Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "Jesus Where'er Thy People Meet"1 (Lyrics)
Have you ever been tagged as part of a group of people? When I was in high school, the athletic guys and girls were known as the "jocks", the academically minded quiet ones were known as "the brains", and some of the tags weren't as complimentary! Even in families, children can be referred to as "the shy one" or "the smart one". My dad's name was John, but he was always called Jack, and my uncle James was only ever called Jimmy. In the Scriptures, some people were given nicknames, too. Jesus gave the nickname "Sons of Thunder" to the brothers James and John, Thomas had the nickname "The Twin", and the disciple Joseph from Cyprus was nicknamed "Barnabas", Son of Encouragement.
If I could give some nicknames to John, one would be "Eyewitness", because he wrote of what he witnessed of Jesus:
1 John 1:1-2 – That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life — the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us. (NKJV)
John wrote the epistle as an older man, and possibly the last surviving apostle. Many of his readers had received Jesus as Saviour in faith without seeing Him in person, and he wanted them to know that he had seen and heard Jesus in person.
Perhaps Jesus nicknamed John as one of the Sons of Thunder for his impetuous nature and strong personality, having offered to call down fire from heaven to destroy those who did not receive Him. Jesus tamed John's strong nature, and used his strength to build a strong foundation for the new church. John nicknamed himself as "the disciple whom Jesus loved", not out of pride, but because His love defined John's life from then on.
The next nickname that I would give him would be "Pastor". In Ephesus and the surrounding region, John was an influential teacher of the new believers, emphasizing to them what was important, and how to live counter-culturally by loving each other as Jesus loved them.
Finally, I would describe John as "the Prisoner", as he ended his life on the prison island of Patmos, where God revealed the vision of Jesus' words to the churches and of the end times, written about in the book of Revelation.
John had nicknames for Jesus, too, including "the Word of life". He came to earth in human form, fully God and fully man, the fulfillment of God's Word. He is eternal, beyond the vanishing point of past and future. God has intentionally revealed Himself to us in His Son Jesus.
As for us, how we would like our lives to be described if a book were written about us? Would our readers refer to us as eyewitnesses of our risen Lord's presence? Would people around us describe us as beloved of God? Do we love each other as Jesus loves us and teach others to do the same?
Prayer: We thank You, Lord, that You intentionally revealed Yourself to us in Your Son Jesus, Who came as Your Word of life, to show us who You are and bring us into fellowship forever with You. Amen.