Blind and exiled, the disciple John is passing his existence on the isle of Patmos with a small band of devoted followers. Well, at least they started that way, but now with the monotony of waiting, prickles of doubt surge. John spends his time remembering the days he walked with the Master and the Revelation he received. What are the others doing? They came because they heard of his previous preaching, how he cured thousands and could not be killed. Williams occasionally adds a poetic touch to the narrative account: “Ten thousand miles were in his feet, dust of all creation.”
But the darkness of temptation and uncertainty arises to haunt those who have tired of waiting for the Messiah to return. For Papias, can he heal and save a woman and her husband? After all, if we all carry the Divine as John teaches, can one not convey the same power as the Master? Matthias is a strong speaker who is tired of enduring John’s exile, and with time passing comes to believe that Jesus was no more than a powerful prophet. Will John speak to this disunity and to the strongly looming sense of despair rising on the barren isle? What will they do when the Emperor dies and they are free to return to Ephesus? Will there be a triumphant entry or a parting of the ways for all?
John is a sometimes tension-packed, sometimes bleak retelling of this pivotal period preceding the vision that led the “favorite disciple” to create the gospel still being read and followed today. But how could it have been anything else during that time between the death of the Master and the rise of what came to be known as the Christian church?