That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. 1 John 1:1-3 (KJV)
John was an old man living in Ephesus when he set down in written form what he had heard, what he had seen with his eyes, and touched, Jesus, the Word of Life. 70 years earlier, after Jesus returned from Judea to Galilee, he went to live in Capernaum where He preached the good news that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. John was a young man earning his living as a fisherman.
While by the sea shore one day, and being pressed in on by a large crowd, Jesus saw two fishing boats standing by the lake where the fishermen were washing their nets. Those boats belonged to Andrew, Simon Peter, James and John. Jesus entered Simon Peter’s boat and asked him to push off from the shore. From there he taught the crowd. When Jesus finished speaking he told Simon to launch out into the deep to let down his net to catch fish. The catch was so great that the boat began to sink so James and his young brother John, who were in the other boat, came to help, nearly sinking their boat as well. Peter fell at Jesus feet and cried, “Depart from me Lord for I as a sinful man.” As soon as they returned to shore Peter and Andrew left their boat, nets to follow Jesus. He called James and John as well, saying, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They too left their boat and fishing nets to become Jesus’ disciples. Why? That day while Jesus sat in Peter’s boat he opened Scriptures as no one else ever had. John had fished with James, Peter and Andrew all the night and caught nothing and though he was the youngest, he knew how and where to catch fish. Like Peter, John must have been deeply affected by that great catch of fish as well as Jesus teaching of the Scriptures. John, along with his brother, James and two partners, Andrew and Simon left everything to follow Jesus.
What did John see Jesus do and what did he hear Jesus say? They lived with Jesus and traveled with him throughout Galilee and Judea over the next several years. We read in Matthew 4:23-24 that Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.
When Jesus chose twelve men out from all his disciples the young fisherman, John, was among them. “And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles; Simon, (whom he also named Peter), and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, Matthew and Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called Zealots,” (Lk 6:13-15 ) Jesus sent these twelve men out to preach the Good News, heal the sick and cast out demons in his name.
John crossed the lake with Jesus and the others and was there when the demons were cast out of The Demoniac:
“And when he went forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God most high? I beseech thee, torment me not. For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For oftentimes it had caught him: and he was kept bound with chains and in fetters; and he brake the bands, and was driven of the devil into the wilderness. And Jesus asked him, saying, What is thy name? And he said, Legion: because many devils were entered into him. And they besought him that he would not command them to go out into the deep. And there was there an herd of many swine feeding on the mountain: and they besought him that he would suffer them to enter into them. And he suffered them. Then went the devils out of the man, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake, and were choked.(Luke 8: 27-33)
John, along with Peter and James accompanied Jesus to Jarius’ home where his daughter lay gravely ill:
“While he spake these things unto them, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped him, saying, My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live. And Jesus arose, and followed him, and so did his disciples. And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment: For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole. But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour. And when Jesus came into the ruler’s house, and saw the minstrels and the people making a noise, He said unto them, Give place: for the maid is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn. But when the people were put forth, he went in, and took her by the hand, and the maid arose. And the fame hereof went abroad into all that land. (Matthew 9:18-26)
After hearing of the Baptist’s death John went with Jesus and the other disciples into the wilderness and the crowds followed them. Jesus had compassion on them and taught then until it was evening. The disciples, being worried about the lack of food, asked Jesus to dismiss the crowd that they might go and find something to eat. Jesus said:
“They need not depart; give ye them to eat.” And they say unto him, “We have here but five loaves, and two fishes.” He said, “Bring them hither to me.” And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full. And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children. (Matthew 14:15-21)
As conflict with the Jewish rulers grew:
“Jesus began to show unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day… And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid. And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only. (Matthew 17:1-8)
John was next to Jesus at table in the Upper Room on the night of the Last Supper:
“Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake. He then lying on Jesus’ breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it? Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.” (John 13: 23-26)
Later that same evening Peter, James and John drew away from the others and stood watch for Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. Two times Jesus poured out His heart to God the Father and two times Jesus found the three sleeping.
Later when Jesus was questioned, tried and condemned to death John, the Beloved stood near by and John also went up to Golgotha and stood by with Jesus mother, Mary, Mary’s sister and Mary Magdalene to witnessed Jesus’ Crucifixion and death:
“Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.” (John 19:25-27)
Three days later, early on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene came running to Peter and John, upset that Jesus’ body was missing from the tomb. John ran to the empty tomb with Peter:
“ So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulcher. And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulcher, and seeth the linen clothes lie, And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulcher, and he saw, and believed.” (John 20:4-8)
Later in the evening on that day John was in the upper room:
“And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet. And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them. (Luke 24:36-42)
John witnessed Christ’s bodily Ascension (Mt. 28:16-18) and John waited with the others in Jerusalem for the promised Holy Spirit. (Acts1:12-14, 2:1-4)
John became a leader of the Church in Jerusalem until about 70 AD
When persecution arose in Jerusalem John went to Ephesus where he remained with the church where he wrote his Gospel and later his Epistles 70-94 AD. John was exiled to the Island of Patmos where he received the Divine Revelation of our Lord’s second coming. 95-96 AD. John returned to Ephesus where he continued to teach and preach the Gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We do not know how John died but much of our tradition leads us to think that John died of old age between 96-100 AD.
Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, regarded as one of the three most important Apostolic Fathers learned the faith from John the Apostle and according to Holy Tradition, John the Apostle consecrated Polycarp as Bishop of Smyrna. Irenaeus, a student of Polycarp and a great second century theologian recorded his memories of his mentor who learned the faith from St. John the Apostle. Not only did Polycarp converse with John the Apostle, but he also spoke with others who had seen Jesus Christ, eye witnesses who gave accounts of our Savior.
We continue in this great, unbroken succession of Apostolic witness. During the past months, and God willing in the months to come, we will hear sermons preached from the Gospel of John. By the Grace of God and the Indwelling Holy Spirit, these ongoing sermons from the Fourth Gospel will strengthen and renew our love and faith in Jesus Christ.