Sermon delivered July 15, 2000 by Pastor Donald J Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version NIV unless otherwise noted.

John: Son of Thunder Becomes Son of God

This past weekend we experienced a taste of Heaven. One of the joys of Heaven is when we see our loved ones again. Our family reunion was called Grovefest 2000. We met in Hartford City, Indiana near the big Grove of big shade trees where our family took root. Over a hundred family members attended.

In the late afternoon we took a walk to see our old stomping grounds. As we stood there in the grove my cousin Joe and I talked about the fearsome days when we had to contend with the local "gang." A nearby family, the Whitesells had eleven boys and some of them used to beat us up. They were bigger than I am which wouldn't take much! But they were bad news.

We had a brick bridge down by the road in our front yard by the creek. They would throw rotten tomatoes at cars and then quickly hide under the bridge. By the time the police came they were long gone. They tied a string of tin cans across the bridge and when a car came by it would drag those cans on down the street, making lots of noise. They tortured us and bloodied Joe and me so often. We built a nice tree house and they tore it down. They were a constant scourge upon us. One time I was out with my dog, Pud. They about killed my dog. Another time I was out in the back where there was a factory making overhead doors behind us. They took my buddy, David Cloer, and stuffed him in a pipe and then filled the pipe with sawdust. He thought he would die. I ran for help. Oh, the Whitesells! They were terrible!

So, at our reunion we walked by my little boyhood house in the grove and on to my Uncles old house and then on to my Grandmothers old home just up the hill and right beside everybody else. As we stood there we noticed that right across the street was a stone house with a mailbox that had the name, "Whitesell" on it. They have invaded our neighborhood. They used to live a long way away, five or six blocks. And here they are right across from my grandmother's house. This just can't be! As I got to looking I saw the garden behind the house and there working in the garden was my old enemy, Larry Whitesell. Joe and I asked what we should do. It was just him. So we went up to him. And he's still bigger than I am and he was pulling big weeds up out of his corn. He stood up and he pointed his finger at me and said, "I know you! You're Gettys, aren't you?" I said, "Yes. I remember you, too." I'll never forget. Anyway, we talked as he puffed away on a cigarette. He said that most of his brothers were dead now, over half of them. They were all about our age. Every year a new one. We finally left, and I'm always going to remember Larry as a son of thunder, because that's what it was.

You know, I think of Jesus over here in Mark 3. Jesus, the wisest person to walk this earth, in choosing His disciples, literally chose a son of Thunder! Look at the list: Mark 3:16,17 These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means Sons of Thunder)." They were the sons of thunder. That's what they were. [Boanerges - From the Chaldean - "Ben-Deqer," son of Deqer, and "regaz," violent anger, rage.] They were like the Whitesell gang.

I wonder what the Zebedee Family were like. Maybe like my rough and tough childhood bullies, the Whitesells. Sons of Thunder and lightening. Whenever they spoke their words were like the thunder and rain of a tremendous frog strangler! We used to called them "gully washers." Ray Lacey says, "They're not gully washers, they're frog stranglers. You're not from the South. I can tell by the way you tawk."

Anyway, John had a violent temper! He often flew off the handle. Look at Doctor Luke's account of an interesting story: Luke 9 You remember that the Jews hated the Samaritans. They were about as loathsome as a nest of scorpions. If you were a Jew and wanted to go from Galilee to Jerusalem you took a wide swing around Samaria. You didn't want to be there. But not Jesus! On Jesus last journey to Jerusalem, Jesus went through the forbidden territory. Notice the display of temper in the sons of Thunder: Luke 9:52-54 Jesus 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? can you see the spirit that John had? It was pretty bad, huh? Like the Whitesell gang. They were ready! The Samaritans would not allow Jesus to sleep in their village that night. They had no place to stay. There was no motel. Have you ever been in a town with no vacancies?

So, you can easily see that at first John in his zealousness was hot-tempered and fiery. He quickly flew off the handle and was willing to call on heavenly fire to vaporize their enemies. But I will tell you that God's way is not to vaporize sinners. God's way is to save sinners. Oh, what a God we have. I'm glad that God changed John. John did not say that way. John had serious faults. Faults with all their inherited and cultivated tendencies to evil. Jesus certainly did not choose heavenly angels as His followers. I want to tell you, I'm not a heavenly angel either, and neither are you. We're all like John. But we can grow, and I want you to notice how John grew. Remember that later on this high-spirited John became the sweetest, the most loving of all twelve of the disciples! He was the best.

The story of John gives me hope! I, too, have serious faults, but I can change. If John did so well, maybe there is hope for me. I have a long way to go. John had a long way to go.

In his early discipleship anything seemed to provoke John. He had a spirit of indignation and combativeness. Desire of Ages - EG White, p. 295 says: "Evil temper, revenge, the spirit of criticism, were all in the beloved disciple. He was proud, and ambitious to be first in the kingdom of God." And you recognize that story as well.

If you disagreed with Paul, he would probably argue with you all day. But if you disagreed with John in his early days, he would hotly condemn you and call down fire on your head.

John's mother wasn't the best, either. She demonstrated selfishness because she said to Jesus, "I want one of my sons sitting on this side of you and I want the other boy sitting on the other side of you." It's a bit selfish mother there. Zebedee's sons sitting beside Jesus.

So, young Boanerges, (Bo-ah-ner-gees. To have a name like that would be a boner, wouldn't it. John is much better), Jesus named him Boanerges. John was also intolerant and Jealous. Check out Mark 9:38-40 "Teacher," said John, "we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us." "Do not stop him," Jesus said. "No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us." I like Jesus. Ah, the spirit of Jesus!

As the youngest disciple, John was bigoted and hidebound. However Jesus, who sees the heart, saw something special in teenage John. In fact when Jesus looks at you, He doesn't see what you are, He sees the best that you can become. I love Jesus! John was looked at by Jesus and selected by Jesus because of his potential. He looked at John's potential, and Jesus sees the possibilities of good in you, and that's why He has chosen you. He doesn't criticize you, He see the potential of good in you. Jesus did not look at John as a hot Son of Thunder but Jesus looked at John's potential as a loving leader. Jesus sees the possibilities of good in each of us.

When Jesus first saw John He probably saw a strong deeply tanned, rugged, rough fisherman mending the nets. Youngster John was in the fishing business with his father Zebedee and his brother James and with Peter. Peter was a partner, according to Luke 5:10. They had a great fishing industry. You may say, "You're over exaggerating that. How do we know that? Notice Mark 1:19-20 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. Hired Men... Employees! This was more than just a small father and his two sons with Peter helping. This was more than that. They were daily involve in catching, curing, packing, selling, maybe shipping fish all over Palestine. They had employees. Eventually John's father may have retired and the partnership consisted of Peter, James and John. Isn't it interesting and natural that these life-long friends, these three buddies became the closest companions to Jesus? The partnership continued as they went into the fishing for men industry.

So how did this young man, John, with an evil temper and serious character faults become the most loving disciple of all? How did this happen? How did he experience such a great change? Well I think one of the reasons is that he was the youngest. Now you think about that. He possessed more of a child's confiding trust. In Mark 10:15, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." When you are young you do not have as many lifelong habits to overcome. You kids need to give your heart to Him while you're young. You kids need to follow Brian (We had a baptism this morning.) and be baptized while you're young. Dedicate yourself to Him. You're not set in your ways. Except you become as little children you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

I think one reason that John became the apostle of love more than the other eleven disciples was because he was the youngest. When you train someone at an early age they have longer to grow. Oh that this generation would wholly turn to Jesus. Please Do it while you are young, while your potential is unmolded. Young John quickly opened his heart to Jesus.

Desire of Ages - EG White, p. 295.5 "Day by day, in contrast with (John's) own violent spirit, he beheld the tenderness and forbearance of Jesus, and learned lessons of humility and patience. He opened his heart to the divine influence, and became not only a hearer but a doer of the Savior's words. Self was hid in Christ. He learned to wear the yoke of Christ and to bear His burden."

John yielded himself fully to the softening, subduing influence of the Master. Slowly, day by day he entered into a fellowship with Jesus that was deeper, richer, and higher than any of the other disciples. Finally at the last supper John was invited to sit at Jesus' side. Selfishness was gone. What a transformation!

John the son of thunder became a loving son of God. So, just how does mean bad thunder, that broke some branches off of my pear tree this week, and knocked my corn down this week, transform itself into warm loving sunshine? How did John change from being so bad to being the best?

#1. John spent time with Jesus.

Now, you may say, "Pastor, that's a weird one. All the disciples spent time with Jesus." I think John spent more time with Jesus, and I'm going to show you. Notice in John 1:38,39 (KJV) John spent time with Jesus. John and Jesus were just beginning to get acquainted. This is the first chapter of John. Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, "What seek ye?" They said unto him, "Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou?" He saith unto them, "Come and see." They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour.

Could Jesus be the Messiah? To find out they must be alone with Jesus and spend time with Jesus. So they asked if they could have an appointment with Jesus at His house. Immediately Jesus invited them home. There they abode with Him. Andrew and John left John the Baptist early that morning and spent all morning and most of the afternoon getting to know Jesus. The tenth hour, that was about 4 in the afternoon when they left, and they were never the same! Who spent all this time with Jesus? Not Judas! John spent the time and John reaped a rich blessing. So dear friend, Spend time with Jesus.


John became a daily learner at the feet of Jesus. He did not come to criticize Jesus like the Pharisees did, he sat at Jesus' feet to discover, to learn. To John the words of Jesus were full of freshness and truth and beauty. Can we replicate that experience? In this new millennium is it possible to sit at Jesus feet. Is it possible to listen to Jesus words? Yes!! How?

How do you sit at the feet of Jesus? Here in the year, two thousand, July 15, how do we sit at the feet of Jesus? I believe we sit at the feet of Jesus when we sit in front of His Word, every morning. I like to sit down and open the Word. I've got a bookmark on my bible at home, and I try to read a different version every time, study it through, rad the various helps with it and get as much as I can out of that text. I come into Jesus' presence and I sit there and His words flow into my hear and they change me. That's how it happens. I want you to know, as a congregation, I need you to pray for me. One weakness in my life I am trying to be absolutely truthful. And that's hard to do for me. Totally open and honest. It's something I'm working hard on. I want to become more and more like Jesus.


Maybe all of the disciples did. Maybe even Judas loved Jesus. I don't know. Maybe he loved money. But John loved Jesus. John wrote in I John 4:7,8 (You know he wrote beautiful books. His books are about the best books of the whole Bible.) Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

You can't know Jesus unless you love Jesus. The devil does not know Jesus at all. Satan can't know Jesus because he hates Him. But John came to know Jesus because he fell in love with Jesus. If you fall in love with Jesus, you'll never be the same.


He was absorbed in contemplating Jesus. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (KJV) But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image Whatever you're looking at that's what you're going to be like. The King James says that we become changed by beholding. The NIV says, we are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory., That's what beholding does. We humans change into what we behold. Meditate on Jesus. Reflect on Jesus. Read Jesus' words in your Bible. Pray to Jesus. Read inspired books about Jesus. Behold Jesus in nature.


I think you need to follow Jesus. I think that's a valid point. Follow Jesus. When you run with the wolves you will become wolf-like. When you associate with Jesus you become Christlike. Jesus became John's Savior and his Lord. His example. How do you follow Jesus? Search the Bible to discover what Jesus preferred and then modify your life accordingly. Pray that you will do Jesus' will in all things because you love Him.

John did these things and what was the result? John became the sweetest Christian in the whole Bible. John is my favorite Bible author. John wrote five whole books in the Bible that we would not have if John would have not been a disciple. He and he only became the apostle of love.

John was in the court yard when all the other disciples were gone, during Jesus' trial to support Jesus. John went in. Peter lingered outside. It was John who let him in. And then while John waited for Jesus, Peter denied Jesus three times. John was the only disciple who stood at the foot of the cross as Jesus paid the ransom for the sin of the world. Jesus gave His mother to John. John came to the tomb after Jesus was resurrected.

John entered into a fellowship with Jesus that was richer and deeper than any other of the disciples. John 21:20 makes an amazing statement. Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. John was the disciple that Jesus loved. After Pentecost John was placed in prison with Peter for preaching the gospel. Tradition tells us that John became a pastor of the church at Ephesus and later was like a conference president being in charge of all the churches in Asia Minor. Later in His life he was exiled on the island of Patmos as a prisoner where he wrote the last book of the Bible about his beloved Jesus. He was set free in 96 A.D. and died of natural causes in the second century long after the other disciples were long gone. John, and interesting man, wasn't he. He came to trust Jesus.

Friends, the same Jesus who called John two thousand years ago is just as willing to call His followers today. No matter what your character or how rough your background, Jesus can use you. Jesus can make you into a sweet loving Christian. Jesus can make you into a saint.

Our Savior specializes in trusting His highest treasures in the clay hands of His faulted disciples. II Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. John came to fully trust Jesus.

My wife and I attended the General Conference session in Toronto Canada last week and they gave us 2 hours off for supper. It doesn't take two hours to eat supper unless you're trying to gain weight. We decided that since the world's tallest free standing structure stood beside where we were. So we decided we would go and see it. We paid our money and went up a fast elevator to overlook the world.

Now, I hate heights! So does Cyndie! Here's the world's tallest building. So we go up there, and the elevator is on the outside of the building and as you're going up you're looking at the world getting smaller and smaller and we kind of slumped back to the edge of the elevator, you know, and hung on. I don't know why. And we went up there got out of the elevator and went outside and walked around the big place up there. There's a restaurant and everything. We did pretty good because there's a big stainless steel, strong fence with thin mesh that you couldn't even poke your hand through. We thought, "We're okay." But then we reached an area that had a glass floor. OOoooough! They wanted you to stand on this glass floor. Cyndie said, "I'm not going to do it!" I said, "I don't know if I am or not, either." But I thought, "I'm only here once in my whole life. I've never been here before." So I put a foot out, you know, and put some weight on that foot, and eventually put the other foot out there. Very gently I put my weight on the glass, one foot at a time. I could look straight down, almost a quarter of a mile, it seemed like. Nothing was between me and the concrete sidewalk far below except this glass. I don't know how thick it was. I have no idea. It didn't look very thick. And I eased off this pane of glass and I said, "Dear, you try it." "Oh no! Not me!" Well, finally Cyndie put one foot out there. She said, "Let me get a hold of you." Now here I am, standing back here on the floor and she easing out on the glass, got a hold of me. Well, why did she do that? If the glass broke I guess we'd just die together. So she eases out there and puts her weight on that glass and said, "I did it!" and backed right off.

Then the weirdest thing happened. In came some teenagers. These idiotic idiots run over and belly-flop right onto the glass! Lunatics! And then they get up an jump up and down on the glass. Who trusted the glass more? These idiots? I mean, these young people? What kind of trust does it take to be saved? Is it easier for young people to trust? Is it even easier for idiots to trust? John fully trusted Jesus.

You can taste what John experienced. We sons of thunder can be transformed into sons of love. Don't give up on us. Strive to enter into a closeness that Jesus wants to give you. Allow nothing between you and your Savior, and you will discover joy untold.

Hymn of Praise: #20, O Praise Ye the Lord
Scripture: Matthew 4:18-22
Hymn of Response: #322, Nothing Between 


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