Saint John

Apostle John

Saint John
Saint John

According to the New Testament, the Apostle Saint John was one of Jesus’ Twelve Apostles.

He was the son of Zebedee and Salome and was generally regarded as the youngest apostle. James the Greater, another of the Twelve Apostles, was his brother.

The Apostle Saint John (active 1st century A.D.), one of Jesus’ 12 Apostles, is traditionally regarded as the author of the Fourth Gospel, the Book of Revelation, and three Letters, or Epistles, that bears his name.

Throughout the Gospels, John and James, along with Peter, are portrayed as the most closely associated with Jesus of all his disciples. John, along with Peter and James, witnesses Jesus’ supernatural communication with Moses and Elijah on Mt. Tabor; the night before Jesus’ death, he is present in the Garden of Gethsemane.

When everyone else abandons the dying Jesus, only John remains, and Jesus entrusts his mother, Mary, to his care. Following Jesus’ death, John is presented as one of the leaders of the Jerusalemite disciples of Jesus.

In the book of Acts, John, along with Peter and James, testifies about Jesus. He and Peter travel to Samaria to confirm new converts (Acts 8:14; Acts 8:15; Acts 8:16; Acts 8:17; Acts 8:18; Acts 8:19; Acts 8:20; Acts 8:21; Acts 8:22; Acts 8:23; Acts 8:24; Acts 8:25).

Saint John
Saint John

Birth/Origins

John, the son of Zebedee and Salome, was born in Galilee, most likely between A.D. 10 and 15. His father was a fisherman, which is what John was doing when he met and followed Jesus (Mark 5:37).

His mother became one of the women who served Jesus’ followers (Mark 15:40; Mark 15:41; Mark 16:1).

James, his brother, also followed Jesus. Both brothers were nicknamed Boanerges by Jesus, which means “sons of thunder” in Aramaic (Mark 3:17), about their fiery demeanor toward Jesus.

Diego Velázquez 018 (John the Evangelist from Patmos)
Full title: Saint John the Evangelist on the Island of Patmos Artist: Diego Velazquez Date made: about 1618 Source: http://www.nationalgalleryimages.co.uk/ Contact: picture.library@nationalgallery.co.uk Copyright © The National Gallery, London

Saint John’s Life with Christ

John, one of the first twelve apostles called by Jesus and known as the “beloved disciple,” knew and loved Jesus well. He witnessed him teach and perform miracles. John had the honor of sitting next to Jesus and leaning against his breast at the Last Supper (John 13:23).

He was the only disciple who remained with the Lord as he died on the cross, where Jesus entrusted his mother’s care to him (John 19:25; John 19:26; John 19:27).

Through prayerful reflection on Jesus’ words and deeds, John realized that Jesus is the way to eternal life (John 14:6)–a life revealed to the disciples first, and then to all people: “What we have seen and heard we proclaim now to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; for our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3).

John’s Travels With Jesus

During major events, Peter, James, and John traveled with and were close to Jesus. The three were with Jesus when he raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead, as well as during Jesus’ transfiguration when he became robed in light and Moses and Elijah appeared.

These three were also present when Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, falling asleep several times the night before Jesus’ crucifixion, despite Jesus’ instructions to stay awake and pray.

Peter and John were even tasked with preparing the Last Supper for Jesus and his disciples, the momentous occasion when Jesus was betrayed and began the tradition that became known as the Eucharist, or what we now call communion.

James and John were zealous in their devotion to Jesus and his message, which often led to hasty actions. Because of this, Jesus referred to the brothers as “Boanerges” or “Sons of Thunder.”

They desired to call down the fires of heaven on a group of Samaritans who had rejected Jesus and his disciples, earning the brothers rebuke from Jesus. Because of their importance or closeness to Jesus, the two even asked if they could sit on thrones alongside him in his glory.

St John (Hals)
St John (Hals)

John in the Scripture

John is best known as the author of the Gospel of John, as well as three other New Testament books, the Epistles of John and the Book of Revelation.

The authorship of the Gospel is attributed to the “disciple whom Jesus loved,” and John 21:24 claims the Gospel of John is based on the testimony of the “Beloved Disciple.”

However, true authorship has been disputed since the year 200. According to Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History, the First Epistle of John and the Gospel of John are widely accepted as John’s. Eusebius continues with the second and third points.

Achievements

St. John is the patron saint of authors, love, loyalty, and friendship. In art, he is frequently depicted with an eagle, symbolizing “the height he rose to in his gospel.” Other icons depict him looking up into heaven and dictating his Gospel to his disciple.

John held an authoritative position in the early church, as evidenced by his visit to Samaria with St. Peter to lay hands on new converts. He played an important role in St. Paul’s conversion. The evidence does not support John’s opposition to granting Gentiles membership in the church.

St John
St John

Life Facts

The only two apostles sent by Jesus to prepare for the final Passover meal, the Last Supper, were John and Peter. Rather than lying on the couches, St. John sat next to Jesus, leaning on him during the meal.

John was the only one of the Twelve Apostles who did not abandon the Savior during His crucifixion. When the Savior appointed him as the guardian of His Mother, he stood faithfully at the cross.

According to Church tradition, John went to Ephesus after Mary’s Assumption. Later, he was exiled by the Romans to the Greek island of Patmos, where he allegedly wrote the Book of Revelation.

Saint John Death

According to the most plausible theory of John’s death, he was arrested in Ephesus and faced martyrdom when his enemies threw him into a large basin of boiling oil. However, according to legend, John was miraculously saved from death. The authorities then sentenced John to slave labor in Patmos’ mines.

John had a vision of Jesus Christ and wrote the prophetic book of Revelation on this island in the southern Aegean Sea. Later, possibly due to old age, the apostle John was released and returned to what is now Turkey. He died peacefully as an old man sometime after AD 98, the only apostle to do so.

John had a vision of Jesus Christ and wrote the prophetic book of Revelation on this island in the southern Aegean Sea. Later, possibly due to old age, the apostle John was released and returned to what is now Turkey. He died peacefully as an old man sometime after AD 98, the only apostle to do so.

Another theory about John’s death is linked to the Papias of Hierapolis, a second-century bishop. According to one interpretation of Papias’ writings, John was murdered by a group of Jewish men. Many historians, however, believe Papias was misquoted or misread, casting doubt on the theory’s credibility.

There is also a legend that claims John did not die but instead ascended directly to heaven, like Enoch and Elijah. There is no biblical evidence to support this story.

Finally, it is not necessary to know how the apostle John died. What matters is that he was not ashamed of Christ and was willing to die for his faith (see Luke 9:26). A man will not die for something he believes in. A man will not die for something he knows to be a lie. John knew the truth that Jesus had been resurrected, and he was willing to die rather than renounce his faith in his Savior.

St. John the Apostle and Evangelist
St. John the Apostle and Evangelist

Key Takeaway

God makes the call, and humans respond. The vocation of John and his brother James, as well as Peter and his brother Andrew, is stated very simply in the Gospels: Jesus called them; they followed. The account demonstrates the absoluteness of their response.

“They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He summoned them, and they immediately abandoned their boat and father to follow him” (Matthew 4:21; Matthew 4:22).

That faith was to be rewarded by a special friendship with Jesus for the three former fishermen—Peter, James, and John. They were the only ones who witnessed the Transfiguration, the raising of Jairus’ daughter, and the agony in Gethsemane. But John’s friendship was something special. Tradition ascribes to him the Fourth Gospel, but most modern Bible scholars believe that the apostle and the evangelist are not the same people.

Characteristics of Apostle John

Characteristics of Saint John (also referred to as Saint John by the Catholic church) made us understand that sometimes he was confused with John the Baptist perhaps, these men were two very different figures in Biblical history. John the Apostle was the younger brother of James and also a fisherman. John is known for writing five books of the Bible.

John, too, seems to have had a similar disposition—at least during the early part of his relationship with Christ—when, along with his brother James, he blazed in anger at the Samaritans who would not give Jesus hospitality for the night. With good reason, just as explained in the characteristics of the 12 apostles Jesus had given the brothers the name ‘Boanerges’—sons of thunder. Of the 12 disciples, Simon, the Zealot, appeared to be hot-headed, and he, too, was chosen by Jesus to be His disciple.

Saint John
Saint John

John a Hot-headed Man

The Galilean fishermen, of whom John was one, were notoriously tough and volatile characters who would not hesitate to speak out plainly on any occasion which concerned them.

Peter, for example, when confronted during Christ’s trial by a young girl who accused him of being one of His disciples, lapsed into swearing and cursing (Matthew 26:74).

John’s passionate disposition was held in check and under control, and he was allowed to vent only on occasions when it was permissible and even necessary. In John’s gospel writings, note the intensity that he had displayed, but directed only against those who refused to believe in and acknowledge Jesus as the Christ.

John, too, seems to have had a similar disposition—at least during the early part of his relationship with Christ—when, along with his brother James, he blazed in anger at the Samaritans who would not give Jesus hospitality for the night.

With good reason, it seems, Jesus had given the brothers the name ‘Boanerges’—sons of thunder (Mark 3:17).

Apostle John the Theologian on the island of Patmos. Mironov
Apostle John the Theologian on the island of Patmos. Mironov

John; an Ambitious Man

No doubt, as Jesus expounded to His disciples the truths concerning the coming Kingdom, those who were more ambitious coveted a privileged position in the new regime.

Peter, on one occasion, wanted to know from Christ what his reward would be for having left all to follow Him (Mark 10:28).

Again, when traveling to Capernaum, the disciples were found arguing among themselves as to who was the greatest among them (Mark 9:34). It is evident from this and other incidents in the disciples’ lives that ambition was high on their list of priorities.

James and John, probably encouraged by their mother, wanted the two top jobs in the Kingdom and are considered by many commentators to be the two most ambitious disciples.

John the Beloved Disciple

It seems, from the record contained in the Gospels, that John became the closest to Jesus of all the disciples.

John occupied the place of honor at the Last Supper, where he could engage in close and intimate conversation with his Master (John 13:23John 13:24John 13:25John 13:26).

This closeness between himself and Jesus is also seen as we study the Gospel he wrote, for there we see signs of an intimate understanding of the ideas of the Lord that is not quite evident in the writings of Matthew.

He selects John to be the one who will have the responsibility for His mother, Mary.

This close relationship between Jesus and John comes over most clearly in the moments before Jesus’ death, when He selects John to be the one who will have the responsibility for the care of His mother, Mary.

A Special Trio

During the three-year period in which Jesus talked and walked with His disciples, there were several occasions when He took three of them apart for a special purpose. The three who were singled out for this special favor were Peter, James, and John.

The first of these occasions was in the house of Jairus when Jesus raised the ruler’s dead daughter back to life.
The second was on the Mount of Transfiguration when Jesus was transfigured before them.
And the third was in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus took them into the heart of the garden so that they might be with Him during His deep spiritual struggle.

Interestingly, all three occasions when Jesus took Peter, James, and John apart were connected with the theme of death.

Saint John the Apostle
Saint John the Apostle

A Caring Friend

Although John was once a ‘son of thunder,’ it becomes obvious that his relationship with Jesus changed him from a proud zealot into a kind, deeply loving, and considerate person.

So, amazing is the change in John that he seems altogether a different disciple to the one who teamed up with Jesus in the beginning.

What produced such a dramatic change?

We have already seen that it resulted from spending time in the presence of Jesus, listening to His words, and imbibing His spirit. John was a good learner, for what Jesus taught and demonstrated he not only saw and heard but assimilated into his person and put it into daily practice.

An Active Missionary

In the early days of the Christian Church in Jerusalem, it seems that the believers met to pray, not only in their homes but also in the Temple (Acts 2:46).

On one occasion, when John and Peter passed through the Beautiful Gate on the way to the Temple, they encountered a beggar asking for alms.

Peter and John were unable to give any financial help, but they gave him something better—healing and deliverance through the Name of Jesus.

The healing of the lame man resulted in the immediate gathering together of a great crowd which, in turn, furnished them with the opportunity to present the claims of Jesus Christ to the people.

As a result of their preaching, they were both charged not to preach anymore, but they decided to disobey the authorities and continue their anointed witness to the Lord Jesus.

Summary Characteristics

With his fiery temperament and special devotion to the Savior, John gained a favored place in Christ’s inner circle. His enormous impact on the early Christian church and his larger-than-life personality makes him a fascinating character study. His writings reveal contrasting traits.

For instance, on the first Easter morning, with his typical zeal and enthusiasm, John raced Peter to the tomb after Mary Magdalene reported that it was now empty. Although John won the race and bragged about this achievement in his Gospel (John 20:1John 20:2John 20:3John 20:4John 20:5John 20:6John 20:7John 20:8John 20:9), he humbly allowed Peter to enter the tomb first.

Facts

There are John the Apostle facts that made us know that he wrote more about love than any other New Testament author. His proximity to Jesus taught him much about love. He played a leading role in the early church in Jerusalem. John was the son of Zebedee, a Galilean fisherman, and Salome. In the Gospel According to Mark, he is always mentioned after James and was no doubt the younger brother. His mother was among those women who ministered to the circle of disciples. He was exiled to the island of Patmos under Domitian, but after his death, John was allowed to return to Ephesus where he governed churches in Asia until his death at about A.D. 100.

Apostle John Logo
Apostle John Logo

John the Apostle Facts and Symbols

John’s symbol is a snake in a cup. Traditional sources claim that John was the only apostle to live a long life and die of natural causes. That, however, doesn’t mean that he never faced persecution.

The same sources claim that the Romans tried to poison John with a cup of wine. When that didn’t work, they threw him into a vat of boiling oil. When he still didn’t die, they exiled him to the island of Patmos where he wrote Revelation.

John wrote more books of the New Testament than anyone except the apostle Paul. His most important work was the Gospel of John, which is the most mystical and symbolic of the gospels. He also wrote Revelation, as mentioned above, and the three letters of John.

St John Trivia

John the Apostle is often depicted as an aged man with a white or grey beard in Byzantine art or as a beardless youth in the art of Medieval Western Europe. In Medieval paintings, sculptures, and literature, he is also often presented as an androgynous or feminine figure.

John the Apostle’s Facts and Miracles

The KJV of the Bible does not record any miracles done by John. However, in Acts, he is present when Peter invokes Jesus’ name to heal a lame man. John’s enormous contributions do include the Gospel of John, 1,2,3 John, and the Book of Revelations.

The highest pinnacle of John’s time with Jesus is debatable. Was it being at Jesus’ transfiguration? Was it at being the first of the male disciples to enter Jesus’ empty tomb? Or was it his vision of the End Times? As for me, I think John’s greatest accomplishment may well have been entrusted by Jesus to care for Jesus’ mother Mary after Christ’s crucifixion.

Later Life & Death

While it is unknown for how long John the Apostle stayed in Judea, he and the other disciples were scattered through the Roman Empire’s provinces as Herod Agrippa began the persecution of Christians. He took care of the mother of Jesus until the Assumption of Mary and then went to Ephesus where he wrote his three epistles.

According to Christian writer Tertullian, for preaching the gospel, Roman authorities exiled him to the Greek island of Patmos after throwing him into boiling oil from which he escaped unscathed. He received the revelation from Christ in Patmos, where he wrote the ‘Book of Revelation’.

He eventually returned to Ephesus, where he died of old age sometime after 98 C.E., and was buried in modern-day Selçuk, Turkey, where his tomb is located. While early second-century bishop Papias of Hierapolis claimed that he was slain by the Jews, many doubt the authenticity of the claim, with some arguing that it was John the Baptist.

Liturgical commemoration

The feast day of Saint John in the Roman Catholic Church, which calls him “Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist”, and in the Anglican Communion and Lutheran Calendars, which call him “Saint John the Apostle and Evangelist”, is on 27 December. In the Tridentine Calendar, he was commemorated also on each of the following days up to and including 3 January, the Octave of the 27 December feast. This Octave was abolished by Pope Pius XII in 1955. The traditional liturgical color is white.

Until 1960, another feast day that appeared in the General Roman Calendar is that of “Saint John Before the Latin Gate” on May 6, celebrating a tradition recounted by Jerome that St John was brought to Rome during the reign of Emperor Domitian, and was thrown in a vat of boiling oil, from which he was miraculously preserved unharmed. A church (San Giovanni a Porta Latina) dedicated to him was built near the Latin gate of Rome, the traditional site of this event.

The Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite commemorate the “Repose of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian” on September 26.

On May 8 they celebrate the “Feast of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian“, on which date Christians used to draw forth from his grave fine ashes which were believed to be effective for healing the sick.

Other Christians highly revere him but do not canonize or venerate saints.

Jan Massijs - The Apocalypse of Saint John the Evangelist (1563)
Jan Massijs - The Apocalypse of Saint John the Evangelist (1563)

Saint John Summary

St. John the Apostle, son of Zebedee and Salome, was one of Jesus’ Twelve Apostles. Our Lord appointed John as an Apostle during the first year of His public ministry. He is thought to be the same as John the Evangelist, John of Patmos, and the Beloved Disciple.

St. James the Great, another of Jesus’ Twelve Apostles, was John’s older brother. The brothers were referred to by Jesus as “Boanerges,” which means “sons of thunder.” John is thought to be the longest-living apostle and the only one who did not die as a martyr.

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