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Meet Mr. Thunderman

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(10/19) Do any of you remember the old Jimmy Dean song, Big Bad John? I couldnít stop thinking of that song as I was studying for this lesson. We are embarking on a new Series of Studies called Walking the Talk from 1 John 2:6. This will be a verse by verse study of Johnís letters. But today, I want to introduce you to the author. He is John the Apostle and Christ follower. How much do you now about this guy? (Field answers)

John is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Jonah; just as Joshua is the Hebrew and Jesus is the Greek form of the same name. Letís meet John.

I. The Background of the Man

A. Younger brother of James

B. Father is Zebedee

C. Motherís name seems to be Salome and she may be a sister to Mary the Mother of Jesus. If we look at the accounts of all the women who ministered to Jesus and were at the cross when He died, two accounts have these details. John, himself says this in John19:25, "Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His motherís sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. Mark 15:40 says this, "There were also women looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joses, and Salome," If this is true, and I think it is, then several things make sense. First, the mother of James and John, Auntie Salome, according to Matt. 20:20 came to Jesus to ask a favor on her sonsí behalf. These were grown and hardened men, they didnít need their motherís intervention. But in this case blood may have been thicker than water.

It also makes sense that He would ask John to care for His mother when He died (John 19). Mary would have been Johnís Auntie.

D. John was part of Family Fishing Business that partnered with Peter and Andrew as Luke 5 mentions. John was a seasoned and hardened waterman, not some wimpy little guy that some artist have portrayed him to be.

E. John was from a well to do family, as they had hired servants (Mark 1:20).

F. John and His brother James were known to be impulsive, loud, ambitious, explosive, and zealous. They were nicknamed, "The Sons of Thunder," in Mark 3:17. That means that their character resembled that of the thunder, loud, & earth shaking. Along with the other 10, they were extraordinarily ordinary, and unlikely candidates to become world changers.

G. We have only one recorded statement from Johnís lips in the New Testament, and it was impetuous. I will share that with you in a few moments.

H. He or his family may have owned a home in Jerusalem as His mother was there and he may have cared for Mary there until she died.

I. He had some affluence as he had access to the High Priestís home and courtyard and knew His servants which implies that He had connections with the leadership in Jerusalem. When our Lord was arrested it was John who got Peter into the High Priestís courtyard, where he warmed himself by the fire and denied our Lord 3 times (John 18:15ff).

J. John is the only Apostle that we know for sure was at the cross when Jesus died. The others were likely hiding in fear of Jesusí fate becoming their own. Maybe it was Johnís connection with the High Priest that made him less fearful, but regardless he was likely the only one of the 12 who was there.

K. Was probably the first Apostle to believe Jesus rose from the dead (John 20:8)

L. Tradition says, that after Mary died, John moved to Ephesus served as a Pastor until he was arrested.

M. Tradition says that the Roman Emperor Domitian tried to kill John by putting him into boiling oil but he was not hurt at all, so Domitian had John exiled to a small Penal island off the west coast of Turkey in the Aegean sea called Patmos, where John lived in a cave and wrote His Revelation of Jesus Christ.

N. When Domitian died John was allowed to leave Patmos and He returned to Ephesus where He probably wrote the Gospel and His 3 letters, all of which were a Holy Spirit directed refutation of a cult that was spreading in Christianity called Gnosticism which we will talk about in the near future.

O. He was probably the only one of the original 12 to die from old age and did so between the year 98, and 100 A.D. John was probably near 100 when He died. He lets us know at the end of the Gospel that bears his name that our Lord hinted that he might not die until Jesus came (John 21:23).

I. The Character of the Man. I identify a lot with Peter. Peter wasnít afraid to

make a mistake or speak his mind. He was an ordinary guy who was able to do extraordinary stuff. I admire Paul, with his education, his willingness to work, his fearless desire to share Jesus and his willingness to suffer for what he knew to be true and all that He went through in his journey to become a follower and leader for Christ.

But, John was different than Paul. I have a lot of respect for John. Johnís writing is simple and at the same time perhaps deeper than Paulís. John was a no-nonsense, black or white kind of guy. He had zero tolerance for compromise, no room for middle ground. It was either A or B and no room for middle C. John came to be known as the Apostle of love because he wrote more about love than any other Bible writer. But love was a learned and not a natural behavior for John. So letís look at 3 aspects of this man.

A. From Loud to Love. James and John were known as the Thunder boys.

They had a reputation of being brash, intolerant, ambitious, and maybe ready to brawl or fight. They were not afraid to stand up for what they believed. Let me show you. Turn to Luke 9. Notice 3 things

1. Vv. 46-48. Mark 10 and Matthew 20, tell us that James and John were at the center of this dispute. They made no bones about it. Whether it was because they were family or that Jesus included them and Peter on several occasions to with Him when no one else was invited, they felt they deserved it, and were ambitious to be the top dogs in Jesusí administration.

2. Notice in Vv. 49-50, that the only time we have John speaking is when he confesses to telling a Christ-follower to stop his ministry because he didnít travel with Jesusí and the 12. We donít know if this was a proud or regretful confession. What we do know, is that John had zero tolerance for anyone not dotting their Iís as he did. This guy could not be a true Christ-follower if he didnít travel with the band. By the way, itís a problem many Christians have today. If someone doesnít go to our church or belong to our denomination, we canít believe they have a real relationship with God. There are many who have the, we are the only right church mentality.

3. Same chapter, vv. 51-56. Johnís favorite hymn was, Give Me That Old Time Religion, it was good enough for Elijah and its good enough for me. They had been up north near Syria and Jesus wanted to go to Jerusalem. So they took the shortest route which meant they had to go through Samaria rather than travel the beltway as most Jews did around Samaria. When one town was rude and forbid them to travel through their streets, John remembered Elijah. Elijah called down fire on Mt. Carmel and Elijah killed 450 prophets of Baal and other gods (1 Kings 18). When the king sent soldiers to get Elijah in 2 Kings 1, Elijah called down fire from heaven and fried the soldiers, and not just once but on two separate occasions. The Thunder boys believed that is what they should do here. They would show people that you donít mess with Jesus freaks. None of these 3 incidents were very loving. All three brought life lessons and rebukes from our Lord.

But 50-60 years later when John would be led to write his Gospel and these 3 letters, he speaks of love over 80 times. What changed this man? Perhaps it was when Jesus washed their feet. Maybe it was when John was at the cross and heard Jesus asking forgiveness for those who condemned Him, and were killing Him. Maybe it was when He gave a dying criminal the promise of life with Him that very day. Maybe it was when he sat by a breakfast and re-confirmed Peter as a leader. I donít know which, but I do know Jesus changed this loud brash man into a man who marveled at the Love of God. Sometimes he marvels at Godís love for us. Sometimes he speaks of Godís love for the world, or of the Fatherís love for the Son, but mostly he speaks about us loving each other as Jesus loves us. In fact, John is the only one of the Bible writers to say that Godís very nature is love. I John 4 is the only place in the Bible to say God is Love. John records how God loved the world in John 3:16 and 1 John 3:15, and 4:9-ff. Several times he refers to himself as, "The disciple whom Jesus loved." It is as if he marvels that God could love Him so much. John knew what he had been.

John learned the lesson that Paul also learned. Truth without love is hypocrisy. Truth without love is powerless. To speak of Jesus without love is to cripple the Gospel. This is why Paul wrote 1 Cor. 13, that we call the love chapter. Then in Ephesians 4 Paul would remind us that truth must be delivered with love.

As an old man, John spoke to those he wrote to as beloved, and as little children and there is tenderness in his voice. Early church writers said that as he neared the end of his life, he had to be carried to church services and when asked to speak, he would only say, "My little children, love one another." One day, he was asked, "Why do you always say that?" He replied, "It is the Lordís command and if this alone be done it is enough." Karl Barth was a noted German theologian of the early 20th century. Once while lecturing in America, he was asked what he thought was the most profound of all the Biblical doctrines? His response is said to have been this, "The most profound Biblical doctrine is, Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so." John went from being speaking loud to speaking love. In 1 John 3 we are going to see, that John says plainly, "without love you donít know God," and, "without love you have no life."

B. From Proud to Humble. The Thunder brothers may have been cousin to

Jesus. They may have heard rumors of his unique birth and of John the Baptistís birth. They may have all been related. They were certainly interested in the Baptistís message. When the Baptist pointed to Jesus as the Lamb of God, the light come on and they believed Jesus was the Messiah and left all to follow Him.

Then on several occasions, Jesus had the Thunder brothers and Peter tag along when no one else was invited. They saw Jairusí daughter raised from the dead. They were on the mount when Jesus was revealed in His glory with Moses and Elijah. Some call this Jesusí inner circle of friends, but I think the old preacher J. Vernon McGee had it right. Jesus need to keep these close to him because they had a lot to learn. But, perhaps these privileges caused them to think that they deserved the top places in Jesusí kingdom, which they assumed was very close to happening. On least 4 occasions we find the 12, with the Thunder brothers at the core, arguing about what the pecking order should be.

On the first occasion, Jesus takes a child and holds it up and says that the greatest in Godís kingdom will be those who care for the littlest or least in Godís creation.

On another occasion, Jesus reminds them that the greatest will be the one who humbles himself to be slave and serve the needs of others, after all, that is what He, Himself has chosen to do.

On yet one more occasion, Jesus demonstrated this kind of servant-hood, as he washes the feet of the 12 and then gave them the New Commandment (Jn. 13). John was impacted greatly by that event. How do we know? He was the only one of the four to write about it. That was an, ah-ha moment for John. Christís kingdom would not be advanced by power and force, but by truth coupled with grace, humility and love. Contrast that with Islam that is all about advancing with a sword and threats of death to all infidels or those who do not embrace Islam.

The man who wanted Glory became a humble servant. How do we know this? He was led to write a Gospel, 3 letters, and a prophecy called the Revelation of Jesus Christ. Only two times does he mention his own name, in Revelation 1 and again in Rev. 22. He refers to himself as the one whom Jesus loved, or who leaned on Jesus breast, or as the Elder. Like the Baptist, it is as if he is saying, "Itís all about Jesus. Itís not about me." Although, he mentions his name as the writer of Revelation, he also refers to himself as, "Ö your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ," Maybe it was that he saw his brother, the other 10 and Paul, and many more lose their lives as they followed Jesus and he alone was allowed to survive to old age. Maybe, "Why me Lord," was constantly on his mind. But for whatever reason, he was aware of Godís grace and became a humble servant of Jesus Christ.

C. Always Black or White. One thing is obvious about John and clearly stands

out in his writings. It is all about truth. 45 times in the gospels and his 3 epistles, he speaks about truth. And He is dogmatic in what he believes. There is no middle ground for John. Even the love that he is so famous for speaking about must be based in truth. I challenge you to read again his gospel and these 3 letters and notice, how he speaks of truth in sets of contrast. You will discover things like this:

ē You are either walking in light or you are walking in darkness

ē You are either a child of God or a child of the devil

ē You will either be part of the resurrection of the just or the resurrection of the damned

ē You cannot love God whom you canít see if you canít love your brother whom you can see

ē You either have life or death

ē If you donít love, you donít have life

ē If you say you are a Christian, you have to walk like Jesus or you are a liar

ē If you arenít honest about your sins you are a liar

ē If you donít have the Son, you donít have the Father. It is a package deal

ē You either have fruit or you are fruitless

ē You cannot love the world and be born of God

ē If you abide in Him you do not continue to sin as a lifestyle. If you do, you donít know God.

ē If you donít live righteous, you live lost, no matter what you say

ē He ends his third epistle by saying you are either good or evil.

And this Apostle of love, demands that the church not compromise the truth under any circumstances. If people donít believe the truth as it is, donít let them into your house or church (2 John 9-11). For John, love and grace are linked with truth. He saw that in Jesus (John 1:14-18) and that became his life model. He opens his second epistle with these words: "The Elder, to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all those who have known the truth, 2 because of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever: 3 Grace, mercy, and peace will be with you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love. 4 I rejoiced greatly that I have found some of your children walking in truth, as we received commandment from the Father.

3 John 4 says, I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth

Sadly, the church is losing its focus on truth. Truth for ĺís of Americans is relevant and not absolute. Truth is whatever seems right for us or what we want it to be, rather than saying God said it and that settles it. Or, we have taken the view that says love trumps truth, and holiness. John would never say that. For John and Paul, love must be connected to absolute truth and holiness.

I donít know how much you all follow the news but this has been an interesting week as far as Christianity is concerned. There were two distressing things that happened (Distressing to me). First, the Pope and his Bishops called a meeting to discuss the future of the family and they stressed that they were not changing their views of same sex marriage, but they believe that they need to extend mercy and some level of acceptance of homosexual people. They have gifts that the church needs. I am not sure where this is going to go but it seems to be going the way of America in its views of homosexuality. My concern is that once the door is opened just a little, there is no closing it again, ever. It will only be pushed to open wider.

The Second, was more disturbing to me. Remember the famous words from Apollo 13, "Houston we have a problem." The New Mayor of Houston Texas, Annise Parker, is openly lesbian. Mayor Parker has issued subpoenas to several Houston Pastors demanding that they turn over any sermons or correspondence that mentions the mayor, homosexuality, or gender preferences. Talk about complete disregard for the first amendment. However, I believe this is a preview of coming attractions. By the way, this comes on the heels of a new ordinance allowing men and women who have gender issues to use the same public restrooms. If you are a guy that wants to be a girl you can use the ladies room. If you are a girl and wish you could stand in the bathroom you can use the menís room, once the law goes into effect. Itís is really called the Bathroom Bill. Not only is homosexuality being demanded to be accepted as normal, but any views expressing otherwise will not be tolerated. And more and more branches of Christianity, so called, are viewing this as the new normal and saying that we know so much more than Moses and Paul, and that love should trump holiness, and doctrine, so we should accept it.

A friend of mine who was on the Emmaus Walks leadership council had to fight to keep lesbian pastors and gay proponents from expressing their acceptance and support of homosexuality at the discipleship retreats. He said that he has stacks of scathing letters and emails attacking his (Biblical) views and that love is the key. Jesus, after all, received sinners. And, the truth is, He did. But He also always told them to repent and stop sinning. My friend, got the board to accept the Biblical position, but it was so emotionally draining that he resigned from the board after the meeting.

I know that this and many more issues may affect your family. It has mine. I love those who have strayed from the truth, but I cannot compromise my beliefs because my country has embraced a lie. Jesus didnít. Paul didnít either. In 1 Cor. 5 Paul says to deal harshly with immorality. Speak the truth in love but stand firm in the truth. This was Johnís position and it needs to be ours.

This is the man who has penned for us Godís message of Grace and Truth. My prayer is that as you study his writings, you will be walking your talk. The same God that changed John from a Thunder boomer to a servant of Grace wants to do the same thing with you. You may think that you could never be the kind of person God could use for His glory. But God is in the business of taking brash sinners like John and turning them into instruments if His grace. He can do the same with you.

Letís pray about it.

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman