For as long as I can remember, I have been addicted to supernatural thrillers, and Bill Myers is one of the authors who helped me feed that addiction as a teen. His latest work, The Judas Gospel, does not disappoint and proves to me that his adult works are just as engaging as his young adult works.
Judas Iscariot, a character we think of as evil and manipulative, is allowed to come back to earth to try to show Jesus that he could have put Jesus on top of the world, controlling the government and making Him famous. Judas, using the name Jude Miller, is allowed to try his plan on a young girl, Rachel Delacroix, who is being raised as a prophetess in our own day and time. Rachel has recently discovered she has the gift of healing, but is hindered from using it both by a debilitating fear and her protective father, who thinks Rachel isn’t ready to use her gifts. She is haunted by the deaths of her mother and little sister, for which she feels responsible. Perhaps because of that and the resulting time spent in a psychiatric facility, Rachel is unable to talk to anyone except family, a condition the author calls “selective mutism.” More recently though, she has been having nightmares about murders committed against the local law enforcement before they happen. She tries to warn them by telling the police about her dreams in a letter, but she becomes the main suspect. Jude uses this to his advantage to generate sympathy for Rachel in order to raise money. He begins to promote her on TV and though he seems to truly care about the people, he is using her and her gifts to make even more money. Meanwhile, everyone close to Rachel is pulling away from her and her gift seems to be disappearing. Also the murders are not stopped or solved, and the question remains, how does she know so much about the murders? Could she really be the culprit?
The main theme of The Judas Gospel seems to be that the church has transitioned from being a fellowship of people centered on Christ, to an enterprise centered on selling the gospel as entertainment. However, as I read this story, I did not feel as though I were being preached at or that the author was pushing his agenda on me. Rather I was on the edge of my seat, waiting to see how the story itself would unfold. The thriller aspect was taut and well written, making me want to keep reading to find out what was going to happen. The supernatural aspect portrayed our own free will, as well as the spirits that war over us. It shows how Scripture can be twisted to suit whatever a person wants to say or do, and miss what God was really trying to say. Both of these elements came together seamlessly into one story, and although the ending was satisfying, it was not a normal happy ending, which I appreciated. We are left with the thought, “Our loving Father is not interested in groups or clubs. He really isn’t even interested in religion. He's only interested in you.”
Mr. Myers has said he likes to write books that make you think, and I feel he has accomplished that with this book. He says he keeps notebooks full of an idea for years, continually collecting thoughts and opinions, research and facts, and when he feels it is time to release those ideas to the world, he wraps them in a thrilling story so as to make them taste better going down.
I had a hard time putting this book down...it really wasn't what I expected. Rachel has been traumatized by the deaths of her Mother and younger Sister. She has visions, some quite violent and makes predictions. She is then given the gift of healing. Wherein enters Judas Martin, he has found a golden opportunity. The other main character is Sean who is raising his handicapped son alone after his wife has passed away. He is just beginning a new career as a policeman. The book to me does have a surprise ending, and Rachel has to come to terms with what God wants her to do with her Gifts.
Bill Myers is an author who likes to stir things up in his novels and he certainly does so in this one. Judas thought Jesus had done it all wrong. He has a plan to market the gospel. He petitions God for another chance. What would happen if Judas came back? Rachel is a Black nineteen year old girl who was traumatized when her mother and sister were killed in a house fire. She doesn't talk, except to those she trusts. She lives with her father, an accountant and the preacher of a small inner city church. Rachel used to see things. She had dreams but they stopped after the fire. Then Mr. Jude Miller shows up at church and Rachel has the power again. A young child is healed by Rachel's touch. She dreams, seeing the murder of the assistant chief of police. She writes a letter to the police department but will not talk to the officers who want to question her. The police suspect her. And then she has another dream and there has been another murder. Jude Miller is busy promoting Rachel's gift and people flock to the small church. He knows how to draw in the people desperate for a touch from God. He's slick. He is good at marketing the gospel. He is good at convincing Rachel she must use the gifts God has given her. He gets her on a glitzy Christian TV show. She heals people. She is a sensation. She hardly notices that she no longer has any sense or feeling of God's presence. Then things aren't going to well for Rachel. The healings don't “work.” Her dad has a stroke and she is powerless to help him. And then she has another dream. There will be another murder. Can she convince anyone who is really behind the murders? But there is evil out there. Someone wants Rachel dead. The evil controls him and has formed a plan.
This book got my emotions going. When Rachel is taken in by the glitzy Christian TV host, the phoniness of it, the marketing of Jesus...it made me angry. But then I realized it was nothing that we do not see on TV today! Myers says much of the televangelist sections are based on interviews and personal behind-the-scene observations. A book discussion group would have much to discuss with this novel (discussion questions are provided at the end of the book). Is God active in the world today, healing, revealing, etc? Is it right to use the ways of the world to promote the gospel? And those are just a couple of the topics found in this novel. I received an egalley from the publisher for the purpose of this review.