Friendships are most often seasonal. We are close to people we attend school with, work with, or live nearby. Once the circumstances of life change, the friendship can fade.
For the Christian, the one friendship that never ends is our friendship with Jesus. This is the kind of friendship that a man named John had with Jesus while He walked the earth. In fact, Jesus’ best friend, John, is called “the one whom Jesus loved” no less than five times in the Bible (John 13:23, 19:26, 20:2, 21:7, 21:20).
John lived a long time. He was the only apostle to avoid martyrdom, although he narrowly escaped death on numerous occasions. John’s brother, James, was the first of the 12 disciples to be put to death for following Jesus, but John was the last disciple to die. He lived to be around 100 years of age and was the most authoritative Christian leader on earth at the end of his life.
At one point, according to historians, John was boiled alive, but he didn’t deny Jesus or die, so he was exiled to a penal colony on the island of Patmos. I’ve actually been there, and I can tell you it’s a lonely, rugged, and barren place in the middle of the sea, covered in jagged rocks and beset by high winds.
It was on the island of Patmos where Jesus came down from heaven to encourage his best friend, John, and reveal to him the book of Revelation. Many tourists, including my family, have ventured to visit the cave where it’s believed John lived and Jesus visited him.
John was eventually released from exile on the island of Patmos and returned to pastoral ministry. Church history reports that much of his time was then spent in Ephesus, where he is still buried in a tomb. John is a man who really lived and really walked with Jesus.
John is mentioned roughly 50 times in the New Testament, which is second only to Peter among the disciples. He and Peter are often mentioned together as partners in ministry throughout Acts (3:1–10, 4:1–22, 8:14–25). Galatians 2:9 speaks of the two men as spiritual “pillars” that held up the early Christian church. John also wrote five books of the Bible (John, 1–3 John, and Revelation), which is more than any of the other 11 disciples. In Acts 4:13, the critics mocked John and Peter as “unlearned men”; but as is often the case, you can’t put too much stock in the mockery of critics.
Regardless of what was said about or done to John, nobody could get him to stop talking about Jesus’ love. According to historical accounts outside the Bible, it’s possible John was a very elderly man when the church gathered to hear him speak about what it was like to hang out with Jesus. The young new Christians who never got to see Jesus with their own eyes and hear Jesus with their own ears would gather around to hear John tell about his best friend and Lord, Jesus Christ.
Today, John is with Jesus in the Kingdom of Heaven. The old friends are enjoying one another’s company as John worships his best friend as King of kings and Lord of lords. Thankfully, the relationship with Jesus Christ never ends. How is your relationship with Jesus Christ? Are you walking with Him faithfully as John did, or are you in a season of wandering from Him? What specific things can you do to improve your relationship with Jesus as your friend and Lord this year starting right now?