John, The Apostle – Part 3
I am writing to disciples of Jesus Christ. If you have not yet heard Him call you to follow, know here that He calls all to follow Him. He said it this way, “Whoever chooses to come may come to me.” Further He said, “ If anyone wants to come after me, let him take up his cross and follow me.” It is about more than believing and going your own way. It is a narrow way and you will lose things but it is worth it. An eternal reward waits for the ones who follow Jesus. I stop here thinking about what the cross means. Criminals carried crosses. Condemned men carried crosses. For the man Jesus, death on the cross represented the ultimate in humiliation. We read in Hebrews that He despised the shame of it. I heard it said that means He refused shame. He did not do it before men. He was so focused on God. He did it as the will of God and to satisfy His Father’s heart and desire.
As we follow Jesus, relationships will be lost for what we wanted and expected them to be. Even death cannot take from you what God reserves for you in heaven. If you are struggling ask God to reveal Himself to you. He is kind and faithful to answer. I write this as I think about John for that man was a disciple close to Jesus. While other disciples and apostles were martyred, that is they died for their faith in Christ Jesus, not all paid that ultimate earthly price. John went through attempted murder at the hands of the highest earthly authority of his day. He passed through that fire. I think of Joseph whose brothers were ready to murder him and sold him into slavery. He passed through the valley of the shadow of death. And then he, Joseph, was falsely accused and thrown into prison. And John was exiled to Patmos among criminals.
And there in that forsaken island, He sees Jesus Christ in His glory. Later He is released to simply encourage and oversee the Lord’s people, disciples who were following Jesus Christ. The basic story has not changed. The call is to follow Him. When you see Him for who He is, and recognize your spiritual poverty, get up and follow. Let nothing dissuade you from your pursuit. And when you are ready to quit, He will show up if you have been following. If you have never responded, why should you expect Him to cater to you? As we go with Jesus, and connect with His people, His disciples among us, we learn to love, bless, encourage, and admonish. That last activity takes some maturity. Correction requires gentleness and humility. Those are signs, fruit, of true maturity.
John left Patmos and ended his days in Ephesus. Read his third letter. As with his second letter, he opens referring to himself as the elder. Trouble and selfish ambition have surfaced among those he addressed. John’s gentleness and maturity are expressed with a firmness. When he comes he will remind the self-seekers what they have done. They will be put to shame. And John closes with the desire to see those disciples face-to-face. Hear the Spirit in those words. The Lord is drawing His bride (the chosen lady of 2 John), to that time of seeing Him face-to-face. We will see fully even as we have been known. John, after Patmos, writes and leaves a legacy for us, 2000 years down the road. I think he had no idea of what he was leaving for us today.
I think more is wrapped up in the testimony of John’s life. His walk is a type for the church, His body and bride, at the very transition to new heavens and new earth. John did not see physical death as part of His testimony of Jesus. I mean by that He was not “martyred.” As Paul wrote we shall not all sleep. This is greater than John’s story for he still died a natural death. There will be a people like Simeon and Anna who are alive and remain. Some of Christ’s members will be martyred. Some are experiencing death and returning. Some will pass through the valley of the shadow and be spared, like John was. And a company of people prepared for the Lord’s appearing in the sky will not sleep. His life will keep those He has chosen for that day.