There are many incredible stories of personal transformation in the Bible, but perhaps one of the most overlooked is that of the apostle John. Along with his brother James, John was one of the most boisterous and strong-headed disciples. It’s likely that’s the reason Jesus called these two sons of Zebedee “the Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17)—which has got to be one of the best nicknames in the entire Bible.
These two brothers caused quite a stir among the other disciples when they asked to be seated at the right and left sides of Jesus upon entering heaven (Mark 10:35–45). Maybe it was misguided passion that caused the brothers to ask for this honor, but it came across as youthful arrogance. Their boneheaded request stirred up indignation from the rest of the Twelve. It also earned them a strong rebuke from Jesus in the form of a sermon about humility, explaining that “even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (v.45).
John witnessed the major miracle moment of Jesus’s transfiguration (Mark 9:2–8), one that helped equate Him with His Father in heaven, and during His crucifixion, Jesus personally instructed John to watch over His mother Mary once He was gone (John 19:16–27).
In his older years, John likely had plenty of time to mull over all of these experiences and life lessons. Out of the Twelve, only John would live to old age. Tradition holds that each of the other apostles were martyred because of their faith.
I imagine John played these significant memories in his mind over and over again as he wrote the Gospel and epistles that bear his name. These are the events that shaped not only his life but also the early Church. I wonder if, in his final days, John pondered why he, among all the disciples, was not sentenced to death as a martyr. Surely he missed his friends, his brother, and his Savior. Toward the end of his life, John was exiled to the Greek island of Patmos for preaching the gospel. This is where he would write the book of Revelation. The words and revelation given to John after his extensive life experience are also a gift to us, thousands of years later.
John is an example of what it’s like to be radically transformed by God’s love, regardless of occupation or station in life; God uses us all to build and grow His Church. John was transformed from a headstrong, perhaps self-serving, young disciple into a faith-filled and faithful old man with the gift of memories from Christ’s earthly days, of witnessing His Savior’s ministry firsthand. His story exemplifies the life-changing power of Christ’s love.
Written by Robert Carnes