Book Excerpt: John’s Gospel: The Way It Happened

“He didn’t come.”

The old man blinked and said nothing.

“He’s not coming back for us, is he? The Temple will never be rebuilt.”

“Matthew, you must write again. You must write a new gospel. I will give you the words.”

“I cannot.” Matthew nervously stroked his beard, then caught himself and dropped his hand to avoid calling attention to the sorry little patch of oversized whiskers on his chin. Twenty-eight years old and still he couldn’t outgrow his baby face into a proper Jew.

He shifted his weight, folding his arms inside his cloak, and stared resolutely down at the man, a fellow Jew quietly dying. Goatskin stretched between two parallel poles that rested upon a stack of bricks at one end and a log at the other formed a makeshift cot for the weathered old man. Matthew recognized the brick pile from fifteen years ago, now overgrown with moss, for this was the very dirt courtyard in which he had carved wooden swords and triumphed over dragons and Romans. In those days, good was good and evil was evil. The best days of his life. The mud-brick home of his childhood stood but a few feet away. Little had changed, but nothing felt the same.

The wind shuffled leaves around Matthew’s boots as he waited for a reply. “I cannot write it,” he repeated. “If Jesus came not as Messiah, then his life was a lie. God no longer takes our side.”

–John’s Gospel: The Way It Happened, 2013, prologue, by Lee Harmon

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