What Happened? (Part 1)

By DeLano Sheffield

April 3, 2024

Scripture — Mark 1:16-20 (NRSV)

As he went along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew, Simon’s brother, casting a net into the sea (for they were fishermen). Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will turn you into fishers of people!” They left their nets immediately and followed him. Going on a little farther, he saw James, the son of Zebedee, and John his brother in their boat mending nets. Immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.


What happened to John’s leadership between young John and old John?  How did he become the John we read who walked with the creator of the world but said of those who read his letter “I have no greater joy than this”? John’s journey gives us a pattern that humbles our journey and gives us hope for where we are headed.


When you compare a much older John to this moment in Mark 1, it begs the question—what happened along the way? By the time John is much older, Polycarp and others will see John as a caring man who balances truth and love. History will call him the Apostle of Love. And his own writing will demonstrate leadership.

An older John penned the words “I, John, your brother and the one who shares with you in the persecution, kingdom, and endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony about Jesus” (Revelation 1:9).

An older John wrote to predominately Gentile recipients and left out any words of hierarchy or superiority but said “I have no greater joy than this: to hear that my children are living according to the truth.” (3 John 4)

An older John did not lead as one who had special knowledge since he walked with the risen savior, saw Jesus resurrected, or was given a commission that evolved into the title Apostle.  Nor did he lead as though he had arrived; instead he reminded all the recipients of his letter, “Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that whenever it is revealed we will be like him, because we will see him just as he is” (1 John 3:2).

This is not where John started. Anyone who leads in a recognized position or knows they have influence and stewards that responsibility, regardless of a title, knows that nobody starts like this. But where John’s life ended with respect to care, joy, and hope in leadership is a good goal for everyone. John does not have a “you brought that on yourself, that’s not my problem; travel well and stay warm in your suffering” tone.

Where he could have relegated his joy to knowing that he both walked with Jesus and literally saw the resurrection, he stated that there was no greater joy than others knowing that Savior also. Where he could have basked in the joys of his countless experiences of glory, all the wonderful things he had seen, and his hands had touched, and all the things that were to come—instead, he condescended himself and assured others that no one had arrived; not even John.

In all of John’s experience, clear superiority, and maturity, he somehow managed to maintain a practical “us” with the common folk. He managed to maintain practical unity in word and deed and if you know the written pieces of John—aside from the failures that aren’t written in scripture—it should lead every person to ask “What happened?” And if we dig into that answer through the scriptures, it might lead to a better understanding for every believer in our own leadership process also.


What are the characteristics of leadership you see in John in 1, 2, and 3 John and Revelation?

What ingredients are there in love based on the same scriptures?


Write an expanded definition of how love works in leadership based on your reflection. How does love inform your leadership? What does this mean in your context? Be careful about whether your definition is something you haven’t arrived at.


I am so grateful for your use of people in Scripture who demonstrate that the journey is included in your providence and grace. Help us all to become people who do not fail to remember this as we help each other along the way. Amen.

Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: The Calling of the First Disciples (Mark 1:16-20).

DeLano Sheffield

Author & Business Resource Specialist

DeLano J. Sheffield is the Business Resource Specialist for Goodwill of MoKan where he connects to people on the fringes, training them to reach their full potential through learning and the power of work; he also is on the frontlines of the advances of the fourth industrial revolution and coa...

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