John the Son of Zebedee
One of Rabbi Yeshua’s original twelve shlikhim (Apostles)
Original Hebrew name: Yokhanan ben Zevdi
Yokhanan ben Zevdi, John the son of Zebedee, was the brother of Yaakov ben Zevdi.
Yaakov and Yokhanan, the sons of Zebedee, were the first two Apostles he chose after Kefa and Andreas. Rabbis Kefa, Yaakov and Yokhanan were the closest of Rabbi Yeshua’s friends. He called Yaakov and Yokhanan, “Bo-anerges, that is, sons of thunder” Mk 3:17.
We see Rabbi Yeshua, James and John together when Shimeon’s mother-in-law was ill. “And immediately he left the synagogue, and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever, and immediately they told him of her.”
When Rabbi Yeshua entered the house of Jairus “he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John” Mk 5:37.
Because Rabbi Yaakov and Rabbi Yokhanan were prominent among the Apostles, we can understand why their mother asked Rabbi Yeshua to, “Command that these two sons of mine may sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom” Mt 20:21. Rabbi Yeshua asked in reply, “Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” Mt 20:22. When they said they could he replied, “You will drink my cup” Mt 20:23, to brace them for the trial as his witnesses Acts 1:8.
We see Rabbis Kefa, Yaakov and Yokhanan at the Transfiguration. “And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light” Mt 17:1–2.
Before the Passover Rabbi Yeshua sent two Apostles, Peter and John, to prepare the room for his Last Supper. So Rabbi Yeshua sent Rabbis Yaakov and Yokhanan, saying, “Go and prepare the passover for us, that we may eat it” Lk 22:8.
We also find Rabbis Kefa, Yaakov and Yokhanan present at Gethsemane. “And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.’ And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt’” Mt 26:37–39.
The Church at Jerusalem found much use for Rabbi Yokhanan. Rabbi Paul calls Rabbis Kefa, Yaakov and Yokhanan, together with himself, “pillars” Gal 2:9 of their community. He went with Rabbi Kefa to pray in the Temple Acts 3:1–6 and appeared before the Sanhedrin to witness to the community’s faith in Rabbi Yeshua Acts 4:13, 19.
Rabbi Yokhanan is also said to be St. John the Evangelist, author of the Fourth Gospel. Pope Benedict XVI began his first encyclical letter Deus caritas est with St. John’s words, “God is love” 1 Jn 4:16. His emphasis goes far beyond saying, “God loves.” In these words John tells us that God is love. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” Jn 3:16. The Revelation bears his name at Rev 1:1, 4, 9; 22:8.
Catholic tradition also holds that Rabbi Yokhanan is the Apostle “whom Jesus loved” Jn 13:23; 20:2, 21:7, 20.