Son of Thunder, Exiled
As John’s ministry lengthens and his personal walk matures, the “son of thunder” becomes known for writing about Christian love. Many commentaries will actually refer to John as “the apostle of love.”There’s definitely warrant in John’s action and words to merit that title.
A quick glance at John’s epistles affirms that love is a major component. You can see it in his Gospel and the book of Revelation as well. It’s John who tells us that we should be known by our love. It’s John who informs us that “no greater love” has ever been displayed like that of Jesus Christ. Again, it’s John challenging us to love in word and deed (1 John 3.18).
The impetuous thunderstorm youth has become a seasoned, caring, nurturing pastor. Personally, I believe his experience as a witness to the crucifixion and being close enough to hear the final words of the Savior is the beginning point of the deepening of his walk. From here, he begins to care for Mary as though she were his own mother. The grace of God has had a transformative effect on his life – as it should be!
In some medieval depictions of John, he is shown to be effeminate – perhaps, this was their way of showing John as the apostle of love? Yet, it misses the mark of John’s character. He was a man’s man, growing up fishing on the rough Sea of Galilee.
He was strong, competitive, ambitious, and headstrong. Yet, Jesus saw a diamond in the rough. While we see John’s weaknesses, Jesus saw John’s strength. He also knew that the only way for John to reach his full potential was to develop a heart for people, a heart of compassion. He needed to be tempered by the love of God.
John remained faithful his entire life. He had a strong passion against the heretic Cerinthus. He admonished his disciples to remain faithful to the work of Christ and to beware of the false Christs that would seek to steal their devotion away.
Because of his devotion to Christ, he ran into conflict with the Roman government. While ministering in Ephesus, the Emperor Domitian had him brought to Rome to be boiled alive in a cauldron of hot oil. This execution was set to take place inside the Colosseum. However, John was miraculously delivered with no harm, which greatly infuriated the Emperor. In his frustration, Domitian had John exiled to Patmos.
Now, as an elderly man, probably in his eighties, John writes to the seven churches of Asia Minor. He instructs the church at Ephesus. He writes the last eyewitness account of the earthly ministry of Jesus. While he is no doubt bold, dogmatic, and certain – he has also learned to love by God’s grace.
After his exile, tradition teaches that John left the isle after Domitian’s death and faithfully pastored in Ephesus until sometime around 98AD. As the first century was nearing its end, the last of the original twelve apostles was welcomed into Heaven.
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