([Jesus] appointed the twelve:) Simon, whom he named Peter; James, son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James, whom he named Boanerges, that is, sons of thunder . . . (St. Mark 3:17).
I contemplated this passage for some time, mulling over the idea that Jesus chose such unlikely characters to become His disciples -- like John and James, the "sons of thunder."
And sons of thunder they were. For example, in St. Luke, chapter 9, Jesus and the Twelve were on their way to Jerusalem, so He sent His disciples ahead to prepare overnight lodging in Samaria, which was on the way. But the Samaritans refused them because Jesus was headed toward Jerusalem. Samaritans and Jews shared a long history of mutual distrust and enmity.
James and John were incensed that the Samaritans had rebuffed their Lord, so they said to Jesus, "Do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?"
Nice guys, huh?
But I think one of the reasons the Lord Jesus selected His disciples was not because of what they were, but because of what they could be. And so, years later the same John who was known as Thunder became known as the disciple of Love. In his first epistle, John uses the word "love" more than 30 times. Here is one such verse: "If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen (1 John 4:20).
And here is another: For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another (1 John 3:11).
But what does this all mean for you or me? I think it is this: Who you and I are now are not the same people Jesus knows we can be tomorrow.
And how does that happen? How does one change from what we don't want to be to what we should be? The disciple John kept close to the Lord's side, day by day, year after year, throughout the rest of his life. And in so doing became like Him.
Likewise it will be for us if we do the same.