From Son of Thunder to Apostle of Love – Impossible?

The one word that would seem to best represent the Holy Apostle John would have to be: LOVE. His first letter (1 John) is filled with that word: God loves us, we should love God, and we should love others (repeat several times). He could easily be called the Apostle of Love. But that is now…what was he known as in those early years with Jesus?

When Jesus appointed the 12 Apostles He called the two sons of Zebedee, James and John, the “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17). That does not bring to mind any “Apostle of Love” type of person. In my mind, I picture a couple of huge “Hulk Hogan” type of men that weren’t to be messed with. Their actions early on with Jesus would support their being Sons of Thunder.

At one point, Jesus and His Apostles were heading to a Samaritan village. The people didn’t want them in their town. The two Sons of Thunder, James and John, in anger asked the Lord: “Do you want us to call down fire from heaven to destroy them?” We are told the Lord rebuked them and told them that He had come to save people’s lives, not to destroy them (Luke 9:51-56). Wanting to kill people doesn’t sound much like an Apostle of Love.

Another time, James and John come to Jesus and plainly tell Him: “We want you to do for us whatever we ask.” Again, I picture in my mind, two huge men towering over Jesus in this conversation. When Jesus asks them what they want Him to do for them, they answer that they want to sit one at His right hand and the other at His left hand. In other words, they wanted positions of power and prestige in this new kingdom the Lord would establish. Jesus corrects them and explains that if anyone wants to be great in His Kingdom, they must learn to be the servant of all. That incident is found in Mark 10:35-45. A hunger for power and prestige doesn’t fit the picture of an Apostle of Love.

Truly the Apostle John was a work in progress. By the time we get to the crucifixion of Jesus, we find a different John at the foot of the cross. He is the only Apostle that follows Jesus all the way to the cross. Jesus tells His mother that John is now her son and He tells John that Mary is now his mother. John cares for Mary the rest of her life. Jesus saw something in this Son of Thunder from the beginning and John’s life is slowly transformed into becoming a great man of God…indeed, the Apostle of Love.

All of us are still “works in progress” as we journey with our Lord. Jesus didn’t quit on John because of his botch-ups and He doesn’t quit on us as we botch things up in our lives. Some of us may still be wanting to call fire down on certain people we know or we may be caught up with a desire for power and prestige. The Lord rebukes us for such thoughts, but He doesn’t give up on us. He sees us as we could become and He continues to mold and shape us each day.

Some folks may think it is impossible to love certain individuals, but our God is the God of the impossible. Even though we might not be there now, God is able to do an amazing work in us as we journey on with Him. The life of the Apostle John should give all of us hope. We too can grow and become all that we can be in Christ. We can become more and more like our Lord. That journey with Him continues right now.

“We love, because He first loved us!” (1 John 4:19)

So Just Who Is This Jesus?

This morning, I received an email from a member of our parish. This person was reading Hebrews and found a great similarity between Hebrews 1 and John 1. This got me thinking about some of the passages of Holy Scripture that would fit well with John 1 and what would it look like to put them all together. I found it so very powerful and certainly answers the title question. Here’s the result (taken from John 1:1-18, Colossians 1:10-20, Philippians 2:6-11, Hebrews 1:1-4, Revelation 1:8, and Isaiah 44:6):

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” “Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel, And his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God.”

He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, Whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.  And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.  

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.  And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. He, Who being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;  that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;  strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.  He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love,in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. He, Who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. Therefore, God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Wow!

Having Received Mercy from the Lord

This photo of a mountain lion came from a full video. The mountain lion came into this spring for a cool drink of water. In the midst of quenching his thirst, something caught his attention. He immediately crouched down facing the unsuspecting animal. He stayed in that position for quite some time and then began stalking his prey.

Predators, like this mountain lion, will usually go after the weak, injured, or sick animal in a herd. Those are the ones that are easiest to bring down. This got me thinking about the spiritual realm and how the enemy of our souls is referred to as a “lion stalking its prey, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Like the mountain lion, he, too, loves to find the spiritually weak, spiritually injured, or spiritually sick.

This past Sunday, we heard the incredible story the Lord speaks about a man who had received great mercy and then refused to show another man any mercy at all (Matthew 18:23-35). The Lord brings home His point with these words for all of us: 

“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

If we belong to the Lord, then we have experienced His great mercy. When we confessed to Him, He forgave us for all the wrong things we had done in our lives. We are called to walk in that forgiveness and to have that same mercy on others. But we can find ourselves hurt or angered by the words or actions of someone else. In that hurt or anger, we can refuse to forgive them or to show them any mercy. We may want to hurt them back, but in reality, the only one being hurt is us.

When we refuse to forgive and have mercy on someone, we injure ourselves spiritually. We are the ones who then become spiritually weak, spiritually injured, and spiritually sick. The enemy of our souls (that lion) is stalking such prey constantly.

One of the absolute worse things that could come out of our mouths is: “I could never forgive ______ for what they did (or said)!” With God’s help, we can forgive others. It always helps me to remember the depths of God’s forgiveness toward me when I committed my life to Him. He had great mercy on me for which I am forever grateful.

May our Lord give us strength each day to walk in His forgiveness and mercy, and to show that mercy to others.