(Danny Iny and his team talk about defining your one person, the person you are thinking about as you write. I started thinking about which of the disciples would I write for if I had to pick one. It was actually pretty easy to choose.)
John is younger than most of his peers. He works in a family business with his dad and older brother. They are in a town of about 1500. It’s larger than several other villages in the area. It is a base of operations for the taxing and police operations of the nation that has conquered John’s country. The political traffic through this town may be why John has significant ties in the nation’s capital, a hundred miles away.
John is very interested in spiritual matters. He’s not particularly satisfied with the formal worship and teaching structure in his hometown. As a result, when there is an opportunity to take an internship with a wandering prophet, John goes. And when that prophet points to another teacher as the true spiritual teacher, John follows immediately. He wants to know the truth.
That said, he’s not outspoken. He follows his older brother James, and an outgoing friend named Peter. Of the three, John is mentioned last.
When we read his writing, he doesn’t repeat the metaphorical stories that made up much of the public discourse of their teacher, unlike the other three biographers. However, he has a remarkable memory for the names and comments of his colleagues. People who are never mentioned by the other writers are identified often. And John writes extended accounts of conversations that people have with Jesus. A Samaritan woman, a blind man, a religious leader coming at night. John notices people and their connectedness.
And he vividly remembers the final teaching of the final night. As he says often, he and the others didn’t understand everything they heard until much later, but John was listening, reflecting, processing.
It’s possible that just as Peter is the kind of person that speaks first and often, John is the person who speaks last, and wisely.