Open Your Bible
Mark 9:1-8, Mark 10:35-45, 1 John 1:1-4, Revelation 1:9-20
The four Gospels tell the story of Jesus: His life, teachings, death, and resurrection. But the Gospels also tell the stories of the men and women who followed Him. The story of John, one of the twelve disciples, is traced through all four Gospel accounts, and is a story of beautiful transformation in the heart of someone who followed Him.
A fisherman by trade, John was the brother of James, the son of Zebedee (Mark 1:19–20). Paul describes him as a “pillar” of the church (Galatians 2:9). He wrote the Gospel of John, the books of 1, 2, and 3 John, and Revelation. Within the pages of the book of John, he is referred to as a beloved disciple, or “the one Jesus loved” (John 13:23; 20:2).
John was one of three disciples who witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus (Mark 9:2–3). Along with James and Peter, John saw a truly extraordinary event: Jesus transformed into His heavenly person, clothed all in white. The passage in Mark 9 echoes back to Moses’s encounter with God, when he came down from Mount Sinai and his face was still shining “as a result of his speaking with the LORD” (Exodus 34:29). Having been there from early on in Jesus’s earthly ministry, John knew Jesus was God’s beloved Son (Matthew 3:17), and having witnessed His transfiguration, he heard what Jesus would ultimately do (die and rise again), though John, along with James and Peter, wondered what this meant (Mark 9:7–10).
Later, when Jesus further explained to His disciples that He would die and rise again, brothers James and John immediately took Him aside to ask if they might sit on His right and left hand in heaven, wanting the glory and honor represented by those positions (Mark 10:35–40). But Jesus flipped that idea on its head, telling them:
“Whoever wants to become great among you will be your servant,
and whoever wants to be first among you will be a slave to all.
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served,
but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (vv.43–45).
Throughout the Gospels, we read of John’s own transformation from fisherman to follower of Jesus, from power-seeking to power-giving, testifying to Jesus’s lordship, “so that [others] may also have fellowship… with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ” (1John 1:2–3). Transformed by that fellowship, he became one of the New Testament’s most prolific writers, receiving God’s revelation of the future, fully realized kingdom of God (Revelation 1:9–11).
Grace, redemption, and change—John, Peter, Matthew, and others are recorded as having their lives turned upside down by Christ. We are invited into the same transformation, and called to the same self-sacrifice as Jesus’s beloved disciple, John. It is a gift and grace to be called by Jesus, and a deep mercy to be transformed by His love, as John was.