I don't think I can go to sleep until I write this down, so here I am. When I woke up on Saturday, the Lord immediately started talking to me about John, the brother of James. The disciple refers to himself as beloved. The fact that Jesus brought him up didn't surprise me in the least. I love every page and word of the bible, but the Gospel of John has always held an extra special place in my heart. And, some causes are geekier than others. For example, as a former English major, I adore how the Holy Spirit led him to write and structure his specific telling of the Gospel. Right down to diction, syntax, and word choice of every sentence. Or maybe it has something to do with the fact that, in some way, the origin of my last name is derived from him. Regardless, the testimonies of Mary Magdelene and John move me and challenge me continually. I have been dialoguing with the Holy Spirit about this for seventy-two hours, and if I'm honest, a lot longer.
So, according to biblical scholars and historians, John, the brother of James, was the
the youngest disciple among the twelve. And they place him somewhere around the age range of thirteen to sixteen years old at the time that Jesus called him. He is the only disciple many believe in having died from natural causes, and it's thought that he may have lived well into his 90s and most likely outlived all other twelve disciples. A lot of developmental and life-changing events happen between the ages of thirteen and sixteen years old. So can we think about that for a minute? Yes, Jesus entrusted the gospel to teenagers. Let that sink if that's the first time you're pondering that information. The book of Mark chapter Three verse Seventeen says that Jesus gave James and John the nickname Boanerges which translates to mean "sons of thunder." The two sons of Zebedee earned their nickname because both boys were often prone to passionate outbursts and anger from time to time. What transforms a kid from being referred to as a son of thunder to being referred to as the disciple whom Jesus loved? And not only is he the disciple whom Jesus loved, but John is the one who refers to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved.
I’ll tell you what does that. John had a Power encounter, a Truth encounter, and a Love encounter With the humanity and the divine nature of Jesus Christ. He didn’t just experience it once. He had repeated encounters every day, 365 days a year for 24 hours a day, for three years, and that doesn’t even count the number of moments before those three years. Can we please talk about John because we need to? Can we please talk about John, the brother of Jesus, because we talk about him a lot, but I still don't think we talk about him enough. We need to talk about John, the one disciple who knew Jesus on a level that the other ten didn’t. Please. And let’s start here.
Can we talk about the fact that the history of the world begins in the garden of Eden, a place where intimacy is born between man and God. But in that same place, sin enters the world, and humanity chooses autonomy. We need to start by talking about the fact that yes, father God is definitely there but so is the Holy Spirit, and so is Jesus. Because in the opening chapter of John, it says, “in the beginning, was The word and the word was with God all things were made through him and without him nothing was made that was made in him was life. Life was the light of men, and the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” Jesus is the light of the world. Jesus was there with the Father and the Spirit at creation. This means he was also in the garden of Eden, and he saw how his beloved ate from the tree of good and evil. And as a result of discovering their nakedness, They hid behind leaves in shame as if he had never seen them naked before. We need to talk about the fact, but the night before he was crucified, Jesus went back to a garden. The garden of Gethsemane. A different garden than before but still a garden. And he prayed until he bled tears and he cried, and he asked for his dad to take the cup away. And he took John; Peter: and James with him further into the garden than the rest of the disciples.
Have you ever considered that perhaps John reclined at the table in the upper room next to Jesus the entire night? John had his head on the chest of Jesus for the whole of the dinner party; until Jesus got up to wash their feet. I guarantee you that that evening of the Last Supper was not the first time, nor was it the last time that John had ever placed his head on the chest of Jesus for hours at a time. It was not the first time that they've sat in that position throughout their relationship with one another. I can guarantee you that John has grown very accustomed to the chest of Jesus and has fallen asleep on his chest. Listening to him talk by fires light simply because he's at peace, not for any perverted reason. John is falling asleep to the sound of many waters many times before. The soothing tone of Jesus’ voice, paired with a pattern of his breathing, has rocked a young teenage boy to sleep many times over the past three years. You see, John could recognize the voice of the Lord so intimately and so closely.
Have you ever thought that that evening during the last supper, while everyone else was talking and listening and not quite understanding John, could feel the heartbeat of the Lord? John sat at the table for hours, and his head wasn’t just on Jesus' chest. I would propose to you that his ear was resting over the heart of Jesus. So not only could he feel the rise and fall of God’s Chest, he could physically hear the inhale and exhale of every breath. He could tangibly feel how The savior's heart sped up as he tried one last time to remind the others in the room what was about to happen. He could feel Beats slow down as the cadence of his voice changes throughout the conversation. He could feel Christ's heartbeat stop for a second, perhaps when Jesus gets choked up in the middle of explaining something about bread and wine that none of them entirely understand yet. He could feel the heartbreak building quicker as a time on the clock that never really hung on the wall back then sped up, and it got closer and closer to that moment. Teenage john didn't even have to look with his eyes to read the emotions running across the face of Jesus. He could hear them in his voice, but more importantly, he knew by the beating of his own heart because his heart matched God's heartbeat for a beat, rhythm for rhythm. I want to suggest to you that perhaps John is a feeler. And maybe the prophetic gifting and call that the Lord has placed on his life even if he didn’t quite know how to put words to it yet somehow as he sat at the dinner table began to talk to him and began to alert him. That prophetic voice inside him spoke to him and said, this is the week that Isaiah 53 comes to pass, and this is the night that everything begins to change. The week that certain prophetic words spoken about in the Old Testament come to pass.
Now go back to the garden of Gethsemane; Peter James and John end up falling asleep Even though Jesus asked them to stay awake. And well, part of me thinks that Peter and James perhaps look down at the ground or decided to try and justify that they were tired at the moment they're found out by the Lord. But maybe John didn’t say anything. Instead, he just locked eyes with the tired, sad, distressed, and already bleeding King of the Universe even though he fell asleep when the Lord asked him not to...
In chapter fourteen of Mark, the author records the arrest of Jesus in the garden and mentions that one of the disciples ended up running away naked after a brief altercation with another individual. By the end of that night, the rest of the twelve had also dispersed in fear.
I would venture that the fear of man did die in John that night, even if he didn't realize it until three days later. For the short moment that he stands in Gethsemane exposed, John could care less that he is now naked in front of Jesus, a group of Roman soldiers, and the rest of his fellow disciples.
I want to suggest that, John in the scattering, ran back through the garden's entrance, back through town to the upper room. He would do this because his only thought is they've just arrested Jesus, and someone has to tell his mom, and I'm the one who has to deliver the news. Not because the Lord sent me on a secret mission. But because I love her, like my mother. Mary deserves to hear the news from me. John shows up in the upper room. Still naked, standing before the woman who by Friday afternoon would become his mother because the Lord proforms an adoption ceremony from the cross. And even after John put clothes back on, He and the three women didn't go to sleep. But I'm sure they had a fantastic but challenging prayer meeting for the king of kings that was standing before the Sanhedrin and High Priest.
On the other side of that, I like to think that despite everything, Jesus, the son of God, looks down at the pile of clothes that lay in the garden that was utterly discarded and forgotten as they take him away. And as he looks at it, He smiles because at that moment, intimacy, true intimacy between God and man as it had always intended to be, Had begun to be restored before he even got to the jail cell. Before he even got the cross, things had started to realign themselves, even if no one else knew it.
And perhaps one day down the road and time passes, some Roman soldiers are still working for Rome who is now older. And these older men are continually annoyed by a fiery young man who refuses to stop teaching and preaching about that other man who was crucified some years earlier. They don't know why this one man who looks at them with fire in his own eyes cannot be quenched no matter how many times they arrest him; threaten him with death. They may have even threatened him with the crucifixion option, yet three nails and two pieces of wood don't scare him like it scares others. Whatever they do, he won't stop. They look at him even as an older man, and they swear they can see Thunder rolling in the distance. Every single time government or religious leaders look at him, they’re reminded of that one fateful day they crucified that man. And among the crowd of people, they saw a teenage boy praying with three women; they saw a teenage boy following that man to the foot of his cross, and he never looks away.