I concluded a study of the gospel of John recently, and it got me to thinking about John and what his life must have been like, especially during the last few years of his life on Patmos. By the time John was exiled on Patmos, all the other apostles had been martyred. They were long gone. John probably knew that Paul that had been executed in Rome some 25 – 30 years before. And Mary, who had been placed in John’s care by Jesus as our savior died on cross, passed away sometime around 40 A.D.; just a few years after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection according to some Jewish historical accounts. If those accounts were accurate, Mary would have been gone for about 50 years by the time of John’s exile. With all his family gone and as the last of the living apostles, I imagine there were times when John must have felt isolated and all alone.
John experienced plenty of high moments during his lifetime. He witnessed the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. He saw believers filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentacost and he saw the birth of the church age. But he also saw the persecution of the church. He probably saw the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. when it was ransacked by the Romans. There’s little doubt John witnessed many of the hardships endured by early Christians. So there were more than a few low moments in his life as well.
But in spite of everything that happened in the years leading up to his exile, his faith remained intact. I have no doubts about that at all. Remember, his faith was what got him exiled in the first place. So even if he was emotionally and spiritually down at times, his faith was firm because John had been there. He was with Jesus at the beginning. He saw it all. But….it had been nearly 60 years since Jesus died on the cross. So I’m sure he spent a lot of time reminiscing about days gone by when he walked and talked with Jesus. And I imagine he often thought back to the days, months, and years after the crucifixion and resurrection when he was active in the ministry of spreading the gospel and building the church. I’m sure he missed those days, and he missed his friends.
John was human and it’s human nature to get a bit depressed when we look back on our lives and think of the way things once were. And it’s not at all unusual to be saddened by the memories of all the people we loved who are now gone. As for John, living on a rock didn’t help. I imagine there had to have been times when he thought he had come to the end of the road, that his ministry and life as he knew it were over.
Some might argue that because John walked and talked with Jesus, he was never down, that he was constantly on a spiritual high, that his life was a continual mountain top experience. But that’s just not realistic. John of all people knew that you can’t live on the mountain top all the time. He was there with Peter and James when Jesus was transfigured. He knew better than anyone that one day you’re on the mountain top, and the next day you’re in the valley. Being exiled on a barren island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea may as well have been a valley. He must have thought to himself at times, “I guess this is it. This is how my life in this world ends.” He may have thought there was no way God could use him anymore, but God wasn’t finished with John yet.
From Revelation 1 verses 1 and 2:
The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.
There are a couple of reasons why I wanted us to try to look at the last few years of John’s life through his eyes. First, I wanted us to look through John eyes so that we could empathize with what he might have gone through and in turn, so that we might be reminded of the need to empathize with those who are facing difficulties and hardship in our own day. We should always be mindful that there are people in the world who are suffering in their faith, as well as people who are suffering…….because of their faith, just as John suffered for his faith. We need to show empathy because Jesus commands it. We’re called to care for those who are suffering and if we’re to care for them, we must also show them that we actually care……………about them.
But the main reason I wanted us to look through the eyes of John is because John’s experience teaches us a very important truth about God. No matter how bleak the world may look through our eyes, it’s never bleak in God’s eyes. Where we see the end of the road, God sees the beginning! And until He calls us home, God is never done with us!! For the apostle John, God saved the best for last! For it was through John’s eyes that we see Jesus return in all His glory to defeat the armies of Satan at Armageddon. Through John’s eyes we see Jesus establish His millennial kingdom. Through John’s eyes we see God defeat Satan one last time, once and for all. Through John’s eyes we Jesus judge the living and the dead. And afterwards we see Jesus wipe away every tear. Through John’s eyes we see that death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, for those things will pass away. Through John’s eyes, we see that Jesus will make all things new!!