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In search of the Apostles, John 'The Beloved' part 2
What was he really like?
I was going to continue the hub talking in much the same way as we ended the last one in the series, looking at the Gospel and talking about how amazing it is for us to have such a special view of Jesus from one 'so close to him' but the last few days there's been a few things on my mind that I think John would have a lot to say about, and a lot to show us of the way he saw things with Jesus.
I mean think for a moment, when we first meet the Apostle John, he's a young guy, probably a bit of a 'hothead' in the New Testament times, sitting at the feet of John the Baptist and wanting to know all that he has to teach. Then along comes Jesus, with a radically different way of doing things to the Baptist, but John clearly hears him say, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"
Somehow, he gets the message that Jesus is the 'Jewish Messiah' that they've been waiting for, one who's going to kick the Roman's butts right of the Jewish homeland and re-establish the Davidic kingdom.
He gets the message so clearly that when one village actually has the audacity to reject what Jesus is saying, he and his brother James want to vaporize the place! So much so that Jesus even makes fun of them with a pointed reminder, "Boanegers" or 'Sons of Thunder' the story is related to us in Luke 9 verse 54, but Jesus had already called them that name, probably because he knew what they were like!
But later in life, we've got a different 'John' in that early church tradition tells us that towards the end of his life John's one sermon that he would 'preach' every day was simply these words.
Little Children, love one another!— John the Apostle
Can a Leopard really change it's spots?
You've heard the old saying, "A leopard can't change its spots!" haven't you? It means that if a person is 'like that' then they're going to stay that way forever right?
Yet take a look at the two! If both these things are true, then this leopard did change them! Or someone changed them for him.
I'm not really meaning for any 'deep and theological' comment here so much as just looking at the man and how much he changed over his lifetime as the Holy Spirit worked in and through him, and how much we can if we allow him to work in us!
I love the story that the gospel itself tells as there are two stories there that show just how broad and how many levels of society are impacted by Jesus, everyone from the Archbishop or leader of the religious community to the common prostitute! Take a look.
Jesus meets a religious man (listen to their discussion)
Jesus and the woman 'of dubious reputation' (hear what he says to her)
A radical message
I don't normally put three videos into the articles, but sometimes the power of hearing and seeing is much stronger than just words. Don't get me wrong, as a writer, I love the written word, but there are times when another means of communicating is needed, so enjoy the three videos and take in the message that John saw, Jesus really is 'for everyone'
John tells us that Mary went to the tomb, but the stone's not there so she runs back to the disciples to tell them something strange is going on, "The stone's been rolled away,and his body's not there!"
Mel Gibson's drama. Don Francisco's song
Somehow, the one calling himself 'the disciple Jesus loved' just sees the empty tomb, the garments laid to one side, (the text indicates they were pretty much folded up tidily like a soldier having made his bed in the morning) and he just 'believes'
There's some discussion nowadays as to whether John was the actual writer of the fourth gospel, or whether it was another disciple, or even that it might have been one of John's own disciples 'kind of editing' his notes, but all the way through you hear the writer saying, "Look, I know because I was there!"
I love the way that John (I personally do think it was him) writes about Thomas, it's almost as if he had the likes of me in mind that Jesus comes and finally after the confession of Thomas says to him.
"Thomas, you saw and believed, and that's awesome, but how much more so is it going to be for those who won't get the chance to see, but will still believe!"
John appears a few times with Peter in the book of Acts, by all accounts both he and the other Apostles ministered in Jerusalem for about twelve years. The first mission trip outside of Jerusalem were Peter and John going to Samaria to check up on what's been happening there under the ministry of Philip (not the Apostle as far as we know) but it's Peter taking the lead in the team with John there as 'support'
John and Mary
remember at the cross, Jesus gives the care of his mother over to the 'Beloved Disciple?' Well tradition has it that disciple was John, the tradition also says that she lived in Jerusalem about twelve years after the crucifixion and resurrection, but then persecution broke out and the Apostles began to move out among the followers of Jesus in other places.
One Islamic tradition has it that John went to Antioch for a while before moving to Ephesus. Early Christian tradition has it that John moved to Ephesus where there was already a Christian community from before the time of Paul, it was established by a woman preacher and her husband (Priscilla and her husband Aquilla whom Paul will later stay with!)
Exactly when John got to Ephesus we don't really know, but it was probably not long after Paul's visits as the need for discipleship was urgent.
Bible study, New Testament style!
Let's face it, back then they didn't have the big book that we have today! They didn't have the online resources we have where we can think up half a verse and just type it into a machine which gives us the rest of the verse and all the possible translations of it (and we still manage to only quote half the text when it suits us!) All they had was the men and women who'd walked and talked with Jesus!
Jesus had taken and specially trained twelve men, he had other men and women in the group, but he concentrated on those twelve. They, in turn, went out and trained other men and women, Peter had John Mark, Barnabas had Saul and John Mark at one point, Paul had Silas, Timothy and Titus as well as Luke, John also had disciples, Two that we know of were Ignatius of Antioch (second century Bishop of Antioch) and Polycarp.
Which Gospel's your favorite?
The growing Church
If you read the book of Acts the first thing you realize is that Christians began to spread out pretty early on. Right there on the day of Pentecost, there are sixteen different either provinces or even Empires mentioned, there were Jews and 'God-fearing Gentiles' from all those places including Rome itself and the Parthian Empire!
Later in the book we meet a senior civil servant from the Ethiopian Empire who was either a senior rank in the Treasury there or the Treasurer himself!
It was these people who took the Gospel back to their homelands as the majority of those who actually walked and talked with Jesus stayed around Jerusalem, at least for the first twelve years that is!
Tradition has it that John spent twelve years in and around Jerusalem, he was one of the leaders, but at the same time, I can't help thinking that all that time he was working with 'big soft' Simon Peter and the two were pretty much learning together.
John was there when they encountered the crippled man outside the Temple gates and Peter decides to 'push his luck' and literally tells the guy, "Silver and Gold we don't have" In other words, if he had a begging cup, he probably had more money than they did! "But what we do have we freely share with you, In the name of Jesus rise and Walk!"
John was there with Peter when that happened, he was also there when the got arrested for it! John was there when they had to defend themselves before the Sanhedrin (he lets Peter to the talking) but he was there all the way!
When things start to happen in Samaria it's the team of Peter and John the early believers turn to for the situation there, they're the ones sent to 'check it out' and report back. Peter, as the older takes the lead (as per Jewish custom) but don't downplay the role that John had in these things, he was there watching and learning how to handle situations.
John was the only Apostle to actually die of natural causes, that doesn't mean the Romans didn't try to kill him, they did on a few occasions.
We often think of Nero as being the epitome of the 'Mad Ceasar' but the truth was a little different, Nero was a sociopath who used the 'disdain' that the Romans already had for this emerging cult for his own purposes. When a fire broke out in one of the poor quarters of Rome, Nero decided to cut short any 'investigation' by blaming a group that nobody in power seemed to like, and even the Jews hated by blaming them for the fire.
Rome at the time had a population of about a million people, but a quarter of the city had burned to the ground and hundreds of thousands were homeless, they were only too willing to blame the 'Christians'
Nero's persecution was brutal, but it was short, Peter and Paul both died in that persecution, some of the other Apostles had already died the Martyr's death, but much worse was to come!
Jerusalem and Masada
As the early believers were reeling from the blows of losing their two main 'Apostles' discontent in Israel was getting to the point that rebellion was breaking out.
The church in Jerusalem at the time was being led by 'James the Just' who was actually the half-brother of Jesus. The Jewish authorities were trying to get him to declare support for the uprising, but both James and John (who was in Ephesus by this time) refused and instead took Jesus' words seriously that said “And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains, and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto.”
The Jews never really forgave them for not supporting the rebellion, James himself was thrown off the top of the Temple as a means of execution and the Jewish leaders started to force Jewish believers in Christ out of the Jewish faith.
By AD 90 the split was complete, and faith in Christ wasn't just a sect of the Jewish faith anymore, it was complete Apostacy in their eyes as the Christian faith was a separate faith altogether!
John was the only Apostle to live through all this, and it's much of this that John's writing take up, showing the Jewish roots of the Christian faith, assuring the new believers, who were leaving everything that they knew (and often families who would disown them) that it was all true, that he really saw these things, in fact so many things that should he try to write them down, not even the great libraries of the Ancient world (he says "All the books in the world!") could contain them.
But there was so much more going on!
But worse was to come
Not quite finished yet.
WE're going to finish this hub here, but we're not quite finished with John yet as he has so much more to tell us not only about Jesus but about the kind of things he was having to deal with at the close of the first century.
The early Christians didn't just have pressure from outside to deal with, they also had things happening 'from within' that had to be addressed.
John's last messages consisted of the words, "Little children, love one another'
But it's also said that the old man once tried to flee the Roman baths stark naked when he learned that a 'Heretic' by the name of Cerenthus was in the baths, he was terrified that God might destroy the baths because of Cerenthus and he didn't want to be there!
Why would that be? If he encourages us to love each other then why would he flee just because someone who teaches something different was in the building?
Here's a clue
This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God,— Apostle John
All for now.
I was only intending to write one, or maybe two hubs on John, but I think there are some important things we still haven't said, so there'll be another as we look at the way John had to deal with the creeping corruption of the early believers, and why his writing is so important to us today.
hope you'll indulge me and bear with me in this.
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