John was one of the sons of Zebedee (James was the other) who while mending their fishing nets dropped everything to follow Jesus when he said, “Follow me.”
Could the brothers ever have known in that moment how that decision would alter the course of their lives — or even the course of history? We can only speculate.
John went on to become one of Jesus’ most beloved followers, falling asleep next to Him at the Last Supper, present at his crucifixion and a witness to his rising. Remember, as he died on the cross, Jesus says to Mary, “Behold your son.” referring to John. And to John he said, “Behold your mother,” thus commending the care of her into John’s hands. (John 19.26-27).
The Zebedee brothers were known as the “sons of thunder.” In Luke 9.51-55 they wanted to call down heavenly fire upon those who rejected Jesus. Perceiving rewards in earthly terms, they asked Christ to sit on his right hand in glory (Matthew 20.20-28). They were reprimanded each time by Jesus.
These occasions point to the hurdles the brothers needed to surpass to truly understand Jesus’ message of love. In that way, they represent our own struggles with overcoming anger, wrath, vengeance, and a self-righteous sense of justice.
The First Letter of John begins, “What was from the beginning … what we have seen with our eyes … and touched with our hands …” (1 Jn 1:1). The disciple who has seen and touched the Word made flesh cannot forget it. That experience taught him: “God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God, and God in him” (1 Jn 4:16).
Christian tradition holds that John was the only one of the apostles not to be martyred. He went on to live at Ephesus with the Mother of God after the apostles had been scattered. During the reign of the Emperor Domitian, he was exiled as an old man to the island of Patmos. There, the one to whom love had given clear sight to see as far as “the beginning” – iconography presents St. John with an eagle to symbolize this – is given to see also the end.
“I, John, your brother” the Book of Revelation begins (Rev 1:9). The visions in that book, given to strengthen the Church during a time of persecution, are also the full revelation of Christ’s Lordship. Yet it was a familiar voice that John heard in the cry, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the End!” (Rev 21:6). He had seen, heard, and touched the Lord of time and history, who bore the face of his Master and friend.
Adapted by A. J. Valentini from: St. John, Apostle and Evangelist – Information on the – Vatican News. (n.d.). Vatican News. Retrieved Dec. 23, 2020, from https://www.vaticannews.va/en/saints/12/27/st–john–apostle-and-evangelist.html