Jesus: Introvert, Part 2

“Blake just doesn’t say much.” I must have heard my mother say this 20 times about my taciturn nephew. Indeed, Blake is not a big conversationalist. He’s not one for big parties with loads of different people. He hangs out with a few friends, and actually has conversations with them, which would surprise my mother. Blake, unlike the extrovert Simon Peter, who we considered yesterday, is almost certainly an introvert.

When Jesus was calling disciples, He knew He would soon be telling them to

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. –Matthew 28:19-20

Doesn’t it make sense that, knowing He would give them such an instruction and depend on them to carry the good news to far-flung people and places, he would pick extroverts like Peter? Perhaps, but as Susan Cain’s book Quiet explains, extroverts are not the only ones who can get things done. If she is right about how introverts and extroverts can complement each other, then we should expect that Jesus would have selected some introverts for His team. I want to suggest that we need look no further than John to find such a follower.

Now before I make my case, I’d like to take up a couple of details that would seem to argue against John as an introvert. In Luke 9:54, brothers James and John ask Jesus if they should call down fire on an unfriendly village. Is that the action of an introvert? This question misunderstands the nature of introverts. They are not always passive or gentle or silent. I can easily imagine John talking with a close friend, his own brother, and then, after consideration, bringing this idea to Jesus. The same sort of thing could be said about John forbidding someone not of their group from casting out demons in Jesus’ name (Luke 9:49).

But what positive evidence do I have for John as an introvert. My first and strongest argument would come from his gospel. John’s gospel is remarkably different from the others. Mark, traditionally the gospel most associated with Peter, is almost all action. Where Peter the extrovert was drawn to events, John the introvert thought things through carefully and thoroughly. There are, of course, events in John’s gospel, but they are placed amid much more of Jesus’ teaching and preaching. No other gospel writer has anything approaching the philosophical altitude of John’s first chapter.

John also, with those exceptions noted above, is willing to stand back and let others act or speak. He’s with Peter in a number of situations, but he always lets Peter take the lead.

John is known as “the Beloved disciple.” Why? Was he being vain when he referred to himself as the disciple Jesus loved? I’d like to think that maybe Jesus was drawn more closely because John, unlike Peter, knew how to shut up or have a thoughtful conversation.

None of that, of course, proves anything about Jesus being an introvert. I’ll need to wait until tomorrow to deal with that.