Summary: a biographical sketch of John
TEXT: MARK 9:38-41; 10:35-45
Sunday, March 28, 2004
It’s a good song leading into a message on the apostle John because John often spoke about the love of God, especially later in his life. The love of God is defined by his sending his son as the sacrifice; Christ becomes the true definition of love, a love that is sacrificial, a love that is giving. John becomes the Apostle of Love. He is referred to as the Apostle of Love, quite surprising, because that is not quite the picture you get of him if you read the gospels.
We are going to look at some of those portraits of John this morning. If you are visiting with us, we are doing a series on the 12 disciples, and we are on the last two - today is John. He is number 2 in the list in the book of Acts. Usually you find him number 3 in placement. A lot of that is because of his older brother, James. They usually list the older brother first anyway, but what the list in Acts reflects is what John really does in his ministry- surpass that of James. Part of the reason is because James’ ministry was very short. He was martyred very early in his life, and John’s ministry was the longest. He died in 98 A.D. at a ripe age of 100 under the Emperor Trajan whom we have a lot to be thankful for because he wrote the most of the Greek Caesars. He wrote the most about Christianity and about Jesus and Jesus’ existence in the Roman history books.
John, late in his life, was persecuted harshly. Although he was never martyred for the faith, he was persecuted, and at the end of his life in his 90’s, he was imprisoned on an island prison camp called Patmos where he lived in a cave and slept on a rock. A rock was his pillow. How would you like that for your retirement years? Yet, it was in that context that God moved him by his Spirit; he wrote the book we call Revelation.
Jerome, who was a contemporary of John, writes a commentary on Galatians. In that book he mentioned how people saw John at the end of his life - they saw him as a very gentle, old, saintly man, so frail that they had to carry him into the Ephesian Church which is where he died. He was confined to a chair but his last message to the church was this phrase: “Love One Another;” and that is why he is referred to as the Apostle of Love.
He also is the apostle of truth because you find these dual tensions in his books. He talks about love but he also talks about truth. He states truth in very black-and-white, bold terms. He focuses on the rule rather than the exceptions to the rule. He tells people, you know there are some things that are true and there are some things that are false. There are absolutes in life. Things of life in God’s Word are simply not left up to personal interpretation, where you can make of it what you will; you can’t. The Bible speaks clearly on the essential issues. The Bible is very clear and John spells out what those very clear teachings and objective truths are. As a result of John’s books in his later life, his name becomes synonymous with the word pastoral, and as a result, in the Catholic Church, if a pope took on the name of John, it signaled something to the congregation and to the world that this pope would be very pastoral and very gentle in the church. It is interesting that this current pope is Pope John Paul, meaning he has got to be gentle and loving, but he has an appreciation for truth and he is very evangelistic- much like Paul was, and exactly how this pope is.
Again, you would be very surprised when you look at John in his early life. You would be very surprised to discover that John doesn’t seem to be an apostle of love, but he ages well. He ages well! I am going to address this to the retired group out there. Are you aging well? Are you aging like John does? He is very harsh and critical early on, but he ends up very loving and very kind and humble. Are you aging well? You know, grapes are interesting. Grapes under careful attention from a vine dresser become fine wine, or left to their own they become vinegar. Grapes left to their own always turn to vinegar. Are you fine wine or are you vinegar? Are you aging well?
Let’s look at John. There are two passages I would like to look at. One is Mark 9:38-41 and the other one is in Mark 10. Let’s take these one at a time getting a sense and a portrait of John, the lessons from his life, and things that we can take for ourselves today. Here is what Mark 9:38-41 says: