospel, he never introduced himself (Utley, 1999).
- He was the youngest disciple but the longest-lived apostle of Jesus.
Jesus commissioned His twelve disciples as apostles around 27 AD. Do you know how old they were during this time? According to Master Universe Almanac, they were as follows:
- Andrew – 33
- Simon Peter – 30
- James Zebedee – 30
- John – 24
- Philip – 27
- Nathaniel – 25
- Matthew – 31
- Thomas – 29
- James Alpheus – 26
- Judas Alpheus – 26
- Simon the Zealot – 28
- Judas Iscariot – 30
From this, you can see that “the disciple whom Jesus loved” was the youngest. Surprisingly, as an apostle then, John was the last survivor, as well. The almanac mentioned that he died at an old age of 101 in 103 AD.
Meanwhile, the rest of the apostles died earlier. For instance, you can notice Peter and Paul died in 66 AD and James in 44 AD (Ken Curtis, 2021).
- He wanted to call down fire from heaven.
One day after His transfiguration, Jesus was with His disciples to go to Jerusalem. To get there, He had to pass by the Samaritan mountains. It was the same route that led Him to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well.
While traveling, Jesus sent some disciples ahead to look for some food and lodging. Unfortunately, the Samaritans were rude and unfriendly.
As Jesus reached the place, He saw James and John bursting in anger. “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” (Luke 9:54, ESV).
Can you imagine that?
Jesus rebuked them, saying, “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of” (Luke 9:55, KJV). In verse 56, He continued that He did “not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”
How would you feel if you were in these brothers’ place hearing it from Jesus Himself? Wasn’t it humbling and comforting?
- He was one of the “sons of thunder.”
Because of their intolerant and hot-tempered spirit, Jesus called James and John the “sons of thunder.” The technical term for this label is Boanerges (Mark 3:17, ESV).
This attitude of James and John is evident in their encounter with the unfriendly Samaritans in Luke 9. If you read this passage, you can see how boldly and frankly they can speak of the truth. True enough, you can compare them to thunder.
Do you know someone with this tendency? How do you deal with him or her?
- He caught 153 fish.
One evening after Jesus’ resurrection, seven of His disciples went fishing. They were Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James, John, and two others. Unfortunately, they caught nothing.
Are you familiar with this scene?
The following day, Jesus came and asked the disciples if they had a catch. Learning that they had none, He asked them to throw their nets on the right side of their boat.
Miraculously, the disciples caught 153 fish (John 21:11, ESV). Their nets were so heavy that they couldn’t haul them.
Have you experienced catching this large number of fish? Or at least, have you witnessed such?
- He performed a miracle of healing.
One day, Peter and John were going up to the temple of Jerusalem. There was a lame man at the Beautiful Gate, asking for alms from all people passing by.
Do you know this story?
When Peter saw the man, he said, “I have no silver and gold” (Acts 3:6, ESV). However, he comforted him by continuing, “but what I do have, I give to you.”
In Jesus’ name, Peter and John made the lame man rise and walk. His feet and ankles gained their strength. As he began walking, he couldn’t help but leap and praise God. After which, he went with them inside the temple.
How would you rejoice if you were in this man’s shoes? How exciting would it be for you to tell your family, friends, and other people?
- He was among the three intimate disciples of Jesus.
Three of Jesus’ twelve disciples belonged to the inner circle. They were Peter, James, and John. Until they became apostles, they remained to be the primary ones.
Among the three of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved had been with Him the longest (Luke 5:4-11, ESV). He witnessed His transfiguration (Mark 9:2-3, ESV). Also, he saw Him raise the daughter of Jairus (Luke 8:49-56, ESV).
Besides, John was there when He prayed at the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:33, ESV). He was present from Jesus’ trial through His death, among the few who endured the agony. Even after His resurrection, he was among the first eyewitnesses.
How would you like to belong to this group if you were a disciple of Jesus?
- He was close to Jesus.
Among the twelve disciples, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” occupied an honored seat at the Last Supper.
You have learned earlier that John would even lean his head upon Jesus’ bosom (John 13:23, ESV). Then, he would engage in close and intimate conversation with Him (verses 24-26).
(Image from Patheos in Google)
With so much mutual understanding, you can compare Jesus and John to the best of friends.
- He was Jesus’ trusted disciple to take care of His mother.
Few moments before He died on the cross, Jesus thought of His mother, Mary. Precisely, He needed someone from His disciples to take care of her.
Most likely, it would have been any of the three intimate disciples. It could have been Peter, but he was rough. James was also a good option. Who among other disciples would you recommend?
However, Jesus chose John because the disciple was tender and affectionate. “Woman, behold, your son” (John 19:26, ESV). Then, to John, Jesus said, “Behold, your mother” (verse 27). John knew what He meant precisely. Thus, without hesitation, he took her to his home.
Just imagine Jesus’ trust in John! How would you feel if you were John? How would you value that trust?
- He wanted a place on Jesus’ heavenly throne.
One day, James and John asked Jesus an unusual question. “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you” (Mark 10:35, ESV).
Specifically, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in Your glory” (verse 37). It surprised Jesus that He said James and John did not know what they were asking.
Probably, James and John thought that Jesus’ kingdom would be on earth. They had mistaken it for a government position to which they could easily apply. Perhaps, you would also think the same if you were in their place.
Jesus explained that He could let them drink of His cup and baptize of His baptism. However, “to sit at My right hand or My left is not Mine to grant” (verse 40). Instead, it was for those to whom God the Father has given.
- He did not die from boiling oil.
In 81 AD, there was Christian persecution under Emperor Domitian (Wilson, 2020). It was second to that under Nero in 67 AD, which involved Paul and Peter.
In this second one, Domitian ordered different types of punishment. For instance, Simeon, a bishop of Jerusalem, was a victim of crucifixion. Flavia, the daughter of a Roman senator, was a subject of exile to Pontus (Christian History Institute, 2021).
Now, that of John was unusual. Would you believe the emperor had him bathe in burning oil? However, it did not seem to threaten John. Still, he continued preaching from within the pot.
Can you imagine that?
- He survived from drinking poison.
Despite the persecution, John proved to be persistent in preaching. As a fact, many people followed him. Some even knelt at his feet, seeking healing.
It triggered Aristodemus, a chief priest in the Roman Empire. John asked him what he could do to take away his anger. The priest challenged him to drink poison. If it did not harm John, the priest would believe in God (Early Christian Writings, 2021).
Imagine yourself in this situation. Would you dare take on such a challenge, for Christ’s sake?
Surprisingly, the drink did not poison John at all. Can you believe that? He claimed God’s promise that if people “drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them” (Mark 16:18, ESV).
- He received special instructions.
As an apostle, John received instructions that no other apostles knew. Even Paul had never seen these things.
You may say such instructions were so sacred and special. Indeed, yes!
During John’s exile at Patmos, God showed him visions. They contained “events that would take place in the closing scenes of this earth’s history” (Ellen White, The Acts of the Apostles 570.4).
How would you like to have a dream of such things as these?
“In his isolated home, John was able to study more closely than ever” God’s mysteries (571.2). He learned about the work of creation and God’s wisdom and skill. Also, through nature, he learned the essential lessons of God’s power and glory.
- He was a pillar of the early Christian church.
As an apostle after Jesus’ ascension, John was active in preaching and building the early church.
His insights about Christ’s teachings were instrumentally significant in its development. As a fact, even his fellow apostle, Paul, appealed to his authority (Galatians 2:8, ESV).
Can you imagine how humbling it was?
After John’s death, the church deconstructed some beliefs (Nelson, 2019). Fortunately, his writings united Christians in understanding Jesus’ superiority (John 1:1-4, ESV) and relationship with the Father (John 3:16, ESV).
- He concealed his name.
True enough, you can never read John’s name in his Gospel. Instead, he would always refer to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”
For sure, you are asking why.
Besides, John maintained a third-person view throughout his book. For instance, in John 21:24 (ESV), he wrote, “this is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things.”
Why was it so? Was John a person of a high place in Jerusalem that he wanted to hide his Christian affiliation?
Martin L. Smith, an author, noted that John “deliberately obscured the identity of the beloved disciple.” It was so that the Gospel readers “may better identify with [his] relationship with Jesus.”
- He had more than five names or designations.
These are how the Bible and other writings call the disciple whom Jesus loved:
- John the Younger Brother: being next to James by birth
- John the Fisherman: grew up fishing with his brother and father
- John the Disciple of John the Baptist: being a follower of this preacher
- John the Apostle: among the disciples commissioned before Jesus’ ascension
- John the Writer: wrote five books in the Bible
- John the Evangelist: actively preached and ministered to the Christians
- John the Theologian: knowledgeable about God and the Scriptures
- John of Patmos: exiled to the isle of Patmos as part of the Christian persecution
- John the Revelator: wrote about God’s revelations of the last-day events
These are a lot, aren’t they? If you were in John’s place as an evangelist, how do you think people might have known you?
- He wrote five books in the New Testament.
- Gospel of John
- This book is an account of Jesus’ birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection. He wrote it in 80-98 AD.
- 1 John
- This epistle is John’s love letter to a church in Ephesus or Asia. Its writing dated back to 90-95 AD.
- 2 John
- Like 1 John, this second letter is for the church and its congregation. He composed it from 90 to 95 AD as well.
- 3 John
- Different from his first two epistles, this one is for Gaius, his beloved friend. He wrote it at the same time he did the other two.
- This book is an apocalypse of the events before Jesus’ second coming. He wrote it in 94-98 AD.
Have you read any or all of these books? What can you say about John’s style of writing?
- The Bible mentioned him five times as the disciple whom Jesus loved.
- John 13:23 (NIV) – One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to Him.
- John 19:26 (NIV) – When Jesus saw his mother there and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son.”
- John 20:2 (NIV) – So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
- John 21:7 (NIV) – Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!”
- John 21:20 (NIV) – Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them.
Notable, isn’t it?
- He made number seven significant.
First, John wrote seven miracles proving Jesus as the Son of God:
- Jesus turning water into wine during the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11)
- Jesus healing an official’s son in Capernaum (John 4:46-54)
- Jesus healing a disabled man at the Pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-18)
- Jesus feeding the 5,000 men (John 6:5-14)
- Jesus walking on the Sea of Galilee (John 6:16-21)
- Jesus healing a blind man in Jerusalem (John 9:1-7)
- Jesus raising Lazarus in Bethany (John 11:1-45)
Second, John mentioned “I am” seven times in his Gospel, reflecting who Jesus is:
- I am the Bread of Life (John 6:35-48, ESV)
- I am the Light of the World (John 8:12, ESV)
- I am the Door of the Sheep (John 10:7, ESV)
- I am the Good Shepherd (John 10:11, ESV)
- I am the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25, ESV)
- I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6, ESV)
- I am the true Vine (John 15:1, ESV)
You may be wondering if this is a coincidence.
- He saw Christ again after the resurrection.
On Jesus’ resurrection day, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw the stone was not there anymore. Are you familiar with this scene? However, do you know she also called Peter and “the one whom Jesus loved” (John 20:2, ESV)?
Right away, Peter and John went to the grave. Seeing only the linen cloth, they believed that Jesus had just risen.
During the evening of that day, the disciples were in a room. Later, Jesus came and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you” (verse 19). They couldn’t believe it, but they did when Jesus showed them his pierced hands and bruised side.
Would you also have some doubt if you were in this encounter?
Jesus stayed for forty days before His ascension. On the day of His ascension, He gave the disciples His final words and commissioned them to be apostles.
For this, Jesus assured them, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:6, ESV). He continued, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
After Jesus’ ascension, He showed Himself to John again. It was during the apostle’s exile at Patmos, where he received visions concerning future events.
- He saw heaven and earth in the last days and beyond.
During his exile at Patmos, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” received visions from God. Specifically, he saw what would happen in heaven and earth in the last days. How would you like to get a glimpse of the future, too?
There would be famine with the symbol of a horseman riding a black horse (Revelation 6:5, ESV). Also, there would be terrible natural disasters with seven bowls as a symbol (chapters 16).
Are you familiar with these prophecies?
After all these tribulations, John saw Jesus coming in clouds with His angels. He witnessed Him taking His faithful ones to heaven. For a thousand years, they would stay there.
After which, Jesus would restore heaven and earth. As such, there would be no more suffering or death (21:1-8). How would you like to experience it?
- He was the only apostle who died of natural causes.
In the Overview Bible (2019), Nelson states that the apostles died as follows:
- Andrew – crucified in Patrae in Achaia
- Simon Peter – crucified in Rome around 66 AD
- James Zebedee – killed by Herod Agrippa with a sword in 44 AD (Acts 12:1-2, ESV)
- John – died a natural death at Ephesus in the Roman Empire in 103 AD
- Philip – crucified at Hierapolis after preaching in Phrygia
- Nathaniel – died in India
- Matthew – killed in Thrace at Lysimachia
- Thomas – died in Malta
- James Alpheus – stoned to death after at least five years from Jesus’ death
- Judas Alpheus – martyred in Syria on a missionary journey with Simon Zealot (according to tradition)
- Simon the Zealot – died in Africa
- Judas Iscariot – committed suicide by hanging himself at Aceldama after Jesus died
From this, you can see that only John died naturally. The rest of the apostles died of martyrdom and suicide.
Indeed, John referred to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” However, it does not mean that Jesus did not love the rest of the disciples.
Instead, it was merely a title John used to refer to himself in his Gospel. He felt that he had a special place in Jesus’ heart. As such, the designation was his expression of God’s unconditional love that resonates so much in him.
If you were John, would this be your expression of God’s love, too?
Moreover, you have learned some unpopular facts about John’s relationship with Jesus and John the Baptist. You have seen some of the miracles he had performed. Also, you have witnessed how much he contributed and gained Jesus’ trust as a disciple and apostle.
As an author and evangelist, John has written five books in the New Testament. His Gospels, epistles, and apocalypse were unique in their structure and emblems. Reading them, you learn about the life of Jesus and the good news for His people.
Finally, the story of John teaches you a valuable lesson about God’s love. Having emphasized it several times in his epistles and Gospel, it provides you some hope.
As a sinner, how much do you need God’s love, grace, and mercy? How eager are you to attain His perfect character? Eventually, how can you be an effective witness for Him like John?