First I gathered together some scripture from which to choose.
Mark 1:14-20 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”
As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him.
When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.
Luke (5:1-11) further describes James and John as Simon’s partners.
Mark 5: 35-43 While Jesus was still speaking, some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher any more?” Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. When they came to the home of the synagogue ruler, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him.
After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!” ). Immediately the girl stood up and walked around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.
Mark 10: 35-45 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”
“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”
When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Mark 14: 32-34 They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”
Luke 9: 46-56 An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all—he is the greatest.”
“Master,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.” “Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.”
As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went to another village.
When Jesus was on the cross:
John 19:25-27 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
John 21:19-24 Then Jesus said to Peter, “Follow me!” Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” Because of this, the rumor spread among the brothers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”
This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.
James, John’s brother was killed by the sword at King Herod’s request. (Acts 12) In Acts 13 it describes him travelling for a while with Paul and Barnabas. But otherwise there are not many records of his travelling.
John has 3 short letters (two are really short) that revolve around the themes: Jesus is the savior, he loves us, we show our love for him by loving and serving others. He warns repeatedly against false teachers telling you anything that conflicts with that. A good example of this:
1 John 5:1-5 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
Revelations is the record of John’s vision of the end of the world. Some people freak out about it, and others dismiss it. Some talk about it being a coded message to people suffering under the Roman emperor Nero. A sample from the beginning:
Revelations 1: 9-16 I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.”
I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone “like a son of man,”dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.
It is from the book of Revelation that we learn the most about Jesus returning, even if it is hard to understand. Peter and Paul wrote about it, and angels mentioned it at Jesus’ ascension to heaven after his resurrection.
Acts 1: 10-11 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
Revelation 22: 12-17 “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. … I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.”
Then I went through, narrowed down and added the questions. Because last week's lesson went a bit longer than the attention span of most of the middle schoolers, I'm trying to be more disciplined this time around.
John was the only one of the apostles not to be martyred. Tradition has it that he was the youngest. And the only apostle to write a gospel, earning him the name John the Evangelist. His gospel stands out as the most different of the four gospels. He is often represented with an eagle (because of a passage in Revelation 4:7). In addition to the gospel, he wrote three short letters that became epistles, and the mysterious Book of Revelation, which ends the bible. His older brother James was also an apostle, and together they had the nickname the Sons of Thunder.
John was called at the very beginning of Jesus ministry. He may have been a disciple of John the Baptist's ministry beforehand.
1) Luke (5:1-11) Also describes James and John as Simon’s partners. What would it take for you to give up your hometown and business to follow a teacher?
Mark 5: 35-43
2) There are a few occasions when Jesus doesn’t take all of the apostles, but a smaller group that usually includes Peter, James and John. Why would Jesus not take everyone? What does it tell you about PJ&J that Jesus chose them?
Not every story about John is a positive one.
Mark 10: 35-45
3) What does Jesus mean by “drink the cup I drink”? What do you think John might have learned from this exchange?
John was the only apostle to follow Jesus all the way to the cross. While Jesus was on the cross, he asked John for a favor. In John’s gospel, he refers to himself as the “disciple Jesus loved” rather than by name.
4) What does Jesus think of John? What would it be like to adopt a friend’s mother?
James, John’s brother was killed by the sword at King Herod’s request. (Acts 12) In Acts 13 it describes him traveling for a while with Paul and Barnabas. But otherwise there are not many records of his traveling. John has 3 short letters (two are really short) that revolve around the themes: Jesus is the savior, he loves us, we show our love for him by loving and serving others. He warns repeatedly against false teachers telling you anything that conflicts with that. A good example of this:
1 John 5:1-5
5) How would you put this in your own words?
Revelation is the record of John’s vision of the end of the world. Some people freak out about it, and others dismiss it. Some talk about it being a coded message to people suffering under the Roman emperor Nero. It is from the book of Revelation that we learn the most about Jesus returning, even if it is hard to understand.
Revelation 22: 12-17
6) What do you think about the idea of Jesus coming back?
Bonus: the best musical cover of the Book of Revelations has got to be Johnny Cash's "The Man Comes Around." It sounds like he's seen it.
The only way I can find to share it is a video. Caution: it does have photo of Cash flipping the bird.