Following John to the Heart of Jesus
I prefer books that make you pull your bible closer, especially if you learn more about the background of what you are reading in the Bible, and it gives you a fresh revelation of the content you are reading. When I plan to read a specific book of the bible, I like to have a companion book alongside to give a different perspective and this book did not disappoint.
This book was on my shelf for a while before I picked it up, primarily because I had other books I was keener to read and secondly because I am not a fan of Moore’s writing style. As it happens, I had just read the gospel of John and the three letters of John as part of my bible reading plan (Download a reading plan for yourself HERE). I had also read about the ‘Sons of Thunder’ (James and John) in the book Twelve Ordinary Men (John McArthur).
This book focuses on John, one of the twelve disciples. By studying what he wrote (the gospel of John, the letters 1, 2, and 3 John, and Revelations), we get to know the man John, and how he viewed the events around him. There’s plenty of insight, and it’s a helpful guide for anyone wanting to know more about this inspiring man.
Moore pays close attention to key events in John’s life. She offers fresh insights by asking the question how-do-you-think-John-would-have-felt? Some of the moments that brought greater clarity to me were:
- Walking beside Jesus, John’s witness of a) Jesus’ power as he raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead (Mark 5:37-47), b)seeing Jesus transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-3), and finally 3) Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-37).
- His presence at the foot of the cross when all the other disciples had abandoned Jesus and his adoption of Mary as his mother. (John 19:26-27)
- His heart and emotions as he outran Peter to the grave. (John 20:3-4)
- His first experiences as He was filled with the Holy Spirit, how their lives changed forever.
- His brother, James’s death, as one of the first disciples to be martyred. (Acts 12:2)
- What Moore calls John’s years in obscurity in Ephesus while James, then Paul and Peter were getting press all over the region. (The evidence is that the letters of John were written AD 81-96, after the fall of the temple, after most of the disciples had died and after the church had experienced persecution.)
- After seeing Jesus die, resurrect and ascend into heaven, His feelings and thoughts as John saw Jesus in all his glory in Revelation (Rev 4:2-11 and Rev 19:11-16)
- His thoughts as he traveled with Jesus to all the churches and saw the Lord’s concern and understanding for each of the churches including John’s own Ephesus. (Rev 1:19-3:22)
- His understanding as he saw the Holy City of Jerusalem and saw his own name above on of the gates of the city (Rev 21:10-14)
- His thoughts and the fire in his heart as he returned from Patmos to Ephesus and lived to be a very old man. Historians indicate that the vitality of John’s spirit far exceeded the strength of his body.
Moore humanised John for me but she does not just focus on key moments in John’s life, she also points out personal growth, trials and victories John experiences in his life:
- What I didn’t realise is that John was probably the youngest of the disciples, a teenager when He witnessed these events alongside Jesus. A teenager with his own ambitions and ideas. He is witness to all the events as part of the inner circle of Jesus. He must have struggled with the election and the revelation he received. We see this struggle in Luke 9:46-48 as the disciples argued about which one of them would be the greatest. In Luke 9:49-50, John wanting to forbid a man from driving out demons in Jesus’ name. Also, in Luke 9:51-55 asking for permission to call down fire on a Samaritan village and finally asking to be seated at the left or right of Jesus’s throne (Mark 10:35-37). Oh, the ambition in this young man must have been something fierce. I wonder if Jesus nicknamed them “sons of thunder?”
Yet we see a different John, the beloved disciple, expressed in the letters of John years later: “How great is the love the Father has lavished onto us, that we should be called the children of God.” (1 John 3:1) We see a transformed John who has fully embraced the love of God and expresses it in his love for others in words like “my little children” and “to my chosen lady and her children.” Moore explores this transformation in John in what she calls his “choosing affection over ambition.”
- She also describes John’s passion for Jesus, right from his rushing to the grave, his continual years of work despite all the disciples being martyred, his years of obscurity, the persecution of the church and even his exile to the island of Patmos “because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.” (Rev 1:9) Church tradition believes that the Romans tried to kill John, but banished him to the island when they could not succeed. Years had prepared John for the ultimate revelation given to a child of God who was suitably humble and ready to receive this revelation. This Revelation is now both the hope of the body of Christ and the warning to all the nations of judgement. Going through The Son of Thunder’s writings in the New Testament scene-by-scene, made me understand so much more than before as to why and how his writings evolved.
Finally, I enjoyed Moore’s explanation and insights on the seven cities and churches in Revelation and how they relate to us individually today. I think this would be a wonderful book to take along on a trip to Turkey, Ephesus and Patmos. It was interesting for me to realise that one would travel on a Roman road in a circular motion to visit all of these cities, starting in Ephesus and finishing in Laodicea. This is a great book to read alongside the book of Revelation as I found that Moore focused on a positive message for believers to remember and not just a focus on the wrath of God and the rule of the beasts.
I particularly found her insights on the Lord described as the Lamb throughout Revelation and the Wedding of the Lamb encouraging to my heart, particularly as so much of literature on Revelation is focused on the devastation of the end times. I think we as believers often get focused on what we will need to live through, rather than what we have to live for.
I think this would be a great book to do in a small study group together as it offers insight into books of the bible, encourages wider research and opens up the floor for many discussions and life application.
There are a few things however about the book that I found off-putting, but believe this is more Moore’s style of writing than any fault with the book itself. I don’t like being referred to as “beloved” all the time, but understand that Moore perhaps wanted to bring home that I am also “a beloved” of the Lord.
Moore also reminds us often about her personal trials, her imperfect life and that she is not perfect and at times I found her writing a little prescriptive in what I was to think and feel. There are also times when she tells us she is having a bad day while writing a passage or that she is standing up while she is typing that I did not particularly enjoy.
The book reads like journal entries on certain thoughts and being myself a great believer in journaling, felt that I was on a journey with Moore. She does explore concepts not directly related to John’s life in this journal method, but I still found these ramblings helpful and interesting.
I grabbed this book as an accompaniment to my bible reading and it turned out to be better than expected. The book enriched my understanding of familiar passages and heightened my awareness of many aspects of John’s life that I had not previously considered.
Below are the links to Kindle and Amazon.
I also made you a free downloadable poster of the key verse that stuck out for me while reading the book.