St. John, Apostle and Evangelist
St. John, Apostle and Evangelist's feast day is celebrated on December 27 and he is the Patron Saint of Turkey.
St. John the Apostle, the son of Zebedee and Salome, was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus. John was called to be an Apostle by our Lord in the first year of His public ministry. He is considered the same person as John the Evangelist, John of Patmos and the Beloved Disciple. John's older brother was St. James the Great, another one of Jesus' Twelve Apostles. Jesus referred to the brothers as "Boanerges," meaning "sons of thunder." (on account of their fervid and impetuous temper (Luke 9:54) John is believed to be the longest living apostle and the only not to die a martyr's death.
John, along with Peter and James, were the only witnesses of the raising of Daughter of Jairus, and the closest witnesses to the Agony in Gethsemane. John was the one who reported to Jesus they had "'forbidden' a non-disciple from casting out demons in Jesus' name." This prompted Jesus to state, "he who is not against us is on our side."
John and Peter were the only two apostles sent by Jesus to prepare for the final Passover meal, the Last Supper. During the meal, St. John sat next to Jesus, leaning on him rather than lying along the couches.
John was the only one of the Twelve Apostles who did not forsake the Saviour in the hour of His Passion. He stood faithfully at the cross when the Saviour made him the guardian of His Mother.
After the Assumption of Mary, John went to Ephesus, according to Church tradition. He later became banished by the Roman authorities to the Greek Island of Patmos; this is where he allegedly wrote the Book of Revelation. It is said John was banished in the late 1st century, during the reign of the Emperor Domitian, after being plunged into boiling oil in Rome and suffering no injuries. It is also said that all those who witnessed the miracle in the Colosseum were converted to Christianity. Emperor Domitian was known for his persecution of Christians.
John is known as the author of the Gospel of John and four other books in the New Testament - the three Epistles of John and the Book of Revelation. The authorship of the Gospel is credited to the "disciple whom Jesus loved," and John 21:24 claims the Gospel of John is based on the "Beloved Disciple's" testimony. However, the true authorship has been debated on since 200. In his Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius states the First Epistle of John and the Gospel of John are agreed upon as John's. Eusebius continues to state the second and third epistles of John are not John the Apostle's.
In the Gospel of John, the phrase "the disciple whom Jesus loved," or "the Beloved Disciple" is used five times but is not used in any other New Testament accounts of Jesus.
St. John is called the Apostle of Charity, a virtue he had learned from his Divine Master, and which he constantly inculcated by word and example. The "beloved disciple" died in Ephesus after AD 98, where a stately church was erected over his tomb. It was afterwards converted into a Mohammedan mosque.
St. John is the patron saint of love, loyalty, friendships, and authors. He is often depicted in art as the author of the Gospel with an eagle, symbolizing "the height he rose to in his gospel." In other icons, he is shown looking up into heaven and dictating his Gospel to his disciple.
It is God who calls; human beings answer. The vocation of John and his brother James is stated very simply in the Gospels, along with that of Peter and his brother Andrew: Jesus called them; they followed. The absoluteness of their response is indicated by the account. James and John “were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him” (Matthew 4:21b-22).
For the three former fishermen—Peter, James and John—that faith was to be rewarded by a special friendship with Jesus. They alone were privileged to be present at the Transfiguration, the raising of the daughter of Jairus and the agony in Gethsemane. But John’s friendship was even more special. Tradition assigns to him the Fourth Gospel, although most modern Scripture scholars think it unlikely that the apostle and the evangelist are the same person.
John’s own Gospel refers to him as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2), the one who reclined next to Jesus at the Last Supper, and the one to whom Jesus gave the exquisite honour of caring for his mother, as John stood beneath the cross. “Woman behold your son…. Behold, your mother” (John 19:26b, 27b).
Because of the depth of his Gospel, John is usually thought of as the eagle of theology, soaring in high regions that other writers did not enter. But the ever-frank Gospels reveal some very human traits. Jesus gave James and John the nickname, “sons of thunder.” While it is difficult to know exactly what this meant, a clue is given in two incidents.
In the first, as Matthew tells it, their mother asked that they might sit in the places of honour in Jesus’ kingdom—one on his right hand, one on his left. When Jesus asked them if they could drink the cup he would drink and be baptized with his baptism of pain, they blithely answered, “We can!” Jesus said that they would indeed share his cup, but that sitting at his right hand was not his to give. It was for those to whom it had been reserved by the Father. The other apostles were indignant at the mistaken ambition of the brothers, and Jesus took the occasion to teach them the true nature of authority: “…Whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:27-28).
On another occasion, the “sons of thunder” asked Jesus if they should not call down fire from heaven upon the inhospitable Samaritans, who would not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to Jerusalem. But Jesus “turned and rebuked them” (see Luke 9:51-55).
On the first Easter, Mary Magdalene “ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, ‘They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him’” (John 20:2). John recalls, perhaps with a smile, that he and Peter ran side by side, but then “the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first” (John 20:4b). He did not enter but waited for Peter and let him go in first. “Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed” (John 20:8).
John was with Peter when the first great miracle after the Resurrection took place—the cure of the man crippled from birth—which led to their spending the night in jail together. The mysterious experience of the Resurrection is perhaps best contained in the words of Acts: “Observing the boldness of Peter and John and perceiving them to be uneducated, ordinary men, they [the questioners] were amazed, and they recognised them as the companions of Jesus” (Acts 4:13).
The Apostle John is traditionally considered the author also of three New Testament letters and the Book of Revelation. His Gospel is a very personal account. He sees the glorious and divine Jesus already in the incidents of his mortal life. At the Last Supper, John’s Jesus speaks as if he were already in heaven. John’s is the Gospel of Jesus’ glory.
It is a long way from being eager to sit on a throne of power or to call down fire from heaven to becoming the man who could write: “The way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers” (1 John 3:16).