Thursday, June 7, 2018

P1 - A Biographical Sketch Of The Apostle John, The Man Who Loved Jesus: He Began By Following Him

See the source image
John 1:35-37 "Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus."


My grandfather was a minister of the Gospel for 60 years. He pastored three churches in Southeastern Kentucky for thirty years and then moved to Pennsylvania to further minister for 30 more years. In his last few years, my grandfather built a makeshift chapel where he would conduct Bible courses. On the back wall of the little chapel was an enormous map depicting the chronology of prophetic events. No matter how few or how many people came, my grandfather gave his life to the exposition of God's book.

My grandfather, in all of his 83 years of life, was faithful. He was faithful to the Gospel. Faithful to the church of Jesus Christ that he pastored, no matter the locale. My grandfather was faithful to his first wife of over thirty years, Louise, that died in 1967. He was then faithful to his second wife, Jennie, of 16 years. He loved Jesus. He loved his children. He adored his grandchildren. He lived his faith. Boaz Obed Smith, my grandfather, was faithful to the end.

Whenever we turn to the New Testament, we are introduced to a man simply known as "John". By the time we read through John's Gospel, three epistles and his Apocalypse (or "Revelation"), we see John as he was well into his nineties. But how did His walk with the Lord begin?

Several men are known by this simple name: "John". In the opening text of today's post, we see the forerunner of Jesus the Messiah - "John the Baptist" - performing baptisms and announcing the coming of the one whom he would baptize. John the Baptist had students, learners or "disciples". One of those disciples carried the same name as he.

The disciple "John" would eventually leave his "rabbi" or "master" and follow this new Rabbi, deemed: "The Lamb of God". The disciple John would, along with eleven other men, follow Jesus for over three years through Galilee, Samaria, Judea and ultimately to Jerusalem. This "disciple John" would learn what it meant to follow Jesus and would eventually become known as "the disciple whom Jesus loved" (compare John 13:23).

In today's post, we want to do a biographical sketch of the Apostle John. The goal of this little study is to discern what qualities were in his life that lent to him not only becoming the disciple "whom Jesus loved", but also how Jesus became to Him "the one whom He loved". In this post we want to explore what it means to be like John: the man who loved Jesus.

To Love Jesus Begins By Following Him

John's own personal account of his encounter with Jesus while following John the Baptist in John 1:35-37 gives the impression that the disciple John's decision to leave John the Baptist's side was done so without forethought. John MacArthur notes in his book: "One Perfect Life", page 80, footnote b:

"The 'following' here does not necessarily indicate that they became permanent disciples at this time. The implication may be that they went after Jesus to examine Him more closely because of John's testimony."

In other words, the disciple John (note how he never names himself in any of his writings, but only refers to himself as "the other disciple") is testifying of how he heard what theologians refer to as "the outward" call to Jesus. This outward call impacts the mind, maybe even the emotions, but not so much the heart. John was curious, but not committed. There was no exchange of faith in John's heart at this point. John was not, as some imprecisely say: "a seeker". The only persons that seek Jesus are the truly converted in saving faith. Rather, John was on a fact-finding mission, with the assumption of returning to his master, "John the Baptist". What John needed was an inward call to the heart, the kind so described by Paul in Romans 10:8 by the phrase: "the word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart".

John the disciple's radical commitment to follow Jesus
John the disciple experiences such an "inward call of the heart" in what would become a second encounter with Jesus some months later.  Whenever we read the other three Gospels in Matthew 4:13-22 and Mark 1:16-20, we find Jesus walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Matthew 4:21-22 in particular records the striking scene:

"Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him."

Mark 1:20 adds the following detail:

"Immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went away to follow Him."

The difference between that first encounter in John 1:35-37 to that of the later encounter with Jesus in Matthew and Mark is striking. John, the disciple of John the Baptist and son of Zebedee, owner of a fairly lucrative fishing trade, immediately left the nets and his former master for Jesus.

To follow Jesus means you forsake reliance upon any former allegiances. To follow Jesus centers around decentering yourself and focusing on Jesus (compare Luke 9:23-24). John's first encounter with Jesus led him to analyze Jesus as a subject of curiosity. This latter encounter, recorded by Matthew and Mark, turned the tables on John. John became the object of Jesus' scrutiny. Jesus was not on a fact find mission with John (He already knew everything He needed to know about John). Instead, Jesus was on a "faith-finding" mission in John's heart. Per Galatians 3:23, "faith came" that day into John's heart and life. The nets were dropped. The bridges burnt. John forsook everything to follow Jesus.

Closing thoughts:

The decision to follow Jesus was not half-hearted. John didn't hedge bets and say to himself: "well, if this don't work out, I can always return home to dad and go back to fishing, become partner and hopefully make a decent living. No. This was a radical break. John the disciple's heart was captured by the voice of the one calling him from the shoreline. His journey of loving Jesus began by following him in faith. Not just any faith, but the saving-kind of faith that radically concludes that when I give up everything, and Jesus is all I have, I have everything. May you and I follow Jesus. Only by following him can we too become characterized as those that, due to first loving of us, also respond in ever-growing love to Him. 

More next time.....  

No comments:

Post a Comment