In his earlier years, John was a short-tempered man with a burning fuse. On one occasion, after Jesus was rejected by the Samaritans, John forgot himself and with whom he was speaking and asked if the Lord would like him to "command fire to come down from heaven and consume [the Samaritans]?" (Luke 9:54). Who did John think he was, that he could command heaven to do anything while the King of Heaven stood next to him? John's request would have been comical if it weren't so foolish. Jesus certainly didn't think John's question was funny, nor did He think John's anger appropriate. "You do not know what kind of spirit you are of," Jesus rebuked him, "for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them" (9:55–56). No wonder Jesus called John a Son of Thunder (Mark 3:17). A dark and ominous cloud might erupt from him at any moment, hurling lightning bolts with a thunderous clap.
But what John was as a young man would not be what he was as an old man. After three years of sharing life with Jesus and some sixty years of his own ministry, in which he witnessed the death and resurrection of his Lord and the martyrdom of his friends and lived through his own persecution, the old thunder cloud of a man was not as volatile. By the time John sat down to write his gospel and his first epistle, bright sunlight streamed through his personality and out of his pen. More than any other writer of the New Testament, John has become identified with love. So central was love in John's life after his encounter with Jesus that he barely got past his introduction of Jesus and John the Baptist in his gospel before he recorded the mind-staggering statement: "For God so loved the world" (John 3:16). He ended his gospel with Jesus's three questions to Peter: "Simon . . . do you love Me?" (21:15–17). And his first letter is filled with affection for those whom he called his "little children" and his "beloved."
The old man could still thunder when he needed to (3 John 9–11) but not with sudden outbursts and not in anger. Love had dispelled the dark clouds and had let the light shine. If love could do that for a Son of Thunder, what could love do in your life?
Derrick G. Jeter holds a master of theology degree from Dallas Theological Seminary and served as a writer for the Creative Ministries Department of Insight for Living Ministries. He has authored or coauthored more than twenty-five books. Derrick's writing has appeared on influential Web sites, and he is a contributing writer for The Christian Post. He and his wife, Christy, have five children and live in the Dallas area. He blogs at www.DerrickJeter.com.
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