When we think of the apostle John, the word love comes to mind. After all, he is known as the disciple whom Jesus loved. We can almost feel the love when we read his gospel and epistles, because he writes with so much sincerity. His writings are the heartfelt concerns of a pastor for his people. He uses the word “love” more than 45 times!
One commentary on Galatians said John was so frail in his final days at Ephesus, they had to carry him into church. One phrase that was constantly on his lips — “my little children, love one another.” Asked why he always said this, he replied — “It is the Lord’s command, and if this alone be done, it is enough.”
It wasn’t always that way for John. Love wasn’t something that came naturally to him, it was something he had to learn from the Lord.
The young John was bold for the truth, we can see the rigidity of John’s theology, because he writes in absolute terms. He presents the truths in clear black and white certainties. In fact John and his older brother James were known as the “sons of thunder.” He was very ambitious and somewhat demanding. Remember he and his brother convinced their mother to ask Jesus if they could sit on the right and left-hand of His throne. On another occasion when James wanted to call down fire from heaven to consume the Samaritans, John was in agreement.
Mark 9 is the only time when John spoke for himself. On the way they were arguing who was the greatest, so Jesus gave them a lesson on humility, John remembered how intolerant he was with a man who was casting out demons, just because he wasn’t part of their group and his conscience was bothering him.
Mark 9 vs 33[†]And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34[†]But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 35[†]And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” 36[†]And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37[†] “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.” Anyone Not Against Us Is for Us 38[†] John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name,  and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39[†]But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 For the one who is not against us is for us.
Don’t get me wrong, it is good to be hard for the truth, people so desperately need the truth. We can’t just have tolerance for error in the name of love, but it is not good when love is missing, because then it is just cold harsh facts. We need the divine balance between love and truth! We need sound doctrine and graciousness! So did John, but when we compare the mature John with the young John we see a beautiful example of a man transformed into balance. Something changed in John’s heart after the rebuke by our Lord in Mark 9.
John was one of the three most intimate disciples of Jesus. For three years he was an eyewitness of Jesus’ ministry. It is said that he liked to lean close to Jesus’ chest when He spoke, I have often wondered if it was because he loved the truths that came out of Jesus’ mouth so much? He was the last man standing, the sole survivor of the disciples. He saw it all! He watched when they crucified his Master. He was there when they martyred the disciple one by one, of which his brother James was the first. One would expect bitterness from such a man, but not this man, at the end of his life his heart could do nothing but love, because Someone once first loved him and that love was crafted into the core of his being forever.
Isn’t it astonishing that the most clear-cut, absolute man goes down in history as the apostle of love?
The Lord’s strengths sure are made perfect in our weaknesses!