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APOSTLE JOHN, SON OF ZEBEDEE AND EVANGELIST


APOSTLE JOHN, SON OF ZEBEDEE AND EVANGELIST

Apostle and Evangelist John’s parents were Zebedee and Salome. He is also known as Saint John the Beloved, John the Evangelist, John of Patmos, and John the Elder. He, together with his brother James, was counted among the twelve apostles of Jesus. Some traditions suggest that John’s mother, Salome, could be related to Mary, making John a possible cousin of Jesus. The ownership of a fishing business by Zebedee on the Sea of Galilee implies that the family had financial resources. Jesus called John and his brother James while they were repairing fishing nets by the sea. They were among the first disciples chosen by Jesus. John and James earned the nickname “Boanerges” or “sons of thunder” from Jesus, possibly due to their fiery personalities (Mk 3:17).

FEATURES OF EVANGELIST JOHN

– Since John was the younger brother of James, the evangelists cite his name immediately after that of James (Mt 10:2).
– John initially followed John the Baptist.
– In the Gospels, he is portrayed as one of the earliest followers of Jesus (Jn 1:35-39).
– John, Peter, and James were part of an inner circle of disciples who were close to Jesus during his ministry (Mk 5:37). They were present for significant moments like the Transfiguration (Mark 9:2), the resurrection of Jairus’ daughter, and Jesus’ suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane.
– Jesus instructed Peter and John to get ready for the Passover (Lk 22:8).
– John was “the one whom Jesus loved, was reclining at Jesus’ side” (Mk 13:23) at the Last Supper.
– He was the only apostle who witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus (Jn 19:26).
– Jesus entrusted John with the care of His mother, Mary, from the cross.
– Among the apostles, Peter and John were the first to visit the tomb after Jesus’ resurrection (Jn 20:3-8).
– In addition to his gospel and three epistles, John wrote the book of Revelation inspired by his vision of heaven during his exile on the Island of Patmos. These collectively form the Johannine works. His writings emphasize love, truth, and the divinity of Christ.

JOHN AND MOTHER MARY: With Jesus’ passing, Mary, who was already a widow, would be left without any familial support. Jesus entrusted her to the care of John, his most beloved and youngest apostle (Jn 19:26-27). John wholeheartedly welcomed her as his mother and looked after her, primarily in Ephesus, until her dormition, despite his demanding evangelistic work. Jesus granted John a long life and ensured his safety amidst the persecution.

DISCIPLE WHOM JESUS LOVED: John was known as the Beloved Disciple because of his close relationship with Jesus. Only John the Evangelist has this usage in the gospel. From the early church onwards, it is believed to be a reference to John himself. There are five occasions when John uses this phrase in his gospel:

1. John 13:23. At the last supper when John was reclining with Jesus along with other apostles.
2. John 19:26. When Jesus entrusted his mother to John while on the cross.
3. John 20:2. When Mary Magdalene reported the empty tomb to Peter and John.
4. John 21:7. When John identified to Peter that Jesus was on the shore directing them for the miraculous catch of fish.
5. John 21:20. Peter asking of John’s end of life to Jesus after Jesus talked about how Peter would die.

The author, out of his modesty, was not using his name or “I” at these places. Another reasoning is that because of the persecution when the gospel was published, the author was concealing his identity for security reasons while his readers would recognize who he was.

PERSECUTION AND DEATH

According to tradition, John became a missionary and traveled to Ephesus and other parts of Asia Minor after Jesus’ death. While preaching in Ephesus, John was taken by the Roman authorities to Rome for his trial. They sentenced him to death in boiled oil. God miraculously saved him from it and so the emperor nullified his death sentence. The Emperor Domitian expelled him to the island of Patmos, where he had a vision and authored the book of Revelation. After the death of Domitian, the Romans freed John. He returned to Ephesus, where he served the churches in Asia Minor, until his death around 100 A.D. when he was 88 years old. He was the only apostle who died of natural causes. St. John the Apostle is honored on December 27 in the Western Christian tradition.

JAMES AND JOHN, COMMON FEATURES

James and John had common characteristics. Both were sons of Zebedee and Salome from Bethsaida. Both were fishers on the Lake of Galilee, along with their father. Jesus nicknamed James and John as Boanerges, meaning “Sons of Thunder” (Mk 3:17) which reflects their character. While Jesus and the apostles were going through Samaria to Jerusalem, the Samaritans declined to welcome Jesus. Then James and John asked, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from Heaven to consume them?” (Lk 9:54). During the public ministry of Jesus, both were desirous of sitting at the right and left of Jesus in his kingdom (Mk 10:35-45). However, Jesus selected them, along with Peter, to be in his innermost circle, thereby achieving prominence among the apostles. Out of the 12 apostles, Jesus took only Peter, James, and John to special places like the mount of Transfiguration, the raising of Jairus’ daughter, and to the Garden of Gethsemane, because of which the evangelist lists James and John immediately after Simon Peter, although Andrew was Simon’s brother. After Pentecost, their zeal turned to proclaiming the gospel of Jesus, dedicating their lives to it.

REFLECTION

John’s life and teachings strongly emphasize love. Throughout his letters, he consistently urges Christians to love each other in the same way that Christ loved them. “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love” (1 Jn 4:7-8).

In John’s Gospel, Jesus is portrayed as the Word made flesh, providing a profound theological perspective. The Gospel starts by declaring Jesus’ divinity, stating ” In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn 1:1). This encourages us to understand and affirm the divinity of Christ in our faith and witness.

John’s ability to maintain faith and endure persecution sets an example of perseverance. His faithfulness remained unwavering despite his exile to Patmos. This inspires us to persevere in our faith despite hardships.

Through the Book of Revelation, John provides a vision of hope and the ultimate triumph of good over evil. It’s a reminder to live with an eternal perspective, trusting in the victory of God’s kingdom. ” He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away” (Rev 21:4)

The special bond between John and Jesus emphasizes the significance of having a personal and intimate connection with Christ. By leaning on Jesus’ bosom at the Last Supper, he symbolized the importance of intimacy and trust, urging Christians to seek closeness with Christ in their daily lives.

Christians can find a profound model in the life and ministry of Apostle John. His focus on love, testimony of Jesus’ divinity, unwavering faith, enlightening visions, and close bond with Christ serve as a complete model for Christian life. John’s example inspires believers to cultivate a resilient faith by embodying these principles in their lives. Like John, let us have an intimate relationship with Jesus and his mother, Mary. John is a model for us to take the risk in our lives for evangelization as living martyrs.

 


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