The Life and Struggles of the
Holy Apostle and Evangelist
John the Theologian
Whose memory the Holy Church celebrates on
the 8th of May and the 26th of September
The Holy Apostle and Evangelist, John the Theologian, was the son of Zebedee and Salome, the daughter of Joseph the Betrothed.1 John, too, was called from his fisherman’s nets to preach the Gospel when our Lord Jesus Christ, walking along the Sea of Galilee, chose his apostles from among the fishermen. He had already summoned the two brethren, Peter and Andrew, when He then caught sight of two other brothers, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were mending their nets in a boat with their father, and He called them also. Straightway abandoning their boat and their father, they followed after Jesus Christ.
At the very time of his calling, John was called “son of thunder” by the Lord, for his theology would be heard like thunder throughout the world and would fill the whole earth. John followed after his blessed Teacher, learning the wisdom that proceeded from His lips; ad he was well-loved of Christ his Lord for his utter lack of guile and his virginal purity. The Lord honoured him as the fairest of the twelve apostles, and he was one of Christ’s three closest disciples, to whom the Lord revealed His divine mysteries many times. Thus, when He intended to raise up the daughter of Jarius, He permitted none to accompany Him, save Peter, James, and John. When He prayed in the garden, there also He was not without John, for He said to His disciples: “‘Sit here, while I go and pray yonder.’ And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee” [Mt. 26:36-37], that is, James and John. Also, when He desired to show forth the glory of His divinity on Mount Tabor, He likewise took only Peter, James, and John.
As the beloved disciple of the Master, John was never separated from Christ. And Christ’s great love for him is evident in the fact that John rested his head upon His breast. For, at the Mystical Super, when the Lord foretold His betrayal and the disciples gazes at each other in bewilderment, wondering of whom He spoke, John rested his head upon the breast of his beloved Master, as he himself relates in his Gospel: “Now there was leaning upon Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. Simon Peter, therefore beckoned to him, that he ask who it should be of whom He spake. He then, laying on Jesus’ breast, saith unto Him: “Lord, who is it?”‘ [Jn. 13:23-25]. The Lord so loved John that only he was able freely to rest his head upon the Lord’s breast and to ask boldly of Him this secret. John also showed a reciprocal love for his beloved Teacher, greater than that of the other apostles, for at the time of Christ’s voluntary sufferings, they all fled, forsaking their Shepherd. He alone remained to witness all the torments of Christ, suffering with Him in his heart, weeping and lamenting with the all-pure Virgin Mary the Mother of the Lord. Together, they did not leave the side of the Son of God Who suffered for us, until the Saviour’s death upon the Cross; for this cause he was given by the Lord, as son, to the all-pure Virgin Mary. “When Jesus, therefore, saw His mother, and the disciple standing by, whom He loved, He saith unto His mother: ‘Woman, behold they son!’ Then saith He to the disciple: ‘Behold they mother!’ And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home” [Jn 19:26-27]. And he regarded her as his own mother, and served her with much respect.
When the lands of the earth were divided among the apostles, John was downcast when he chose the last lot, that of Asia Minor, and uttered three sighs. With tears, he fell prostrate on the ground and made reverence to all the apostles. Peter then took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “We all have thee as a father, and thy patient endurance for our support. Why hat thou troubled us with this thine action and confused our hearts?” John answered, weeping and groaning bitterly: “I have sinned, brethren; for this hour I have seen that grave perils lie before me in the sea; for just as the lot of Asia fell to me, I received it with great heaviness, failing to call to mind our Lord Who said: ‘there shall not a hair of your head perish.’ For not one hair is lost without God’s permission. I beseech thee, therefore, beloved brethren, pray on my behalf before the Lord, that He forgive me this sin!” Then all of the apostles stood facing the east and asked James, the brother of the Lord, to offer up a supplication. When this was done, they all took their turn, according to seniority, and embraced one another, and then each departed in peace with his assigned lot, and each was assigned an apostle of the Seventy as a helper.
The Apostle John, however, did not immediately repair to Asia Minor, but cared for the Theotokos, until her honoured and glorious repose. On the day when the apostles took up her precious and holy body to bury it, St. John went before her bier with a royal scepter which shone with light, which the Archangel Gabriel had given the all-pure Virgin when announcing her translation from earth to heaven.
1Joseph the Betrothed also had four sons, James, Joses, Jude, and Symeon, with three daughters, Esther, Martha, and the aforementioned Salome.