Over the next several weeks, I want to invite you to take a journey with me as I write a new book online! We’ll look at the Apostle John, not as the Apostle of Love, but as the Apostle of Victory… Let’s get started!
Have you ever thought you knew someone – only to realize later you didn’t? Perhaps it was an event where someone acted totally out of character (at least, the character that accompanied the type of person you thought they were!). Maybe, you had an experience with someone that you thought you knew their name – only to find out you didn’t. A flood of emotions can go through your soul when you find out a person wasn’t who you really thought they were.
I remember several years ago, I was outside my bank using the ATM machine. In the distance, I heard some guy screaming at / for someone. This wasn’t all that uncommon in the area of California I lived. So, I just ignored it. Yet, what started out as distance noise soon began to feel much closer – that “too close for comfort” feeling.
I don’t know about you, but I’m very cautious and on high-alert when I’m withdrawing money from an outdoor ATM. When I hear someone advancing behind me, yelling, I feel like Barney Fife…my whole body is about to become a weapon!
In just a few minutes, the screaming guy arrived just beside me on my right. I can still hear his words: “Steve, man – I thought that was you…why didn’t you answer?” It was one of my neighbors.
I didn’t have the heart to say, “Well, the reason I didn’t answer is because I’m not Steve!” That would be social faux pas and I didn’t want to make my neighbor feel awkward. So, making eye contact, I simply responded: “I’m sorry, John…I must have been distracted.”
What happened next could not have been scripted any better! He looked at me, almost disheartened, and said, “John? My name’s not John!” He seemed genuinely offended that I didn’t know his name since he had obviously gone through the trouble to remember mine.
I couldn’t think of anything to make this situation any better. I could only say the first thing that popped into my head: “That’s funny…my name’s not Steve either!” Then, we both shared a good laugh and decided to just use the typical neighborly greeting going forward (you know, “Hey man!” – or, in a large church, “Hey brother!”).
I’ve often wondered about conversations in “John’s” house. “Honey, did you see what Steve and his wife were working on?” In his mind, I was “Steve” and there was no changing that!
Here’s the point: “John” thought he knew me. I thought I at least knew his name. We were both wrong. For my neighbor, my identity was, and always would be, “Steve.” And, he had certain expectations for how “Steve” was to act when he met his neighbor in public.
What does that story have to do with John’s writings? Well, I can’t help but wonder if we have become so accustomed to the gospel writers that we say, “John? Oh yeah…I know about him already.” We think we know him, how he will behave, etc. We’ve adopted the mindset too often of, “All I ever really needed to know I learned in Sunday school!”
But what if you found out that you didn’t know him quite as well as you thought? What if, up to this point, you have only heard a one-dimensional view of John? What if you found out that your expectations of “John” didn’t really take into account his true identity?
Let’s learn about this historical character, John bar Zebedee, together, in the next post.