St. John the Evangelist — Apostle, Evangelist, Son of Thunder, Beloved Disciple, Caretaker of

The feast of St. John the Evangelist is Dec. 27.

Vladimir Borovikovsky (1757–1825), “St. John the Evangelist”, ca. 1804-1809
Vladimir Borovikovsky (1757–1825), “St. John the Evangelist”, ca. 1804-1809 (photo: Public Domain)

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. ―John 19:26–27

John, both an apostle and an evangelist, played a very prominent role in many of the New Testament narratives. John was part of an inner-circle trio with his brother James (the Greater) and Peter, partaking in privileged incidents with Jesus: the raising of Jairus’s daughter, the Transfiguration, and the agony at Gethsemane.

John and his brother James were nicknamed “Sons of Thunder” by Jesus. Exactly why they were given this title is not explained. However, the two brothers did exhibit at least two instances of audacious behavior: wanting to bring fire from heaven down upon some Samaritans who refused to listen to the message of Christ, and asking Jesus for special places of honor in heaven.

Within the Gospel of John, there are five different references to “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (13:23, 19:26, 20:2, 21:7, 21:20). Over the centuries, the vast majority of biblical scholars have deemed this beloved disciple to be John himself. These mysterious references actually point to a less thunderous personality; for example, the beloved disciple resting his head on Jesus’ chest at the Last Supper and Jesus requesting the beloved disciple to take care of his mother, Mary.

Tradition places John in Ephesus (in modern Turkey) after Pentecost, where he cared for Mary and perhaps wrote the fourth Gospel. John’s Gospel stands out from the other three, offering a unique portrayal of Christ and his message. This Gospel is symbolized with an eagle; its opening words urge the thoughts of readers to soar upward—sort of like an eagle—toward God (1:1).

It is probable that either John himself or a disciple of his wrote the three Epistles of John. Many claim that he also wrote the Book of Revelation, a work chock full of mystical imagery, during an exile on the island of Patmos (Greece).

John is believed to have lived to an old age and died of natural causes. A basilica in Ephesus reportedly held his remains for a time, but that church is now in ruins.


A Biblical Novena to St. John the Evangelist

The feast of St. John the Evangelist is Dec. 27. He is the patron of many things including writers, booksellers, and friendships. Consider getting to know St. John a little better through passages from the Bible. Mull over and reflect upon each of the nine passages below. Write down any thoughts that seep into your heart and see how this holy apostle might touch your soul.

  • Day 1) Matthew 4:18–22
  • Day 2) Matthew 17:1–8
  • Day 3) Mark 6:7–13, 30–33
  • Day 4) Mark 10:35–45
  • Day 5) Mark 14:32–33
  • Day 6) Luke 8:50–51
  • Day 7) Luke 9:51–56
  • Day 8) John 19:25–27
  • Day 9) John 21:1–14, 20–23