05 May 2014

Reflections of John

It was a day I will never forget. That day I first saw Him and He spoke to me. His words still resonate within me. Two simple words that changed my life forever - "Follow Me". It was the day He called me to follow Him and be His disciple.

Me? A simple fisherman with no education. Little did I know that magnitude of what would follow and the events that would shake nations…

Walking with Jesus
 Jesus was more than just a Rabbi. He was more than just a healer and teacher. He was my friend and closest companion. I loved Him and wanted to please Him in every way for choosing me. I had days where I scarcely believed I was eating at the same table with the Son of God. God Himself! Wrapped up in human flesh.

He was such a man of grace, compassion, strength and courage. Never have I met a man who loved the unlovable. Who was so willing to give to those in need. Who boldly faced the dictators of the Pharisees. And who was so obedient to the call of God. He was Love in flesh to everyone He met - the poor, the broken, the sick and despised.

Never did slander or hatred come out of His mouth. He was not moved by the opinions of others or insecure when those closest to Him were hostile. He was content to have no personal possessions or listen to the empty amusements of the day.

We ate together, we laughed, we fellowshipped and we cried. It was the ultimate adventure those first 3 years! We travelled to every village in Israel and saw with our own eyes miracles of healings, demons being cast out, and the dead raised. We heard Him preach incredible messages of the Kingdom and parables that were mysteries of profound understanding. Many wished they could be so close to Jesus like me and the disciples.

We didn't understand the full reality of His words until after His resurrection. At times none of the disciples understood what He was saying and why He must go to Jerusalem in the final days. He was fully committed to the Fathers will - even death, death on a cross! They were the darkest three days of my life, seeing Him tortured and crucified. Never was humanity at it's darkest than when His own people turned on Him.

But He rose from the dead and stood in front of us - impossible! But it was Him, my friend Jesus. Everything He spoke came to pass, straight from the scriptures of old. Suddenly everything made sense. We were appointed to share the news that Salvation had come through faith in Jesus. The fulfillment of the ages had finally dawned, and we were the first ones to share it!

The Early Church
That day in the upper room when we received the Holy Spirit was incredible. Many disciples left but the faithful remained, obedient to Jesus' words to stay until the Helper came. I was born again, filled with the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus said years earlier with Nicodemus. Peter spoke powerfully and was a completely different man to the one I knew. That day the church was born and 3,000 were added who received the word of God.

There were amazing days unlike any other ever witnessed. Everyone gave to anyone as he had need, selling their possessions, devoting themselves to fellowship, the apostles teaching and prayer. Many miracles and healings took place in those early days. All the believers were of one heart and mind together, serving, giving and loving all who were there.

There were no quarrels, divisions or strife, it was heaven on earth. It was only a matter of time until persecution broke out. Stephen, a man full of grace and a strong speaker was stoned without trial. The church scattered throughout Judea and Samaria, just as Jesus said to us before He ascended to heaven.

The late King Herod had James and Peter arrested, and had James executed. The church prayed for Peter earnestly for him and his safety, trusting that God was in control. Then miraculously he appeared at our house, previously guarded by 16 soldiers! It was then that I knew that nothing could stop the Kingdom of God advancing.

The apostle Paul was well known for persecuting the church in those early days. A man of zealous hatred, anger and hostility. And then he met Jesus and became a believer! Such is the power of the gospel and Holy Spirit. Paul was an incredible ally and used powerfully by God. He pioneered planting churches all across Asia Minor and was a persuasive write, speaker and leader. He was fearless and full of the Holy Spirit, willing to go anywhere he was called, whatever the price.

Banishment on Patmos
That was all many years ago now. I am the last one left of all the apostles, now an old man having seen wonderful things and great tragedies along the way. Peter was courageously crucified upside down; Paul was beheaded by Emperor Nero, with all of the others martyred. By the grace of God I was banished to the Isle of Patmos, cut off from all society for preaching the gospel. A few believers found me, full of youth, energy and excitement, wanting to hear the stories of old. What was it like walking with Jesus? Did He really rise from the dead? When will God restore Israel? When will Jesus be returning?

Many have asked me: What does it mean to follow Jesus? It is to live in the light just as He is in the light. To follow Jesus is to love one another, for this is the first command. We love because He first loved us….Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.

My eyes are dim and my strength is fading, but after decades of thinking, I have written a letter to the churches to my dear children in the faith. That which was from the beginning….God is light; in Him there is no darkness….Do not love the world or anything in the world….How great is the love the Father has lavished on us….This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another….God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in Him.