Apostle John – Brother of James, Son of Zebedee

apostle john

John Boanerges, son of Zebedee and Salome, brother of James, the Apostle. He was known as the Beloved Disciple. A fisherman who lived in Bethsaida, Capernaum, and Jerusalem, he was a member of the Inner Circle. He wrote the Gospel of John, I John, II John, III John, and Revelation. He preached among the churches of Asia Minor. Banished to the Isle of Patmos, he was later freed and died a natural death. The Apostle John was one of the prominent Apostles. He is mentioned in many places in the New Testament. He was a man of action; he was very ambitious; and a man with an explosive temper and an intolerant heart. His second name was Boanerges, which means son of Thunder. He and his brother, James, came from a more well-to-do family than the rest of the 12 Apostles. Since his father had hired servants in his fishing business (Mark 1:20) he may have felt himself above the rest. He was close to Peter. They were acting together in the ministry. Peter, however, was always the spokesman for the band.

John mellowed with time. At the latter part of his life, he had forgotten everything, including his ambition and explosive temper, except his Lord’s command of love.

It is said that an attempt was made on his life by giving him a chalice of poison from which God spared him. He died of natural causes. A chalice with a snake in it is his symbol.

Being loved is the most powerful motivation in the world! Our ability to love is often shaped by our experience of love. We usually love others as we have been loved.

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Some of the greatest statements about God’s loving nature were written by a man who experienced God’s love in a unique way. The Apostle John, Jesus’ disciple, expressed his relationship to the Son of God by calling himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 21:20). Although Jesus’ love is clearly communicated in all the Gospel’s, in John’s Gospel it is the central theme. Because his own experience of Jesus’ love was so strong and personal, the apostle John was sensitive to those words and actions of Jesus that illustrated how the One who is love loved others.

Jesus knew John fully and loved him fully. He gave John and his brother James the nickname “Sons of Thunder,” perhaps from an occasion when the brothers asked Jesus for permission to “call fire down from heaven” (Luke 9:54) on a village that had refused to welcome Jesus and the disciples. In John’s Gospel and letters, we see the great God of love, while the thunder of God’s justice bursts from the pages of Revelation.

Jesus confronts each of us as he confronted John. We cannot know the depth of Jesus’ love unless we are willing to face the fact that he knows us completely. Otherwise, we are fooled into believing he must love the people we pretend to be, not the sinners we actually are. John and all the disciples convince us that God is able and willing to accept us as we are. Being aware of God’s love is a great motivator for change. His love is not given in exchange for our efforts; his love frees us to really live. Have you accepted that love?

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Strengths and Accomplishments

Weaknesses and Mistakes

  • Along with James, shared a tendency to outbursts of selfishness and anger
  • Asked for a special position in Jesus’ kingdom

Lessons From His Life

  • Those who realize how much they are loved are able to love much
  • When God changes a life, he does not take away personality characteristics but puts them to effective use in his service

Vital Statistics for Apostle John

  • Occupations: Fisherman, disciple
  • Relatives: Father: Zebedee, Mother: Salome, Brother: James
  • Contemporaries: Jesus, Pilate, Herod

Key Verse for Apostle John

“Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining” (1 John 2:7, 8)

John’s story is told throughout the Gospels, Acts, and Revelation.



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