Have you seen the t-shirts that proudly state “Old guys rule”? There’s a lot of truth in that. What older people lose in muscle mass, strength, and energy they have the chance to make up for in knowledge, experience, and wisdom. Many of our now-wise friends were once where they weren’t supposed to be, did that which they knew better than to do, spoke when they should have been quiet, and still lived to tell about it. Maybe that’s why I’m drawn to the apostle John so much.
I can identify with a man who wants to call down fire from heaven when a whole town refuses to believe in my Savior. (Mark 3) I understand being critical of others like he was in Luke 9 when he reported to Jesus, “Master, we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.” Sadly, I get John’s proud request to be given a seat of honor next to Jesus when he is glorified.” (Mark 10) John had issues, but he was one of Jesus’ best friends. Through that friendship he learned from the Master Teacher how to funnel his passion into a deep love for others. He learned life was all about the message of Jesus and not about him.
John’s gospel is my favorite and, even to me, that seems a little out of character. After all, I so love a good story. You would think I’d be drawn to any one of the other three who relish telling Jesus stories and relating His parables. Telling stories and coming up with metaphors suits my teaching style to a T. John tells no parables in his gospel! Yet, what John is able to do in his account of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus only comes from a long, long life of honoring his very best friend.
When we look at the timeline of John’s life, we see that it stretches longer than those of the other apostles. Many scholars think John’s gospel-writing dot comes before the one marking his exile on Patmos when he was around 90 years old. That qualifies him as an old guy by our standards, but in that day and time it was ancient! Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s gospels had been around for years and were widely circulated. So, by the time John picks up his pen he’s ready to offer some insight that only a long line of loving service and sacrifice can nurture. Rather than retelling Jesus’ parables, he chooses to make Jesus’ entire life a parable. Seven times in the book of John Jesus says, “I am”:
1) John 6:48, I am the bread of life
2) John 8:12, I am the light of the world
3) John 10:9, I am the gate
4) John 10:11, I am the good shepherd
5) John 11:25, I am the resurrection and the life
6) John 14:6, I am the way and the truth and the life
7) John 15:1, I am the true vine
Now, those are some pretty powerful metaphors! John, no doubt, had lost physical strength as he put pen to parchment, but his desire for others to believe or continue to believe that Jesus could give them an abundant life grew stronger with every passing year. This same John who, in his younger years, wanted to incinerate non-believers, learned to funnel that passion into living a life of loving sacrifice. Rather than being critical of others’ methods, he learned that surrendering his own will to the will of the Father was the bedrock of faith. Finally, John had the opportunity to live long enough to understand that life was not all about him, but instead about loving the God who first loved him. He wanted no glory for himself, but was looking forward to the day when he would fall at the feet of his best friend and praise Him forever.
I guess it’s not so out of character for me to be a fan of John. At the end, I believe his life had also become a parable. Who knows? Maybe when the two met in Paradise Jesus helped this “disciple whom He loved” rise to his feet with a big ol’ hug. Then with eyes twinkling, perhaps Jesus placed the last dot on the timeline of John’s life. And maybe, just maybe, John couldn’t help but grin when he read the words beside that dot – “Old guys rule!”