On May 21, the church hymns honour Saint John the Theologian as a virgin disciple, a miracle worker, and a teacher of the faithful. He is shown in icons as an aged, knowledgeable, and thoughtful man. Standing on profound prayer, he has his right hand in his mouth and a Gospel in the other, as a theologian might. But underneath all of these virtues was his undying love for God. "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God," he exhorts every Christian, and his entire life reflects this message.
He answered the call of God and has been with Jesus ever since. He witnessed the Lord raising the dead daughter of Jairus. He was present at the Lord's transfiguration on Mount Tabor. He sat near Him during the Last Supper and laid his head on His chest.
He remained by Christ's side during His most trying moments. As they led the Lord bound from the Garden of Gethsemane, he followed. He walked to Golgotha with Christ. He stood at the foot of His Cross with the Mother of God. As Jesus had commanded, Joseph cared for His mother as a faithful son until Her Dormition.
His self-sacrificing love for God mirrored God's limitless love for all humanity. He referred to himself as "the one whom Jesus loved" in his Gospel. He saw all life events, good and terrible, as manifestations of God's love and urged us to do the same."We love Him because He first loved us," he said emphatically.
For many years, he was the Lord's longest-living apostle. he lived to be over 100 years old, and was his single surviving witness for many decades. By God's will, he authored the Gospel of John, in which he imparted the most profound truths of the Christian faith on the incarnation of the Son of God, the Creator, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and Communion. "But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing you may have life in His name," he stated to the believers.
God chose him to write the book of Revelation, a New Testament book that is as beautiful and uplifting as it is mysterious. He forewarns us about the end of time, the judgement day, and the Lord's second coming. Being privy to the secret of the end of time did not diminish his purity since he possessed God's love.
During Emperor Nero's (56-68) reign, he was sentenced to death for professing his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He was made to drink a cup of poison. On the order of the executioner, he was immersed in hot oil. Because of his love for God and God's unlimited mercy, he overcame these ordeals unharmed.
He used all of the Lord's gifts and abilities to help others. He preached Christ to the pagans. He drove countless demons from pagan temples and cured many ill people. His sermon was followed by so many spectacular miracles that the flock of believers grew with each passing day.
He taught Christ as God's Son and God's incarnation to the faithful. In the beginning, was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1). His teachings assisted many people in turning away from false prophets and sects, many of which questioned Christ's divinity.
Explaining Christ’s commandment of love, he wrote: “If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” He also showed multiple times how to put this teaching into practice. As an elder, he heard of a young man who abandoned the path of virtue to join a band of thieves and went to find him in the wilderness. He eventually tracked him down, and the young man attempted to flee. Apostle John caught up with him and begged him to stop. He implored him to repent so that his soul would not be destroyed and vowed to bear his sins if he altered his ways. The youth, moved by John's love, listened and gained redemption.
When Jesus sensed his death was coming, he instructed his followers to place him in a grave and fill it. When they returned and dug up the grave, his body had vanished. Every year on May 8, the earth on the grave transforms into crimson dust and heals the ill. His love for humanity has outlasted his physical death and continues to reveal itself to all of us.
The Lord bestowed the title "Son of Thunder" on His devoted disciple John, alluding to the burning, fiery, sacrificial quality of Christian love possessed by Apostle John the Theologian. How can we love God and people in the same way? As Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh suggests, we should first measure ourselves up to the beauty of John's love, consider how we love, and challenge ourselves to rise to his level - first by loving one person, then by loving more, with even greater mercy, understanding, sacrifice, and purity. John the Theologian's life example raises us to a knowledge of Christ's love and motivates us to brighten the lives of others with it.