Saturday 3 August 2013

John's Gospel: The Way It Happened by Lee Harmon


The Preexis T en T Chris T
I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. —Revelation 21:6
Ruth reappeared from the door of the house with a writing board and quill. She produced an empty scroll from under her arm, sat down upon a wooden stool near John, and with a defiant glance toward Matthew, said one word: “Ready.”
“Thank you, Ruth! But first, Matthew, tell me what brings you back to Ephesus?”
“No, you go first, John. Why are you here at the home of Ruth’s mother? I hardly expected to find you here. You’re in no condition to travel.”
“Should I not visit my flock, so long as I live? And also, I’d heard you were arriving.”
“Me? You came to see me?”
John shrugged. “I came to see the son of Samuel.”
“Well, you may see my father as well, then.” Matthew pointed to a limestone ossuary near the gate, making no attempt to hide the scowl on his face. “I bring his bones home to where he lived, where he last found happiness. He’ll be buried here in Ephesus.”
“Your father died?” John rolled onto a shoulder to stare across the courtyard at the modest, undecorated box. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know.” “I’m not surprised. You keep yourself quite separated here, John.” John made a face. “These are my people. My sheep.” He waved a hand at the expanse of Asia Minor.
“Yes. Well.” Matthew still scowled, wondering if this were a good time to make his exit. But where would he go? To John, he replied as politely as he could manage, “I know how close you were to my father, but his spirit left months ago.”
“It’s good that he died in Judea. To be buried in Jerusalem is like being buried under the altar, right? Why did you move his bones from there?”
Matthew’s scowl turned into a sneer. “Oh, we didn’t last long in Jerusalem. It remains a sorry excuse for God’s city, still in shambles from the war. You may remember, John—we left Ephesus heading for Jerusalem just shortly after your vision, because my father could no longer support us with his bricklaying business. He broke ties with the trade guild, you know, at the temple of Artemis.”
“Yes, I know,” John said simply.
Matthew’s eyes flashed bitterness before he continued. “They called us heathen here, John! Heathen! Because my father believed in Christ rather than their deified caesars! Christians are hated here in Ephesus.” Because you taught us to deny the gods and customs of this land, Matthew avoided saying aloud. “My father could no longer find work, except among your Christians, who could not support us. So we left.”
“Samuel always wanted to return to Jerusalem.”
“Yes, he did. He spoke of it often to me. ‘God’s city,’ he called it. ‘The Holy City’! ‘The bride of Christ’! A miserable joke. We did not stay there long but returned to Syria and settled in Antioch.”
Ruth spoke now, her voice taking on a milder tone. Matthew’s apparent pain had chased the tease away. “You know, John, they have additional gospels in Syria now. Two more works of God, two more anonymous gifts—tributes to the life of our Christ.”1
“Yes, I am aware,” John nodded, glancing at Matthew. He clearly knew Matthew to be the origin of one of the two, though he gave no indication of approval or disapproval. Steering the conversation back on track, he asked Matthew, “How are the Christians in Antioch?” “They struggle, like here. Christians are no longer welcome in the
synagogues. I went to a service with my father a few days before he died. He wished to experience one last Sabbath, sharing the rituals of our God in the synagogue, so we endured the stares and joined the congregation. The president noted our arrival and asked me to lead us in the Amidah, the common prayer.”
“And you did?”
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Genre – Religion / Christianity
Rating – G
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