Of the 12 Apostles appointed by Jesus, 10 of them died as martyrs. Judas, the traitor, took his own life. But the last Apostle to die, John, met a very different fate. Living nearly to the very end of the 1st century, he died of natural causes – and it was because of an amazing miracle.
Tradition says John was the author of the cryptic bookend of the New Testament, Revelation, as well as the three New Testament letters and Gospel that bear his name. In the latter, he’s described as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” and is charged by Jesus on the cross to care for his mother Mary. He’s also believed to have been the youngest Apostle. This partially explains why scholars think he lived all the way until around A.D. 95.
But if Peter was crucified upside down, Thomas was impaled with a spear, and Jude Thaddeus was killed with arrows (just to list how a few of the Apostles were killed) – how in the world did John escape a similar fate for such a long time?
The answer: The authorities did try to kill John in a gruesome way – but God didn’t let them.
The story goes that after the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (for whom John was caring), John was arrested by the authorities and taken to Rome, where he was sentenced to death.
The prescribed method of execution? Being plunged into boiling hot oil in front of a crowd of spectators at the Colosseum.
The fires were set under the pot, the oil was boiling, and John was brought out. Guards picked him up and then forcibly plunged him into the scalding liquid.
That’s when something amazing happened. Rather than see a man be brutally boiled to death, the crowd witnessed a miracle: John stood in the oil completely unharmed!
Some versions of the story say that many or even all of the spectators converted because of what they saw. The Roman ruler, furious and embarrassed that he was unable to kill John, decided instead to have him banished to the small Greek island of Patmos.
But God redeemed even John’s banishment: it was there on Patmos that John received the vision he transcribed in the New Testament book of Revelation.
At some point, John was able to leave Patmos and travel back to Ephesus, where he died of natural causes. Given all that had happened, it was truly miraculous that he did.
[See also: 11 of the Best #ThingsJesusNeverSaid]
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