How did John the son of thunder change?


By BibleAsk Team

The transformation of John, one of the twelve apostles chosen by Jesus, from a fiery and impulsive disciple known as the “son of thunder” to a loving and compassionate follower has captivated the imagination of believers for centuries. Through his encounters with Jesus and the transformative work of the Holy Spirit, this disciple underwent a profound journey of spiritual growth and maturation. This essay aims to explore his transformation, drawing insights from the New King James Version (NKJV) of the Bible and examining key events and passages that illustrate John’s metamorphosis from a zealous disciple to the “beloved disciple” of Jesus.

John – Son of Thunder

  1. The apostle John possessed a hot temper that Christ named him the son of thunder (Mark 3:17). He had a spirit of pride, ambition, resentment when injured, and was eager to take revenge (Mark 10:35–41). This spirit was clearly reflected in his words and actions.
  2. In one incident, he exhibited his hot temper when Jesus and His disciples were traveling through Samaria on their way to Jerusalem. Jesus wanted to rest for the night there but He was rejected from the villagers, because His destination was Jerusalem—And the Jews and the Samaritan were enemies. “When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?’” (Luke 9:54). But Jesus rebuked them for their unloving spirit.

Encounter with Jesus

  1. Call to Discipleship: John’s journey of transformation began with his initial encounter with Jesus, who called him and his brother James to follow Him. In Matthew 4:21-22, it is recorded that Jesus saw James and John with their father Zebedee in a boat, mending their nets, and He called them to follow Him. Responding to Jesus’ call, they immediately left their boat and their father to become His disciples.
  2. Witness to Miracles and Teachings: Throughout their time with Jesus, John and the other disciples witnessed His miraculous deeds and profound teachings. From the feeding of the five thousand (Jn. 6:1-14) to the calming of the storm (Mark 4:35-41), the son of thunder experienced firsthand the supernatural power and divine authority of Jesus. Moreover, he heard Jesus’ parables, sermons, and ethical teachings, which undoubtedly left a lasting impression on his spiritual development.

Transformational Encounters

  1. The Transfiguration: One of the pivotal moments in John’s transformation was his participation in the Transfiguration, where Jesus was transfigured before him, James, and Peter on a high mountain (Matthew 17:1-8). In this extraordinary manifestation of divine glory, this disciple beheld the radiant majesty of Jesus and heard the voice of God affirming His beloved Son. The Transfiguration served as a revelation of Jesus’ true identity and a foretaste of His glorification, deepening John’s understanding of Jesus’ divine nature and mission.
  2. The Last Supper: Another significant event in John’s journey of transformation was the Last Supper, where Jesus shared a final meal with His disciples before His crucifixion (Jn. 13:1-20). During this poignant occasion, Jesus washed the feet of His disciples as a demonstration of servanthood and humility, imparting to them the lesson of selfless love and sacrificial service. This disciple, in witnessing Jesus’ act of humility, learned the profound lesson of love and servanthood, which would shape his ministry and character in the years to come.
  3. Gethsemane and Calvary: John accompanied Jesus to the Garden of Gethsemane, where he witnessed Jesus’ agonizing prayer and surrender to the Father’s will before His arrest (Matthew 26:36-46). Despite the disciples’ failure to remain awake and watch with Jesus, he was present during this critical moment of Jesus’ ordeal. Furthermore, he stood at the foot of the cross alongside Mary, the mother of Jesus, and other faithful women, witnessing Jesus’ crucifixion and the outpouring of His sacrificial love for humanity (Jn. 19:25-27).

Transformation Through Love

  1. The Revelation of Love: Throughout John’s interactions with Jesus, he was profoundly impacted by the revelation of divine love embodied in Jesus’ life, ministry, and sacrificial death on the cross. In his Gospel and epistles, John repeatedly emphasizes the centrality of love as the defining characteristic of God’s nature and the essence of Christian discipleship. In 1 John 4:7-12, John declares, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.”
  2. The reason behind John’s great change of character was that he yielded himself more completely than any of the other disciples to the transforming power of His Master. As he gazed upon the love of God, he “changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Beholding the love of Jesus and meditating on it, transformed the “Son of Thunder” and he earned a new nickname: the “Apostle of Love.”
  3. Identification as the Beloved Disciple: In his Gospel, John refers to himself as the “disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20), signifying the intimate bond of affection and trust between him and Jesus. This designation highlights John’s special relationship with Jesus as a recipient of His love and a witness to His ministry. As the beloved disciple, John exemplifies the transformative power of divine love to shape and renew the human heart.
  4. Commission to Love and Serve: Following Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, John embraced his commission to love and serve others as an expression of his devotion to Christ. In his pastoral letters, he exhorts believers to love one another, walk in the light, and abide in Christ (1 Jn. 1:7; 2:10; 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11-12). Moreover, his ministry as an apostle and elder in the early Christian community reflected his commitment to nurturing spiritual growth and fostering unity among believers.
  5. His epistles, written late in his life, showed that he possessed a fervency of spirit, (1st epistle 2:22; 2nd epistle 7; 3ed epistle 10) but it was a fervency tempered by love. In fact, in the 1st epistle, the word “love” and its relatives occur over 40 times. According to early Christian tradition, the apostle served as a loving apostle and supervisor of the churches throughout the Roman province of Asia during the closing years of his life.


In conclusion, the transformation of John from a zealous and impulsive disciple to the beloved disciple of Jesus exemplifies the power of divine love to renew and sanctify the human heart. Through his encounters with Jesus and the transformative work of the Holy Spirit, John underwent a profound journey of spiritual growth and maturation, culminating in his identification as the disciple whom Jesus loved.

As believers, we are invited to emulate John’s example of discipleship, characterized by intimacy with Christ, devotion to His teachings, and a commitment to love and serve others in His name. May we, like John, experience the transformative power of divine love to shape our lives and bear witness to the reality of Christ’s redemptive grace in the world.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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