The Life of the Apostle John
Text: Matthew 20:20-28
I. Early life
A. Matthew 4:21-22
1. His father’s name was Zebedee. His brother was James.
2. He was a fisherman by trade, working with his father and brother.
B. Mark 1:20 - His father was prosperous enough to have hired servants
C. Luke 5:10-11 - They were partnered with two other brothers, Simon Peter and Andrew
D. John’s mother was likely named Salome - compare Matthew 27:55-56 and Mark 15:40-41.
II. As a disciple of Jesus
A. John 1:35-40 - Two disciples are mentioned, though only Andrew is named. Since John rarely mentions his name in his own writings, it is assumed that other disciple was John.
B. Jesus nicknames James and John the sons of thunder - Mark 3:17
1. By this it is supposed that the brothers had a fiery zeal, inner strength, and a tendency to doing the unexpected.
2. Seen in Luke 9:51-56
C. John’s mother, along with John and his brother, eagerly desired a high position in Jesus’ kingdom - Matthew 20:20-24; Mark 10:35-41
D. John must have been a close friend of Peter as they are often together
1. Peter, James, and John were with Jesus when he raised the synagogue ruler’s daughter - Mark 5:36-37
2. Peter, James, and John are on the mountain of transfiguration - Matthew 17:1-2
3. Peter and John prepared the final Passover meal - Luke 22:8
4. They were also with Jesus in Gethsemane - Mark 14:32-35
5. Peter, and another disciple (probably John) were witnesses of Jesus’ trial - John 18:15-16
a. Assuming it is John, notice the implication of being well-off enough to be known by the High Priest.
6. It was to Peter and John that Mary reported Jesus’ resurrection - John 20:1-8
E. John’s relationship with Jesus
1. He refers to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved - John 13:23
a. Identified - John 21:20-24
2. It was to John that Jesus gave care of his mother - John 19:25-27
III. In the early church
A. Peter and John’s relationship continues
1. Acts 3:1 - Peter and John go to the temple together
2. Acts 4:13, 19-20 - It was Peter and John who boldly faced the Sanhedrin council
3. Acts 8:14-15 - Peter and John travel to Samaria to bring the gifts of the Holy Spirit to the new disciples
B. John is called a pillar in the church in Jerusalem - Galatians 2:9
1. It appears he remained in Jerusalem for at least 21 years
2. Acts 8:14 mentions Peter and John being sent from Jerusalem
3. Paul mentions seeing John in Jerusalem fourteen years after his conversion - Galatians 2:1
4. But John is not mentioned as being present during Paul’s last visit to Jerusalem - Acts 21:15ff
C. Secular writings state that John, late in life, moved to Ephesus
1. Irenaeus, c. 180 AD wrote, “John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon His breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia.”
2. It was probably from here that he was arrested and sent to Patmos - Revelation 1:9
a. It should be noted that the churches selected for letters are those in Asia Minor - Revelation 1:10-11
3. Clement of Alexandria, c. 195 A.D. wrote, “Listen to a tale, which is not a tale but a narrative, handed down and committed to the custody of memory, about the apostle John. On the tyrant’s death, John returned to Ephesus from the isle of Patmos. He then traveled to the adjoining territories of the nations, being invited, here to appoint bishops, there to set in order whole churches, there to ordain such men as were marked out by the Spirit.”
4. He is said to have been buried in Ephesus. Polycrates, 190 A.D. wrote, “John, who reclined on the Lord’s breast ... rests at Ephesus.”
IV. The writings of John
A. It is surprising that one of the sons of thunder becomes know as the apostle of love
B. Love is emphasized in the four books that bear his name
1. John 3:16
2. I John 4:7-21
3. II John 1-3
4. III John 1
C. Still when John had displayed his temper, Jesus corrected him - Luke 9:54-56; Mark 10:37-45
1. Those rebukes obviously left a deep impression on John
D. It is likely because of his long life and being the last surviving apostle that he addressed some of his later letters as being from “the elder” - II John 1; III John 1
V. It is good to be reminded at times that the people involved in the Scriptures where real people.
A. People develop. Events shape their lives.
B. They are much like you and I. They shared their lives with us - I John 1:1-4
C. Today is an opportunity to make John’s joy complete concerning your own life.