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

“You misunderstand something, Matthew,” John insisted. “Jesus came not to banish sin by force. ‘He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.’”

“A little sheep?” Matthew sneered. “Then what happened to the mighty lamb of your vision? A proud horned ram, sitting with God on the throne, commanding worship? Able to remove the seven seals and open the scroll of war?”

“Yes, that’s what I wrote, but now I want to show you a different kind of lamb.”

“‘Worthy is the Lamb to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!’” Matthew sang.

“Listen!” John commanded sharply. “I have received a different vision these last fifteen years.”

Matthew ignored him. “When the real Messiah comes, he will stand on Mount Zion with 144,000 other great warriors! He will storm down into the plains of Armageddon and slay an army of 200 million! He will oversee the torment of evil sinners in burning sulfur! The smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever! That will be the reward of the sinful!

“Jesus did come to overthrow sin, but not by destroying the sinful! He came to atone for our sin!”

“‘Fall on us and hide us from the wrath of the Lamb!’” Matthew bawled, still quoting from John’s letter, unperturbed by the gawking families on the other side of the courtyard. Ruth cringed, shaking her head as the tension once again threatened to boil over.

Matthew stabbed his finger again. “That’s what the kings of the earth will cry to the rocks and the mountains!” Then he turned to Ruth and spoke in his expository tone. “Enoch wrote about a great horned bull that morphs into a lamb with black horns. That’s what the Baptizer talked about, a heroic victory by the lamb, purging the world of sin. I’ve memorized these Scriptures, Ruth. Enoch wrote: ‘Purify the earth from all oppression, from all injustice, from all crime, from all impiety, and from all the pollution which is committed upon it. Exterminate them from the earth. Then shall all the children of men be righteous, and all nations shall pay me divine honors, and bless me; and all shall adore me. The earth shall be cleansed from all corruption, from every crime, from all punishment, and from all suffering.’”

John tried again, his own voice beginning to rise. “That may be what the Baptizer imagined, Matthew, but—”

And the Testament of Joseph tells how the lamb overcomes evil beasts and crushes them underfoot. So that’s the kind of lamb John saw in his vision fifteen years ago, and—”

Oy, a broch! I was wrong, you tiresome gnat!” John finally shouted back, rising up on one elbow and betraying a fire that should no longer live in one so old and skinny. Then he winced and turned his face in shame, blowing a sigh through pursed lips. “I mean, everything I wrote of my vision came true, but not in the way we expected. Please, Matthew. Listen to me.”

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

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