This week we kick off our new series, 1 John: Love One Another, with a message entitled “Jesus’ Best Friend.” In this message Pastor Mark introduces us to John—the author of the Book of 1 John and four other New Testament books—and to his family, his personality, his ministry, and his legacy. John was a good friend to Jesus, and Jesus was a perfect friend to John. How has Jesus been a good friend to you? Are you a good friend to Jesus? Are you a good friend like Jesus to others?
1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
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God calls us to live in community. God calls us to serve one another and love one another. We’re just obeying that calling and we get so much out of it, you know, that we probably didn’t even realize we would.
If you’ve got sin, if you’ve got struggle, welcome to the family. This is the family of God. This is the family. We have a big brother, Jesus Christ, who’s bigger than any of your problems.
The outward righteousness that I believe Jesus is looking for is loving one another. That’s about as simple as it gets.
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I love you as well, and I genuinely appreciate the support in what has been a very difficult season. It is a great joy and honor to be with you today. And if it would be okay, I’d like to teach the Bible.
A faithful friend is a great gift, amen? Thank you for being faithful friends to me, our family, our church family. A faithful friend is a great gift. A faithful friend is one who draws near you when everyone else is walking away from you. A faithful friend is one who remains alongside of you when there’s nothing for them to gain, but there is much for them to lose. Life is almost unendurable without a faithful friend. Do you have a faithful friend? If you do, I’d encourage you to just love and thank them this week and thank God for them. Maybe a harder question is, are you a faithful friend?
It’s interesting that when God became a man, Jesus Christ entered into human history and he chooses some friends. We call them disciples or apostles. One of them, Judas Iscariot, ended up betraying Jesus. Some friends are like that. Peter denied and abandoned Jesus. Some friends are like that. Thomas doubted and distanced himself from Jesus, and some friends are like that. But out of that group of 12, there was 1 who was Jesus’ most faithful friend, his most loyal friend, his most trustworthy friend. Not a perfect friend, but a friend who was there when no one else was there. What’s his name? It’s John. His name is John. There’s about 9 guys in the New Testament named John. This is John the beloved. Five times in the Gospel of John, he’s referred to as the one whom Jesus loved. They had a special affection. They were like a big brother and a little brother. When we see them together in gospels, Jesus is perhaps 30 or so. John is likely younger, in his 20s. And John remained, through the course of his life, Jesus’ most faithful friend, his nearest and dearest, his best and most treasured friend.
The next few months we will spend examining the book of 1 John, written by this man, Jesus’ most faithful friend. And it’s important that you get to know him, and understand him, and have, to some degree, a friendship with him so that you can fully understand, appreciate, enjoy, and avail yourself to everything that he has to teach us.
And so in this sermon, I really want to focus on Jesus’ best friend. And I want to start with John’s family.
You can learn a lot about somebody meeting their family, amen? If you’re single, before you marry them, meet their family. Just a little bit of advice. You really get to know somebody when you meet their family.
So to understand John, we’ll first meet John’s family. And here we read in Mark 1:16-20, “Passing along the Sea of Galilee, he,” that is Jesus. So, we’ve got a geographic region. Galilee, it’s pretty rural. We’ve been there, my family and I, and some of you joined us. It’s a very large body of water and it’s surrounded with a lot of farmland. So, it’s rural. There’s a lot of fishing and there’s a lot of farming. Those are the primary businesses in that day in that region. “He,” Jesus, “saw Simon and Andrew,” Simon is also known as Peter, “the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen.” So the story unfolds that Peter and Andrew, two brothers, have a fishing business in Galilee. You’re going to see in a moment that they become part of the 12 disciples, the friends who journey with Jesus, and they leave their fishing business to do so. “And going a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John,” there’s our guy, “his brother.” So James is the older brother, John is the younger brother, “who were in their boat mending their nets.” The story continues, “And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat,” while the hired servants— “with the hired servants,” rather, “and followed him.”
So, here’s the story. You can get the impression reading it that Jesus walks along and says, “Quit your job and follow me,” and they did. But it is more likely that they had a very close pre-existing relationship. We learn from other Scriptures that John and James, these two brothers, James the older brother, John the younger brother, their mom’s name was Salome. She was possibly Mary’s sister. So, she would have been Jesus’ aunt, and that would make Jesus, and James, and John cousins. So, as he was related to John the Baptizer, he may have also—Jesus may have also been related to James and John.
We learn as well that their father’s name is Zebedee, and he owns a fishing business. And you can sometimes get the impression, oh, these are just sort of rural, country bumpkins that were very, very poor and uneducated, but that’s not entirely the case because their father Zebedee actually has a fishing business. He’s got boats, and nets, and his sons are working in the family business. It was customary in that day that you would learn the trade of your father and that you would inherit the business from your father. So if he farmed this land, he would hand it to you and you would farm this land. Or if he fished this body of water, you would fish that body of water. And the family business was a means of survival passed from one generation to the next, and his business is so successful that he has hired servants. He’s got employees. This is a business. So, the boys are working hard, the young men are, for their father and his business.
It’s amazing that when Jesus goes to choose leaders, he chooses them from the business world and not from the theological schools or the formal places that we would consider a pastor would have been trained in that day. And so they probably already knew Jesus. They probably grew up with him. They’re probably related to him. They’re probably cousins of his. They have a pre-existing relationship. Jesus is walking along, looks at James and John, and says, “Come follow me.” And he says to Simon and to Andrew, “Come follow me,” and they do. They leave behind their business. They leave behind their livelihood. They leave behind their security, and they leave behind what could be generations of a family business that provided for their grandparents and their parents would provide for them and their children.
Here’s the big idea. Sometimes Jesus asks you to follow him, and to do so, there are things that you need to leave behind. And sometimes that’s a great expense. And what Jesus is doing is he’s inviting them to ministry and to life with him, and they follow him and they obey him. That’s John’s family.
Next I want to look at John’s personality. What can oftentimes happen is we examine the Bible and we get to know someone as they have progressed over many years and are more godly than they were at the beginning. And it’s important not just to examine where someone is, but where they started and the progress that has been made by the grace of God along the way.
As you read of John, you’re going to read about this very loving, elderly, kind man. And let me just say, he didn’t start like that. And there’s something that theologians will call progressive sanctification, and that is you become a Christian and then you, as they did, walk with Jesus in friendship. And day by day, bit by bit, you become more like Jesus until you die and stand before him and are ultimately, eternally perfected. And along the way, we’re all works in progress, and John is no exception.
I want to share with you three snapshots of John’s life that are not particularly flattering, but they are insightful. The first one is in Mark 3:17. “James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, The Sons of Thunder).” Okay, you’ve got to say it like that, okay? Thunder is a little unsettling, amen?
Right, when I travel, when I stay in hotels, oftentimes any noise wakes me up, so I got one of those background noise apps. Babbling brook, nice breeze, chirping birds. There’s no thunder option on the sleeping app. You know why? Thunder is unsettling. Thunder is scary. Thunder is disruptive, amen? I can still remember the first time I encountered thunder. I remember being a little boy at my—I think it was at my grandparent’s house in North Dakota. Boom! I didn’t know what that—I thought the world exploded. What happened? What happened? What is that? It’s thunder. And usually, you don’t see it, you don’t anticipate its coming. It just explodes out of nowhere violently, and it’s very terrifying.
Jesus gives these two brothers, James and John—you kind of get the idea like they’re two barrels on a gun, these two guys. He gives them the nickname The Sons of Thunder. Now, there are only two kinds of people that we nickname, the people we really love and the people we really hate, amen? Okay, you chuckle because you’ve done that, okay? Well, he gives them the nickname Sons of Thunder.
And this will explain a little bit about me. I grew up watching wrestling and listening to AC/DC, okay? So, if you did as well, we can pray for one another. Nonetheless, I watched fake wrestling, and if you didn’t know it was fake, I apologize for ruining it for you. I watched fake wrestling with my diesel mechanic, truck driver, loving, awesome Grandpa George and I also grew up listening to AC/DC. And when I hear James and John, The Sons of Thunder, here’s what I think. In wrestling, do you remember—in fake wrestling, there’s tag teams. This sounds like a tag team wrestling name, amen? And now, entering the ring, James and John, The Sons of Thunder! All right, and then I hear AC/DC “Thunderstruck” as the walk out music for James and John, amen? Okay, just something to pray about. Maybe you don’t see it that way, but that’s how I see James and John, okay?
Here’s another snapshot, a vignette. “And he,” Jesus, “sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans.” The Samaritans, they were kind of God’s people, and then they got kind of their own Bible, and they got their own temple, and they created their own religion, and they intermarried with other gods, and they were very convoluted and corrupted, and God’s people were very disgusted by them and would actually venture around them. This is racial conflict, cultural conflict, religious conflict. It’s highly charged and Jesus is bravely going to venture through this Samaritan area, something that many Jews would simply not do. And he sends his leaders ahead to make preparations. “Tell them I’m coming. Get everything ready.” “And when his disciples James and John,” the Sons of Thunder, here they come, "saw it, they said, “‘Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’” Okay, true or false, that’s not the most pastoral moment? True or false, right? “Jesus, you said to go into town. They don’t want you to come. How about we set them all on fire?” I was reading this wondering, “Could they really do that? Because that would be handy.” If nothing else, for camping, you know? But what a—I mean, this is not a very pastoral moment, right? “But he,” that’s Jesus, “turned and rebuked them.” “How about we pray for them? Maybe we evangelize them. Maybe we talk to them. I don’t think we should set them all on fire.” Okay, you get a little bit of an insight into John’s personality.
The third vignette, snapshot, is from Mark 10:35-37. “And James and John,” the Sons of Thunder, “the sons of Zebedee, came to him,” Jesus, “and said to him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.’” How many of you have a kid like this? “Mom, Dad, I want to ask you for something and I want you to say yes.” “What is it?” “Nope, before I ask, I want you to say yes, and then I’ll ask. It’s just one thing.” This is sort of what they do. “Jesus, we have—we’ve been talking about it, this one thing. We’ve been trying to think about what we’d ask. We’d like you to agree to it and then we’ll let you know what it is.” And here’s what it is. “And he said to them,” Jesus did, “‘What do you want me to do for you?’ And they said to him, ‘Grant us to sit,’” this is amazing, “‘one at your right hand and one at your left, in glory.’” Does that seem potentially prideful to anyone else? Just me? Okay, here’s the— “So, Jesus, we heard you talking about you came down from heaven, you’re going back to heaven. When you get to heaven, there’s going to be a throne. You’re going to be high and exalted, worshiped by angels crying, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty. Heaven and earth are full of his glory.’ And we were talking about it thinking two more thrones would be appropriate. Three. And in all humility, we came to the conclusion that you can get the one in the middle. You’re welcome. And we’d like to be at your right and left, being glorified eternally by all creation. That’s it. Just one thing, that’s all we ask.”
We get the impression from John he’s angry, says things he shouldn’t say, is impatient, unloving, unkind, a little scary, frightening, intimidating. Also very proud and self-seeking. Jesus starts in a place like that with all of us. And the reason that the Bible gives us the story of John is to give us hope that if God could change this man, God could change anyone, God could change us.
What’s perhaps most intriguing is John lives to be maybe 100 years of age. We’re not exactly sure. And as an old man, he is well known for being loving. And I would say, had he been accused of that as a young man, the evidence would not have held up in court. You couldn’t charge him with being loving. What happens is that, as he grows older, he grows more loving.
As we spend months together studying 1 John, it was the first book of the Bible that I studied as a new Christian in college, and my wonderful pastor said, “As you read it, circle or highlight words like ‘love,’ and ‘know,’ and ‘fellowship.’ These are key words that sort of unlock the meaning of the book and your understanding.” And so I did that. What I found was in 5 chapters— and I’d encourage you to do the same as you read 1 John—the word “love” appears about 40 times from John. He says, repeatedly, “Love one another.” Church history outside of the Bible records that, as a very elderly man, he was frail and nearing the end of his life, he would be brought to a church. He needed help. He would be helped up front, right, that they would sit him down as a very elderly man. And at this point, all the other apostles, disciples, the 12 are all dead. His brother, James, was the first one killed and martyred. He would be the last one alive, John would. And he would say, “You are the children of God. Love one another.”
You’ll read repeatedly in 1 John that he refers to his people as, “My dear children.” In the Greek, it’s literally, “My little born again ones.” And he knew that through the preaching and the teaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ, people were born again. And just like you have a father who is used of God in your physical birth, so he was used of God for spiritual birth. And what happens is he goes from the Son of Thunder to a loving father. I find a tremendous amount of hope and encouragement in that. What happened? It was his friendship with Jesus. A friendship with Jesus changes you. As I told you, it says five times that John was the one whom Jesus loved, so it was the love of Jesus that caused John to become more loving.
See, God only expects us to give what he has already given. He has forgiven us, so we forgive others. He has loved us, so we love others. He has been generous to us, so we are generous toward others. He is patient with us, so we are patient with others. He is merciful toward us, so we are merciful toward others. God does not expect any of us to give something he has not already given to us first, amen? And our great God, Jesus Christ, gave love to John, and that changed John to become loving like Jesus and to love others like Jesus. And what he’s doing in that is he’s obeying Jesus who said this in John 13:34. John was there, heard it with his own ears. “A new commandment,” Jesus says, “I give to you, that you love one another just as I have loved you.” What does this look like, Jesus? “You love one another like I have loved you. You also are to love one another. By this, all people will know that you’re my disciples. That you’re friends walking with me, like the 12, if you have,”—what? “Love for one another.” Jesus’ love changed John. Jesus’ love made John more loving. And Jesus’ life message, through John, was one of love and friendship.
And I’ll say in this, as you read 1 John, please make note that he retains all of his strength. When he starts talking about false apostles, deceivers, and antichrists, oh, there is a little thunder. He loves Jesus. He loves the truth. He loves God’s people. He retains all of his intensity, but it is harnessed and it is directed by God’s love through him for others.
What I want to do now, we’ve looked at John’s family, John’s personality, and John’s ministry is what we need to examine next. And when it comes to John’s ministry, it’s quite extraordinary. As I said, Jesus picked 12 to be his friends. And in that day, what you would typically do is not choose a school, but choose a teacher, and then you would support that teacher financially, and you would travel with them, and learn from them, and you would eat with them, and it was a very close, intimate, mentoring type of relationship. What’s interesting is that Jesus chose his disciples, they did not choose him. That was distinct. And he chooses 12 to be his friends.
And I was thinking about it. I’m so glad that Jesus had John. I’m of course glad that John had Jesus, but I was thinking about it, for the Lord Jesus, his mother, brothers, sisters, family, during his earthly ministry, they did not yet believe that he was God. See, I have the loving support of my parents and my siblings. He didn’t have that. Some of you know what that’s like, when you have unbelieving family that doesn’t walk with you with Jesus. In addition, he didn’t have, the Lord Jesus, a wife. I have a wonderful wife who’s my very best friend. He didn’t have a wife to go home to as a friend to walk with. He was alone. Those of you who are single or widowed, you know what that’s like. He also didn’t have children. I’m very blessed to have wonderful children that I love with all my heart. They’re a great joy and a sanctuary. Jesus didn’t have that. Those of you who don’t have children, you know what that’s like. For all that Jesus endured, to do so alone would have been even more difficult. But he had John as his faithful friend.
And so as you read the Scriptures, you’re going to see that the Bible says that 5,000 men came out, on one occasion, to see Jesus. If you add in the women and the children, maybe we’re talking 10,000, 15,000, 20,000. I don’t know. It’s huge. There are other times that a group of like 120 are mentioned, or 70 are mentioned. There are various sized groups. Jesus picks 12 to do life with. But even within those 12, there were 3 that were nearest and dearest to him: Peter, James, and John. And so John had access to and familiarity with Jesus at times when no one else did. And I just find it so extraordinary that God comes into human history, he can pick anyone as his best friend, and he picks John.
They were there, these three, at the raising of Jairus’ daughter, as one example. I don’t know if you know that story in the Bible. It’s one of the most tender, heartfelt, wonderful stories. It’s my daughter’s favorite. We’ve read it often. Jairus’ daughter is this little girl who gets very sick. Death comes upon her. Jesus could have healed her from a distance. Instead, he draws near to her bed, tender, affection, incredible sweetness, and he restores her back to life, and her family is overjoyed. Peter, James, and John were there. The other 12 were not there. The remainder of the 12, I should say, were not present.
Peter, James, and John, this group of three—and see, this is how it is. Maybe there’s 120 people you know, and 70 that you have some contact with, and 12 that you kind of do life with, but 3 that are really your friends.
These three were there. John was there at the Mount of Transfiguration. You remember that? It’s like Jesus is the greater Elijah. He goes up to the top of the mountain— or he’s the greater Moses, rather. He goes up to the top of the mountain. His face radiates the goodness of the glory of God. God is unveiled in all his glory. Who comes down for the meeting? Moses and Elijah. What a day! Imagine that. “What’d you do today?” “I hung out with Moses and Elijah.” They came down from heaven to hang out with Jesus. It was amazing. John was there. John was there. John was there when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, so filled with anxiety that he was sweating drops of blood. The other eight—Judas had already betrayed Jesus. The other eight were a distance away. Peter, James, and John were invited closest to Jesus. They could have heard him weeping and heard him praying if they’d have stayed awake and been better friends.
What I want to show you are three vignettes, snapshots, moments in Jesus’ ministry where John was present and part of Jesus’ ministry. And they give us insights into John and his love for Jesus.
The first is at the Last Supper. John records this in John 13:23-25. “One of his,” Jesus’, “disciples, whom Jesus loved,” that’s John, “was reclining at table at Jesus’ side.” So here they are. You’ve all seen the picture, right? The great painting of the Last Supper. In that culture, whoever sat next to you, that was a position of honor, and if I could use this language, it clearly articulated the leadership, the authority structure. If you’re in the military, you call it the chain of command.
And in our culture, this still happens. Let’s say, for example, there was a huge dinner party, or large banquet, or event. Who would be sitting next to me? Who do you think? It’s not a trick question, Mars Hill, okay? My wife. And if you saw her sitting at another table far away, you’d know that I had done something very wrong, okay? You bring closest to you physically those who are closest to you emotionally. You draw near to you those who are most trustworthy, and it makes a statement. Others see.
And so John is seated next to Jesus at the Last Supper. This is the celebration of the Passover meal that was all foreshadowing the death of Jesus, that he would be the lamb without spot or blemish, that his blood would be shed for the remission of our sins. And here, Jesus is on the precipice of being betrayed by Judas Iscariot. He knows that the cross is coming very quickly. And what he says at the table is, “One of you is going to betray me.” Can you just feel the chill that goes through the room? The men are eating. They’ve been together for a few years. They think they are all friends. They have prayed together. They have done ministry together. They have served the Lord together. And one of them was a pretend friend. One of them was a betrayer. And Jesus says, “One of you will betray me.” You can just imagine, the men just recoil, looking at one another with great suspicion. Who is the betrayer? “So Simon Peter motioned to him,” motioned to John. Peter doesn’t say, “Jesus, who is it?” What he says is, “John, you ask him who it is.” Because this is the kind of thing you’ve got to reveal to a trusted person, and Jesus trusts John the most. “So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, ‘Lord, who is it?’”
And in that culture, you would sit next to your most trustworthy friend, your most faithful friend. And if they had something private to say to you, you would lean over so that your head was on their chest and in front of their ear, then others couldn’t lip read what they were saying and only you could hear it, and you had privacy, confidentiality. This is someone you can trust with sacred information.
And in that moment, we don’t know what Jesus said to John. We don’t know everything that Jesus said to John because John was a faithful friend. He didn’t betray, he didn’t gossip. Maybe Jesus told him nothing, maybe Jesus told him everything, but John was a faithful friend. By God’s grace, may we all be faithful friends like that. By God’s grace, may we all have faithful friends like that.
The next snapshot, vignette, is on the cross. And I would be persuaded that this is the most insightful moment revealing the depth of the affection, love, and friendship between Jesus and John. At this point, the Lord Jesus has been betrayed by Judas. He has been denied by Peter. He has been abandoned by many. He is exhausted after a sleepless night. His reputation is destroyed after an unending list of false accusations. He has been beaten beyond recognition. He is bleeding profusely. He is sweating heavily. He is laboring under anxiety. And he is being crucified, atoning in your place and mine for the sins of the world. John was there. He records this in John 19:25-27, “But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother.”
Okay, let me pause momentarily. All of you mothers, raise your hand. Moms, raise your hand. Mothers, emotionally enter into that moment inasmuch as you’re able. This is your son, your firstborn, eldest son. You are watching him bleeding and dying while a crowd is cheering and jeering. Mom, what’s the first thing you do when the baby’s born? You long to hear them breathe their first breath. She’s going to hear her son breathe his last breath. You count ten fingers, ten toes, and now you see them nailed to a Roman cross.
Mary is in shock. Mary is devastated. Mary is in agony. Jesus’ other friends are, in all likelihood, not present. But do you know who is there? John, the one whom Jesus loved, the one who loved Jesus, the most faithful friend. “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing”—where? He’s still there. He’s still there. “He said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.”
At this point, it is likely that Jesus’ father Joseph was deceased. We read nothing of him. He was a godly and devout man who deeply loved his wife, and the fact that he’s not present to care for her indicates that perhaps he’s died. At this point, Jesus’ brothers, James, Jude, and others, they are not yet believers in Jesus, and so he does not entrust his mother’s care to them. In this moment, without a wife, without children, the person whom Jesus is most concerned about and committed to is who? His mother. They often crucified people at eye level. It is possible that he is looking his mother in the eye, and his mother is looking him in the eye, and they are both weeping profusely as he is dying. And he looks at his mom and says, “My friend John’s going to take care of you. And John, I want you to treat her as you would treat your own mother.” That tells me, that tells us everything we need to know about John, amen?
Do you even have anyone, in a moment like that, that you could trust? Are you the kind of person that, in a moment like that, others could trust you? May we have friends like that. May we become friends like that.
Jesus died. Jesus was buried. John was there and he knew it. And in John 20 and 21, the Bible records that 3 days later on a Sunday, Jesus conquered sin and death. Jesus walked away from his grave in triumphant victory. A group of women were headed to his tomb to mourn. As is often the case, you go to the grave site of someone you love and miss, pray, weep, lament, mourn, grieve. When these godly women approached the tomb, they were the first to see that it was open. The stone had been rolled away. Jesus’ body was not present. They were uncertain what had happened. God bestowed great dignity on these women, making them the first eyewitnesses to the empty tomb. What these women do then, the Bible records, they go back into town and they look for two guys. Which two guys? Peter and John, because they’re the leaders. Peter’s named more than any of the apostles in the New Testament. John is mentioned 2nd most frequently, about 50 times. In Galatians 2, I think it’s around verse 9, it says that these men were pillars of the early church. They appear together frequently throughout the book of Acts. They’re the leaders. So, the women go find Peter and John, and Peter and John, we are told, run to Jesus’ empty tomb. Who gets there first? John, right? If you’re slow, you’re like Peter, okay, and me, okay? And if you’re fast, you’re like John and my daughter, okay? They run. John gets there first, but he doesn’t enter in. He respectfully waits for Peter as the leader. So, John is the first at the empty tomb. Him and Peter enter in and then John is the first one to believe in the resurrection of Jesus. If you believe in the resurrection of Jesus, you’re following in the wake of John’s faith. John says, and I’m paraphrasing, “When Jesus was with us, he told us he would rise from death! That’s what’s happened.” Jesus then appears, we’re told in the Bible, over the course of 40 days to groups of people upwards of 500 at a time, evidencing his resurrection. He had breakfast, he hugged people, he was available publicly to verify his triumphant victory over sin and its penalty of death through resurrection. But the very first person to see Jesus risen from death and to recognize that it was Jesus was who? John. John. Because that was Jesus’ best friend. Jesus loved him and he loved Jesus.
John’s legacy is amazing. It shows the power of the love of God. It shows the power of a lifelong friendship with Jesus. He likely began with Jesus in his 20s, and he remained faithful to Jesus until he was perhaps 100 years of age. All of the other apostles were put to death. They tried, according to church history outside of the Bible, to put him to death by boiling him alive in oil, and he didn’t die. He was then exiled to a penal colony called Patmos, which is not far from Turkey. I’ve been there with my family. It’s an exposed, rugged island terrain, heavy winds, unpleasant, completely remote. We read in the Bible that he was there when the Lord Jesus visited him and gave him the book of Revelation. We went to the cave that it is believed that John lived in and received and wrote the book of Revelation. He’s buried in Ephesus. I’ve been to his tomb where they believe his body resides. Once he was returned to Ephesus from Patmos, he was a pastor, and a preacher, and a teacher, and a writer, and he devoted his whole life to talking about his best friend Jesus, and how loving Jesus is, and how wonderful a loving friendship with Jesus can be. And that was John’s whole life.
And in Acts 4, I think it’s around verse 13, the critics said that he and others were, quote, “Unlearned men.” I would say don’t always believe what the critics say. He was a brilliantly wise man. He writes more Bible than any other apostle. He wrote five books of the Bible. The Gospel of John, have you read that? That’s not the work of an unlearned, simple country bumpkin. That’s a wise man filled with the Spirit of God. He wrote Revelation, have you read that? We don’t even know what it means. Some of you say, “I do.” No, you don’t. It wasn’t a simple, unlearned man who wrote that. It was a man who spent a lot of time with Jesus and was filled his Spirit and wisdom. And he wrote 1, 2, and 3 John, and we’re going to spend months studying 1 John together. And so all of that is my introduction.
Now, if you would turn with me to 1 John. Here’s how he begins. 1 John 1:1-4, “That which was from the beginning.” He’s talking about his friend Jesus. He says Jesus is eternal. Jesus is without beginning or end. Before there was a beginning, there was Jesus. He is the Creator. He precedes all things. He is not part of creation, he is the Creator. Before there was a beginning, there was Jesus. “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard.” Here’s what John is saying. “Trust me when I tell you about Jesus. Trust me.”
See, today, there are many who have opinions of Jesus, but none were present and eyewitnesses. Who are you going to trust more than John? That would be my question to you. For those of you that are non-Christians and you’re here, and I love you, and it’s such a great honor to teach you, but if you would say, “I disagree with his perspective on Jesus,” do you have a more credible source? Are you following in the instruction of someone who spent more time with Jesus? It’s impossible to have anyone provide more insight regarding Jesus than his best friend John. He said—what he said, he said, “I heard what Jesus said with my own ears, which we have seen with our eyes.” You read about the miracles, and the supernatural, and the casting out of demons, and all that he did. He says, “I saw it. I was there.” “Which we looked upon and have touched with our hands.” “He really was God become a man. I hugged him. I patted him on the back. I ate meals with him. After he rose from death, I double checked. He did rise from death physically. I touched him with my own hands.” “Concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life.” He said, “The Living God became a man. The eternal God entered into history. The invisible God took upon human flesh.” He says, “I’m testifying about that. I’m telling you the truth. This is who Jesus is, my best friend.” He continues, “He was with the Father.” Now he’s into the doctrine of the Trinity. There’s God the Father, God the Son who entered into human history. “And was made manifest to us.” God visited us. He’s Emmanuel, God with us. That’s Jesus. “That which we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also.” Why would he do this? Why would he preach, and teach, and write? Why would he do this? “So that you too may have fellowship with us.” That’s biblical language for friendship.
We have friendships with non-Christians. When Christians have friendships, it’s called fellowship. And the difference is fellowship is a friendship that includes Jesus, amen? Fellowship is a friendship that includes Jesus. Jesus is a loving friend to us. We, by God’s grace, grow to be a loving friend with him, and then we grow to love one another with the love that he gives. John says, “I’m telling you this so that the world can have more friendships. I’m telling you this so that the world can have more love. I’m telling you this so that your church can have more friendships and your church can have more love.” "And indeed our fellowship is with the Father “and his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be made complete.” John is saying, “What makes God happy is that his people would have a friendship with Jesus, and receive the love of Jesus, and share it with one another, and have friendship with one another so that this world could know something of love, and friendship, and joy.” Amen? And that’s God’s exhortation to you, and to me, and to us.
If you don’t know Jesus, there is no friend like Jesus. He never betrays you. He never denies you. He’ll never leave you and never forsake you. He will never fail you. The longer I walk with Jesus, the more convinced I am that there is no one like him. There is no friend like him. Has Jesus been a good friend to you? He’s been a very good friend to me. Have you been a good friend to Jesus? A good friend doesn’t look out for their own interests but the interests of the one they love, and the reputation, and the fame, and the name of the one they love. To be a good friend of Jesus is to do what is best for him and trust that he will do what is best for you. Lastly, are you a good friend to others? Are you a good friend to others? And if you have someone that is a good friend to you, it’s a great day to thank them and to praise God for them.
I’m going to go ahead and pray, and we will respond with giving our tithes and offerings, which is an act of love. As Jesus has given, we give. We’re going to partake of Communion. As Jesus gave his body and blood, we receive it as a gift, as friends. And eventually, ultimately, we will sing because he wants our joy to be made complete.
Father, thank you for the Scriptures. Thank you for the life of John. Thank you that the Bible is the most honest book that’s ever been written, and it shows us what love and a friendship with Jesus does in the life of one person, changing him from a Son of Thunder to a loving father. Lord, I pray for all of my friends, that they would have a friendship with the Lord Jesus. That they would walk, as John did, with the Lord Jesus. That they would experience and enjoy the love of the Lord Jesus. That they would respond with a loving friendship and devotion to the Lord Jesus and that they would respond with love and friendship to one another so that our joy may be complete. In Jesus’ good name, amen.
Pastor Sutton Turner here. The sermon just finished and you can still play a role at Mars Hill church. Whether you’re part of one of our local Mars Hill churches, or part of our global Mars Hill community, if you value this sermon, please consider making a donation by visiting marshill.com/give.
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