As we remember the apostle John today, we read a devotion taken from a sermon in Sermons for Feasts, Festivals, and Occasions: Selections from Concordia Pulpit Resources.
1 John 1:1–2:2
John was part of the inner circle of the disciples, along with Peter and James. Most important, however, is the strong witness of John: the witness to Jesus as the Word made flesh, God with us in person. On this third day of Christmas, then, we faithfully observe the day of St. John—apostle, evangelist, and friend of Jesus—finding in him an example and an encouragement to each of us.
In the Book of Acts, we have a number of portraits of John as an apostle. In Acts 4, we see him and Peter in Jerusalem before the rulers, elders, and teachers of the law. St. Luke tells us that they both were “teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead” (Acts 4:2). When forbidden to do this, they responded, “We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (v. 20). And they kept on speaking and speaking. Later in the Book of Acts we find John and Peter traveling to Samaria to share in the excitement of the Holy Spirit at work there (8:14–25).
John is not always a great disciple. Yet in the words of John himself, he is a “disciple whom Jesus loved” (Jn 21:7). He experiences the forgiveness that can only be found in Jesus. He repents. He changes. And he grows. Repentance, change, and growth are part of the life of each Christian as we, by grace, live in the forgiveness of sins that Jesus purchased for us by His suffering, death, and resurrection.
The traditional symbol associated with St. John is the eagle. Some say this is because his words are so lofty that they soar and bring the reader close to heaven itself. All of the writings associated with St. John—his Gospel, his three epistles, and Revelation—have a beauty and divine loftiness to them. John intends that they lift us up and give us assurance of salvation. “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 Jn 5:13). Not only did the “little children” (1 Jn 2:1) who received his first letter find encouragement in the words, but nineteen centuries later so also do we.
Merciful Lord, cast the bright beams of Your light upon Your Church that we, being instructed in the doctrine of Your blessed apostle and evangelist John, may come to the light of everlasting life; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
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Prayer is from Lutheran Service Book: Altar Book, page 947 © 2006 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Devotional reading is adapted from Sermons for Feasts, Festivals, and Occasions: Selections from Concordia Pulpit Resources, pages 123–24 © 2008 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.