Perhaps it is not too much of a stretch to imagine that, at some point in his time on the island of Patmos, John stood on a rocky precipice and peered out across the Aegean sea. The beautiful scenes and the peaceful rhythm of the waves would mask the political reality of his banishment. We might further suppose he might have indulged a reminiscence of a different time under different circumstances, when he was fishing the sea of Galilee with his brother and father and friends. Being now on the island for the word of God (Rev. 1:9), he might recall how it was there in Galilee it all began, when the Lord called him and his brother to follow Him (Matt. 4:21,22).
John and his brother James were business partners with brothers Peter and Andrew in fishing (Luke 5:10). Being business partners, you might also imagine that they had some social connections, as well. John and Andrew were both disciples of John the Baptist (John 1:35,40). When they heard John speak of Jesus as the Lamb of God, they followed the Lord and stayed with Him (John 1:36-39). Andrew, however, first found his brother Peter, to tell him that they had found the Christ (John 1:41).
After they had spent the day with the Lord, they must have returned back to their business because Jesus again finds them plying their trade with their father, Zebedee (Matt. 4:21). That day they were mending broken nets and getting them in order for the next excursion (Mark 1:19). How long this was after the initial time spent with the Lord is not known. But when Jesus calls John, he and James immediately leave their business and their father and follow Jesus (Matt. 4:22). Hired servants remained with their father to continue the business (Mark 1:20). Simon Peter and Andrew also followed the Lord that day (Mark 1:16-18). It was Peter who would later say, “We have forsaken all, and followed Thee” (Matt. 19:27).
But the family still communicated with their boys. Indeed, it seems that their mother was Salome, who, apparently was one of those women from Galilee, who followed and supported the Lord monetarily (Mark 15:40,41; Luke 8:1,2). She seems to be identified as the wife of Zebedee (cf. Matt. 27:56 and Mark 15:40). She was present at the crucifixion of Jesus (Mark 15:40), as was John (John 19:26). Salome was also apparently the sister of Mary, Jesus’ mother, which means that John was also a cousin of Jesus (John 19:25). How appropriate it would be then, for Jesus to entrust His own mother’s care to His cousin after He was gone (John 19:25-27). John was also well off enough financially to own his own house, to which he took Mary after the crucifixion (John 19:27).
John apparently had connections with the house of the high priest. Just what they were, we have no way of knowing but the un-named disciple–which is most likely John–was “known unto the high priest” (John 18:15,16). He was well enough known that he could speak to the door-keeper and have enough influence to get her to let Peter inside (John 18:16). John is equally familiar with the name of the servant of the high priest (John 18:10). His acquaintance with the high priest must have been from an earlier time, when there were no tensions between the authorities and Jesus. Further, it is not unusual that one of the apostles might know someone of import for one of the financial supporters of our Lord was Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s servant (Luke 8:1-3).
John, along with Peter and James, formed a trio of disciples who are often grouped together. Peter, James and John were the only of His apostles He allowed to see the resurrection of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:38). These three were the only ones the Lord took with Him to witness His transfiguration (Matt. 17:1). They were likewise the ones whom Jesus wanted with Him during the most agonizing moments He would face before the cross. He commanded the rest of the apostles to sit in a place in Gethsemene while He went to pray, but He took with Him Peter, James and John (Matt. 26:37). He asked them, as a friend in need might ask, to “Watch with Me” (Matt. 26:38).
That Zebedee was willing to let his sons follow their cousin, and his wife was willing to support Jesus with their money, and that John and James were followers first of John the Baptist, then of Christ, that they had connections to the high priest suggests that they were a family of religious fervor. John showed that zeal when he and James called for fire on a Samaritan village because they would not receive Him (Luke 9:51-54). But Jesus rebuked them, saying, “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of Man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” (Luke 9:55,56).
John also rebuked those not following Jesus for casting out devils in the name of the Saviour (Luke 9:49), and his mother, evincing the same fiery spirit, sought a special place for her sons in the kingdom (Matt. 20:20-23). After word of the resurrection, John was the first to run to the empty tomb, pausing at the entrance while Peter followed and went in first (John 20:4-6). Even when writing his epistles, John showed this zeal in rebuking the error of men such as Diotrephes (III John 1:9,10) and those who would bid Godspeed to error (II John 9-11). In the early church, John and Peter are often associated together in the work of the Lord (cf. Acts 3:1; 4:13; 8:14). And yet John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was of gentle enough spirit to lean on the Lord’s breast at supper (John 13:23).
As John stood on the island of Patmos, and looked out across the Aegean sea, perhaps his mind did race back through all the events of his long life. But his mind, through revelation, also looked forward to the tribulation through which the church for which he labored would pass (Rev. 1:9; 7:14, etc.) and ultimately to it’s glorious, heavenly triumph (Rev. 21, 22). The Lord no longer spoke to him in gentle tones, but now with the voice of a trumpet (Rev. 1:10,15). John would end the Apocalypse with the promise of Jesus “Surely I come quickly.” And John would plead “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).
Eric L. Padgett