The Signs of the Times


January 8, 1885

The Calling and Character of John


John was one of the first to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah. He had listened to the preaching of John the Baptist, and knew that he was sent as the forerunner of Him who was the Hope of Israel. To John and Andrew the Baptist pointed out Jesus as “the Lamb of God.” They immediately sought an interview with the new teacher. If the testimony which they had heard borne of him was indeed true, that it was he who should take away the sin of the world, they would become acquainted with him, and be instructed by his words of wisdom. Jesus saw them following him, and welcomed them to his humble abode. They remained with him that night, and when they left his presence, it was with their faith in his divine character and mission fully confirmed. ST January 8, 1885, par. 1

Andrew went in search of his own brother, Simon, and brought him to Jesus, with the welcome announcement, “We have found the Messiah.” The next day Jesus called Philip to follow him. Philip sought out Nathanael, whom he knew to be a sincere and godly man, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and expressed his firm conviction that in Jesus of Nazareth he had found “Him of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write.” ST January 8, 1885, par. 2

Andrew, Peter, James, and John were henceforth known as disciples of Jesus. They accompanied him to Jerusalem, and were with him while he preached in the cities and villages of Judea, and in Samaria on his return to Galilee. They heard his teachings, and witnessed the exhibitions of divine power in the miracles which he performed; and day by day their faith increased, that this unassuming Galilean peasant was indeed the promised Messiah, who should restore the kingdom to Israel. ST January 8, 1885, par. 3

Though they attended upon the preaching of Jesus, and were much in his society, they still pursued their humble calling; but the time came when they were to leave their nets and their fishing boats, and be more closely associated with Jesus. Crowds now attended upon his ministry; and as he taught by the lake of Gennesaret, they so “pressed upon him to hear the word of God,” that he entered into Peter's boat, and from it taught the people on the shore. When he had ceased speaking, he said unto Peter, “Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.” Peter answered that they had toiled all night, and had taken nothing. Their labors had been fruitless in the usual time for fishing, and there was no human probability of success now; “nevertheless,” said Peter, “at thy word I will let down the net.” It was done, and the draught of fishes was so great that the net could not contain them, and James and John, the partners of Andrew and Peter, were called to their assistance. ST January 8, 1885, par. 4

Astonished beyond measure at the unexpected result of his act of simple obedience, Peter impulsively exclaimed, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” But Jesus soothed his excited disciples, telling them that from henceforth they should be fishers of men. An important and solemn work was before them. They were to give up their only means of support, and spend their lives in unselfish efforts to save perishing sinners; but before he called them to this life of self-denial and dependence upon God, the loving Saviour showed them, that, as Lord of Heaven and earth, he was abundantly able to provide for all their wants. ST January 8, 1885, par. 5

“And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.” From this time they were constantly with Jesus. The Great Teacher passed by the wise men of earth, the talented and the educated, who were accustomed to receive praise and homage as leaders of the people. They were so proud and self-confident in their boasted superiority that they could not be moulded to sympathize with suffering humanity and become co-laborers with the humble Man of Nazareth. It was easier to train and educate these unlearned fishermen for the high and holy work to which he had called them; for they were teachable. They could be elevated to meet the divine standard. They could be taught to subdue self, and could be imbued with correct principles and pure doctrines. ST January 8, 1885, par. 6

Before they should go out to preach to all the world the good news of salvation through Christ, the disciples were to gain an experience; their fidelity was to be tested. ST January 8, 1885, par. 7

While teaching them, Jesus was instructing the world. He opened to them sacred truths. He taught them the worth of the soul, that they might feel the importance of laboring for its salvation with zeal and enthusiasm. They must be fitted for the great work which they were to carry forward when Jesus should leave them and return to the Father; and he kept them near him that they might see the character of his labor and be inspired with his spirit. ST January 8, 1885, par. 8

John was distinguished above the other disciples as the one whom Jesus loved; and he received many tokens of the confidence and love which he enjoyed in so pre-eminent a degree. While not in the least weak or vacillating in character, he had cultivated an amiable disposition and possessed a warm, loving heart. It was his delight to be ever at the side of his Master, listening to his gracious words of instruction, and his deep and genuine affection led him to be a doer as well as a hearer of the word. Day by day his heart was drawn out toward Christ, until he lost sight of self in love for his Master. ST January 8, 1885, par. 9

His love for Jesus was not a mere human friendship; it was the love of a repentant sinner, who felt his dependence on the pardoning love and transforming grace of his Redeemer. His deep and fervent affection was not the cause, but the effect of Christ's love for him. It did not spring from natural goodness of heart; for he had by nature serious defects of character. But self was hid in Christ. He was closely united to the Living Vine; and though naturally proud, ambitious, and quick to resent slight and injury, he became meek and lowly of heart, a partaker of the divine nature. Such will ever be the result of communion with Christ. ST January 8, 1885, par. 10

John was willing to be trained as to his manner of working and the spirit in which he should labor. He did not tenaciously cling to his own way, but yielded his will to that of Christ. He loved to contemplate the life of Jesus; and his strong love gave him a deeper, clearer insight into the character of his divine Lord than any of the other disciples possessed. Here he found the great lessons and perfect model of his own life, and he was ever trying to mould his character after the lovely one presented by the Saviour. ST January 8, 1885, par. 11

The confiding love and unselfish devotion of John present lessons of untold value to the Christian church. God is no respecter of persons. Heaven is a place prepared for those who have a fitness of character for the society of angels. Its lofty seats are not reserved for relatives and particular friends, but are given to those who love most. The beautiful mansions are opened to those who have practiced self-denial, who have brought their wills into subjection to the will of God, and in life and character have conformed to the divine standard. They may have by nature fierce tempers and grave faults, and these may have been fostered and increased by wrong methods of training; but if through the grace of Christ they subdue their unlovely traits, and fight the good fight of faith, they will receive the overcomer's rich reward. ST January 8, 1885, par. 12

The work before every one of us who have named the name of Christ is to copy the divine Pattern. We must rely in loving confidence upon the merits of Christ, and take hold upon his strength. Day by day we must subdue the evil traits that strive for the mastery. Earnest faith and loving obedience will bring us into as close relationship to Christ as was the loving and beloved John. Those who are faithful in this appointed work will be the acknowledged heroes of the heavenly courts. They reflect a bright light to the world now, for the power of divine grace is made manifest in them; and by and by they will shine forever as stars in the kingdom of Heaven. ST January 8, 1885, par. 13