St John the Evangelist is the beloved Apostle. By tradition he is the author of the fourth gospel, letters and the Book of Revelation, the last book of the New Testament. John and his brother James responded to the call of Jesus immediately and even left their father, Zebedee, in the boat when Jesus said: "follow me".
These brothers were called "Sons of Thunder" possibly because they wanted Christ to swiftly punish those who treated them rudely or were mistreated. Little did they know at that time that followers of Jesus would be greatly persecuted, afflicted and murdered down through the centuries.
John was perhaps the youngest of the Apostles and remained with Jesus' mother, Mary, at the foot of the cross when nearly all of the other Apostles abandoned Him. He received Mary from Jesus immediately before he died on the cross and heard the words of the dying Savior before He expired when the loving Redeemer said to St John, son, behold your mother. St Joseph had died before Jesus' public ministry and Christ entrusted John to care for the only possession that Jesus had: His Mother.
Jesus could not adequately live without His mother on earth and for that reason He possessed and enjoyed the woman, Mary, His dearest mother, more than the entire heavenly court. She had given Him His own Flesh, the means that would allow all humanity to return to the kingdom of God. Giving up Mary stripped Him of His masterpiece, the love of His life and He saved her for Himself until next to His last breath. And then, when He had no more breath or time, He bestowed his most treasured possession on us. With His very last breath, He told His Father, His life was completed and surrended Himself to the mystery of God.
And the same time, the Crucified One, when he was hardly recognized, disfigured and hanged out to die, lovingly bestowed on Mary, St John and all humanity with him. He knew that nobody was more capable of sharing divine love to us than the woman who have given Him His earthly existence.
John and his brother James were fishermen and worked with their father and with Sts. Peter and his brother, Andrew. They probably lived in the same town of Bethsaida and they practiced their trade and business near the Sea of Galilee. Apart from that, we know little about John's early life except some writers claim that he was a disciple of St John the Baptist before Jesus came on the scene and that according to St Augustine, Doctor of the Church, John never married. From his earliest youth, John cultivated "singular chastity."
John's mother, Salome, was also a follower of Jesus and remained faithful to Him especially on Calvary along with many other women. We can not say that of the men. Salome was a disciple of the Lord and was known to speak up for her sons to Jesus as any mother would do to better their positions in Jesus' kingdom that was being formed. Hardly anyone at that time could imagine that Jesus' kingdom was to be of a spiritual nature and that any and all positions of honor would be one of servants to God's children and not necessarily one of leadership and authority.
The beloved apostle was favored by Jesus and was taken on special visits with Jesus that most of the other Apostles did not attend. John witnessed miracles of a private nature with his brother, James, and Peter, the head of the Apostles. John was definitely a member of the inner circle, however, John, nor anyone of the other Apostles, had a better understanding of Jesus' mission and ministry at that time.
Jesus occasionally scolded or corrected the Apostles and John was no exception. Once when a person was casting out demons in Jesus' name, John wanted Jesus to stop that person. Jesus told John that the man who was not against Him was in fact for Him and not to be hindered. The evangelist, St. Mark, wrote: No man who performs a miracle using My name can at the same time speak ill of Me.
Like nearly all the Apostles, John is hardly mentioned except for a few times in the gospels. St John stays clear about identifying himself when he writes about himself in the fourth gospel. The gospels are about Jesus not the Apostles. They accompanied Jesus in His journeys but the focus is on His words and actions and the theme of repentance, salvation and redemption through the new law of love toward God and His creatures.
Jesus made it clear that the new law of love did not replace the old law. God is first and foremost a God of order and law. What Christ said was that love is greater than fear of God. However, the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. St Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church, and often referred to as the 'gentleman' saint because of his tremendous kindness, said that we ought to love God to fear Him not fear Him that you may be able to love Him. Strictly speaking, Francis said it more elegantly: "We must fear God out of love, not love Him out of fear."
Moses gave us the law of the ten commandments directly from God. Jesus, who is the Son of God, gave us love of the law through a new commmandment made from the old commandments: love God and neighbor as He loved us.
John probably lived longer than any of the other Apostles and some traditions say that Mary lived to her late sixties or early seventies. John cared for her and watched over Mary in the manner that she wanted him to and traveled with Mary whenever she wanted him for extra protection. Although St John appears to have been the least traveled of the Apostles he took his responsiblity of caring for Mary, his parents and his relatives most serious.
This is some evidence that Mary went with John to Ephesus and may have live there for a while. She may have died there but there is another, perhaps stronger tradition, that indicates that she returned to John's house on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. According to this tradition, it was from there that the Virgin's body was assumed incorrupt, into heaven. This information is taken again from the "12 Apostles" by Ruffin.
St John probably died a martyr of desire at a very old age after some attempts on his life failed through divine intervention. St Jerome, Doctor of the Church, stated that John was nearly martyred at Rome and that he was thrown into a cauldron of hot oil, but somehow emerged unhurt.
In his later years, John seems to have made his home in Ephesus for the rest of his life. There were churches there that were mentioned in the Book of Revelations. John did some supervising and according to "The Constitution of the Holy Apostles", he ordained bishops as well as priests in each of the cities of Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.
The gospel of John is quite different from the gospels of Sts. Matthew, Mark and Luke, the synoptic gospel authors. They would follow sort of lockstep together and John would focus on the earlier ministry of Jesus. John seems to write from a theological aspects and was forever highlighting the importance of loving one another and that God is love. C. Bernard Ruffin, mentioned above, indicates that John's gospel was written for Gentile believers and that John does include some severe statements such as the man who deliberately sins is a child of the devil. John does not hesitate to let us know that he is unafraid to mention God's threats along with His promises.