Article from the Every Man’s Bible

TODAY WE KNOW JOHN as “the apostle of love,” but he didn’t start out that way. Had he not allowed Christ to soften his personality and temperament, history might have remembered him in a very different light.

Whenever the Gospels mention John, they usually tie him to his brother, James. The pair ran a fishing operation with their father, Zebedee. John was among the first disciples to hear and follow Jesus Christ (Matthew 4:21-22).
John tended to think in black and white with little gray, and he interpreted any slight as a personal attack. Early on, John’s hot- blooded temperament prompted Jesus to give him and his brother the nickname Boanerges, “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17).

As the time grew near for Jesus to die, the disciples’ travel plans took them through Samaria. But when the Samaritans— who detested the Jews as much as the Jews hated them— heard that Jesus intended to visit Jerusalem, they refused to welcome him. When John and his brother learned of this slight, they snapped, “Lord, should we call down fire from heaven to burn them up?” John learned an important lesson that day when Jesus rebuked him for his hateful question (Luke 9:51-56).

At another time these “Sons of Thunder” approached Jesus privately and asked him for a favor: They wanted special seats of honor in the coming Kingdom . When the other disciples heard about their secret request, they were less than impressed. Jesus used the ugly incident to teach his followers that honor and positions of spiritual leadership come through service, not through power plays or personal striving (Mark 10:35-45).

As John watched his Master live and work and minister over the course of three and a half years, he gradually changed. Being part of an inner circle of three (with Peter and James), John gained a special insight into the character of his Lord. He witnessed Jesus bring a dead girl back to life (Luke 8:49-56). He saw Jesus robed in light at the Mount of Transfiguration (Mark 9:2-13). And he joined Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane on the night of his Lord’s arrest (Mark 14:32-42).

By this time, John had softened considerably. A combination of personal failures and his Master’s stubborn grace began to transform him. John was the only disciple who saw Christ’s crucifixion— and it was John to whom Jesus gave the responsibility of caring for his grieving mother (John 19:25-27).

John is a perfect example of the power of Jesus Christ to change lives. This hard nosed, hot- tempered businessman became an example of grace and love— and eventually wrote five books of the New Testament. The next time you read 1 John, remember that a former “Son of Thunder” penned the compassionate words.

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