Who was John?
It’s important to take one post to explain something of the writer’s background.
From what we can tell from church history, John was the youngest of the twelve apostles. Despite his youth, he became part of the Inner Circle (Peter, James, and John).
Later, in the book of Acts, he took an even greater leadership role (Peter, John, and James). After the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, he is often paired with Peter, serving, ministering, and leading the young church.
John, the young apostle, eventually became John the Elder. He outlived all of the other apostles, suffering potential martyrdom, exile, and more. He watched the persecutions of Claudius, Nero, and Domitian. He witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus. He watched his apostolic brothers being put to death. Yet, he never stopped…he was an overcomer.
Growing up on the Sea of Galilee, John and his brother did what many others did – they fished. These two brothers, John and James, were among the earliest followers of Jesus. Another set of brothers, Andrew and Peter, were partners with the sons of Zebedee (Luke 5.1-11). Jesus called them to be fishers of men and follow Him instead.
The evidence we have in the New Testament (admittedly, it’s sparse) points to the fact that their father, Zebedee, had become wealthy in the fishing industry (indicated by the fact that he had hired hands according to Mark 1.20). Also, he seems to have had connections with the High Priest in Jerusalem (John 18.15).
Salome, their mother, was a faithful follower of Jesus personally as well. According to Matthew 20, she was comfortable enough in the presence of Jesus to ask for her two boys to sit on either side of Him during the Kingdom!
We know from Mark 15, that Salome was present at the Crucifixion and was part of the group of women who found the tomb empty on the third day. Incidentally, there is a tradition that Salome was sister to Mary, mother of Jesus. Just as John doesn’t name himself in his gospel (he calls himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved), in like manner, he doesn’t name his mother either. The text is ambiguous at best, but Jewish tradition would expect that family members come to the tomb to anoint the body. Whether Salome and Mary were family or not, what is not ambiguous is her devotion to the Lord.
In his youth, John was impetuous – and James as well! Both received from Jesus the nickname Boanerges, meaning a “son of thunder.” These brothers had a fiery disposition, forbidding anyone outside of their group to cast out devils and offering to call fire down on a Samaritan village. While James would be the first to die, John would be the last apostle remaining.
As we near the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, John is starting to mellow. At the Last Supper, it is John that is closest to the Lord. It’s John who Peter asks, “John, ask Him who’s going to betray Him…” The John who wanted the spotlight will now not even give his name in his gospel. John simply refers to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved. We find that it’s John, along with Peter, that runs to inspect the empty tomb. Reading it Acts 5, it’s John, along with Peter, that heals a lame man at the Temple. Again, in Galatians 2, it’s John, along with Peter and James, that Paul perceives to be pillars in the Jerusalem church.