Judas Iscariot...the name of Judas conjures up the ultimate betrayer. What could possibly bring him to such a vile decision to betray Jesus? Tosca Lee brilliantly captures Judas' life; why he chose to follow Jesus when he was a respected scholar, what he witnesses day after day being near and speaking with Jesus. You will be captivated by every nuance of Judas' story as he walked with Jesus and Judas' history that led him to that point. Why did Jesus choose the path that he chose, from angering those in esteemed positions by not just allowing those who were "unclean" near him, but encouraging their presence? Judas struggled to understand Jesus' motives and questioned them all along the way. The places where you question how and what Jesus did are brilliantly speculated by Tosca Lee in the amazing story of Iscariot.
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Is it possible to give a 10 star rating on a 5 star scale? If not, it should be, because Iscariot deserved it! What a fantastic read! I loved the way Tosca Lee presents Judas without ever glorifying him and yet she totally glorified Jesus. The story caused me to fall more in love with Jesus just by her representation of his amazing love and devotion. Ms. Lee is an amazing author already, but Iscariot took her writing to a new dimension of outstanding. This book will knock the socks off any reader.
This book is well written and makes the reader think. Tosca Lee has a way of bringing the characters to life and drawing the reader in. This is one of the few fictional books that I have recommended to my husband to read. Well-researched and awesome for bible studies.
Jesus absolutely comes alive on these pages - many times I was in awe with tears. I have read "Demon" and "Havah" and Lee is meticulous in her historical and theological research. Her books challenge you to study the Word for yourself and give you creative imagination in that which the bible is silent. You will learn so much about the particular culture and Jewish expectations which Jesus entered into when He walked the earth. But like previous reviewer "Patrick" I struggled with the depiction of Judas. In the book of Luke 6:26, Judas is said to be "faithless" & "traitor". I looked up as many scriptures I could find on Judas and not all of them fit Tosca's rendition of Judas. Lee paints her Judas as torn between his love for Jesus and his own struggles, but might the Judas of the bible be a man that never really accepted Jesus as the Messiah? That went through the motions, playing the part of a disciple, but never truly believing, trusting and relying on the One that could save him? As Judas ends his life, does Lee imply that Judas is perhaps repentive? Or, perhaps, was Judas, not unlike so many tares among the wheat today, one that sits in our churches and has never truly acknowledged sin, abhorring that sin that separates us from a Holy God and thirsting to know the Son intimately as the only hope from the Day of Wrath? Judas walked and talked and ate with Jesus, saw the miracles, heard the words of Life, looked in the eyes of God Himself and never really knew Him. He was blinded and his heart was deceived. It's surely a worthy read, but let the bible alone dictate the true story to you. Let it challenge you to sift through the inconsistencies and study for yourself, and finally to "examine yourself to see if you are in the faith." 2 corin. 13:5.
It is late as I pen these words. The light should have been long turned out but I'm afraid I won't be able to call it a night with these thoughts pressing in my mind and begging for release after turning the last page of Lee's Iscariot. The first thought that honestly came to mind was: I'll not be taking this journey again anytime soon. It took me one transforming month to go through it and let me warn you that this mere, five star review does not do the book justice. I was not even planning on reading Iscariot at first, until I saw the trailer and a question the author asked ringed in my head: Would I have done the same as Judas?
Scandalous, tenebrous, yet nonetheless grandly written, Iscariot is a masterpiece that unfolds through the broken pieces of hearts, transcending even my wildest comprehension of what we call the Gospel. It refuses to be limited by religious barriers. It is unlimited, restless and wild in its search for peace. It challenges the reader time and time again and you will not be able to avoid the questions it asks. Tosca Lee proves with this work that she is a force to be reckoned with in Christian fiction.
The Judas presented in this novel is a man who constantly wrestles with doing his or God's will. A strict follower of the law, a man starving for the approval of others, of someone, of God, he suddenly throws all caution to the wind when he chooses to follow a mysterious Man, desperately seeking for a sign that The Lord has not abandoned him. Rumour has it that this Jesus is the Messiah. Elation and fear both claim Judas as he beholds what no man in Israel has seen before. Miracles ranging from healing the sick, to calling the dead, the demon-possessed out of the mouth of captivity. Desperation, confusion and pain are Judas and the disciples' companions many days. The Son of man comes, wreaking havoc in every last piece of security and sanity they were hanging on to in trying to do the right thing, and giving no hint as to what He is about to accomplish, Jesus simply tells the disciples to follow him. Judas feels torn between his loyalty to this new Lord, his family, the law. He constantly reasons within himself : I am unclean. My past is unclean, my heart is unclean, following this man, according to the law, is unclean.... but this is where freedom is. Where Love is. Where this manner of Man named Jesus is. An unpredictable man. A man carrying more sorrows than any man should ever be allowed. Oh- so- needed according to Judas, who refers to him as His greatest friend. Jesus is compassion. Jesus reaches out and understands, but He's also as dangerous as fire. He is danger, repeatedly thinks Iscariot as the disciples carry him away from crowds ready to stone him, because of his parables and brazen words. Yet in the midst of the pain, confusion and dizziness, to the bone-weary followers He constantly asks : Do you love me? This question among many other elements in the story sprung to my eyes like tears many times. Iscariot is a battle between Heaven and Hell. Between the destiny and the destined. Between my will and His. A love story forgotten but brought back to life. A story between Him and me.
Exceptional writing. Funny moments many times throughout, and overall a very powerful tale.
Tosca has done it again! This book was so amazing in more ways that I can think to share. It touched on emotions within myself that brought me to tears and had me yet again praising God for his devotion to us. The way Tosca shows Jesus and portrays the times is not only accurate but relational on so many levels - she has a way of making things really real yet at the same time she does a phenomenal job in the fictional aspect of the story. Two thumbs up!
Fisrt, I really enjoyed the part where we can see Jesus more in a "day to day" fashion. Seeing Jesus break all conventions and just not teaching the truth but actually BEING the truth and the heart of God in action. It was simply amazing and so refreshing to me.
Secondly though, there are several discrepancies such as saying that Judas entered the court with Peter when it is known to be John who entered with Peter, such as Jesus weeping when he was with Martha when he weeped when he was with Mary instead (when Lazarus died), etc... These are no big deals but I don't see the point of changing these facts.
But the big issue with me is depicting Judas as a good guy and a deep lover of Jesus who just wanted to save him from death but "simply" made a mistake doesn't make any sens at all.
1) Judas was a thief and was greedy. The events around John 12:6 make it clear. He wasn't just using money for legitimate purposes.
2) Satan entered Judas in the upper room. The main open door for evils spirits are sins. Satan couldn't have entered him if he was only a good motivated guy trying to save jesus' life.
3) Jesus said that the one who delivered him to Pilate made a greater sin than Pilate himself. Jesus wouldn't have said that if Judas was pure in heart and in his motive but just misleaded.
When Jesus said he was about to be betrayed, he meant it. He said what he meant and it meant what he said. He didn't mean that someone is about to make a major mistake motivated by love for him. Judas BETRAYED Jesus. It didn't just look as a betrayal, it WAS a betrayal.
Anyway, great book worth to read but the Judas depicted here doesn't fit the Judas of the Bible in my opinion.
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Review 7 for Iscariot - eBook
GREAT read, especially before Easter!
Date:March 18, 2013
Tosca Lee does her homework! And her insight into the times and traditions brings reality to her work. Gave me lots to think about while enjoying the entertaining story line.
As a big fan of Tosca Lee, I couldn't wait to get my hands on this book. I did wonder what I would find, yet knowing that Lee does extensive research for all her biblical fiction gave a trust factor that allowed me to walk into this book with an open mind and heart.
It is intriguing to think that there could be more to the story of history's greatest betrayer and to do so in fiction seems a safe enough place to do it. Lee did an amazing job portraying Judas' possible emotional motivations for what he did. I won't give more detail because that would reveal too much.
I wasn't always comfortable with how Jesus was portrayed but then reminded myself that this was all through Judas Iscariot's perception and point of view, which only makes even more believable. I can't even imagine the challenge this was for the author to write, but I'm not surprised that Lee tackled it and did a great job. Her talent speaks for itself.
Tosca Lee in her new book, "Iscariot" published by Howard Books gives us a A Novel of Judas.
From the back cover: The story you thought you knew.
"They will say that I betrayed Him, that I reduced His price to thirty silver shekels. That I turned against my master. They do not know me."
Judas Iscariot. History has called him many things: Thief. Liar. Traitor. Reviled throughout history and infamous for his suicide, he is the man whose very name is synonymous with betrayal.
And the only disciple that Jesus called "friend".
From the acclaimed bestselling author of Havah: The Story of Eve, "Iscariot" is a compelling portrait of Biblical history's most maligned character-from his tumultuous childhood to his emergence as the man known to the world as the betrayer of Jesus. But even more, it is an extraordinary view into the life of Jesus that forces us to reexamine everything we thought we knew about the most famous--and infamous--religious icons in history.
Told in first person narration "Iscariot" takes us from when Judas was six years old all the way to when he commits suicide after betraying Jesus to the Pharisees. I was fascinated with the idea that Ms. Lee had written a whole book about the betrayer of Jesus and could not even imagine what she could find to write about that would even interest us. Now I know. Ms. Lee has presented an extremely thoughtful story that shows why Jesus picked this man to be one of the original twelve disciples. Not only that he was also the treasurer for the group. He was valued and trusted not only by Jesus but by the other eleven as well. Once we put aside our revulsion on what he did then this book becomes a fascination story that gives us history that is not presented in the Bible, mostly because these events were known a the time of the writing of the Bible. Ms. Lee has given us a wonderfully engaging story.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Howard Books. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
This book is amazing. What a writer and what a book. It's taken me a while to read it because I can only read a few chapters of it at a time. In most books, that's a bad thing, but not this one. I can only read a bit at a time because this book breaks my heart every time I read it.
Suppose -- just suppose mind you -- that Judas Iscariot wasn't the wolf in sheep's clothing that we always thought he was. Suppose he was someone who loved Jesus as much as any of us or perhaps even more? What if his story didn't end in betrayal and suicide?
And yet it does end that way (no spoiler there, she starts the novel with his death). That's what makes this story so heartbreaking. So how does she make Judas a sympathetic character and yet keep the ending believable? Because Tosca Lee is an amazing storyteller. Ah. Maz. Zing! For this is not only Judas' story, it's a story of Jesus as well.
If you want to explore how much you love Christ, read this book. If you think you bear no resemblance at all to Judas Iscariot, read this book. It will open your eyes and yes, probably break your heart.
Thanks to The DeMoss Group for providing a copy for me to review.
Brave, passionate and fearless are three words that I would choose to describe both the author Tosca Lee and her new novel Iscariot, A Novel of Judas. I think it takes a true master and someone who is willing to take a major risk to write a novel like this. And take risks she did. But I think unequivocally the risk paid off as Iscariot is an amazing literary work that takes us on Judas’ journey with Jesus in a way that was so heartfelt and yes, heartbreaking, I mean, how can it not be? Personally I think it’s very tough to take a story where everyone knows the ending and the ending is not a good one, but still make it a compelling read. Tosca Lee does this so well and I really appreciated the journey and feel that everyone who reads this book will look at Judas a little differently.
Judas is portrayed as someone who was always searching- searching for a true messiah. And with much heartache and tragedy to show for this search, his story unravels in an intricately done way. He loses vastly important people to him, and his grief and guilt play a major role in shaping him as a man. His search for a messiah and search for love draw him to this person of Jesus. Along with Tosca’s portrayal of Judas, I loved how she wrote Jesus as well. His amazing love for his disciples and the people around him showed through beautifully, as well as the absolute desperation for why he came to us. I think the thing I most loved about this portrayal of Judas though, is the fact that he loved Jesus, but still even with that love there was his constant battle between what he grew up knowing as the law versus what he saw before him in the person of Jesus.
Another aspect of this novel that I found utterly compelling was Judas’ “fall”- so different from how I have ever pictured it, I think that most of us have just left Judas as a 2 dimensional character- “he’s the bad guy who betrayed Jesus”, but Tosca brings him alive and we can see him and understand him and empathize with him and yes, even see ourselves in him. He like so many of us was a man deceived and with that deception came ultimate destruction.
Finally, I would like to urge you to read the author’s note at the end of the book- it is fascinating to read Tosca’s journey as she wrote this book. I loved the questions that she wrestled with to bring this character of Judas to life; especially with regards to grace- are there no limits? Truly this last bit of the book puts a period at the end of the story, which is why I mention it- I always feel that if we get a further look into the heart of the author with regards to their work that it broadens our understanding. In the usual Tosca Lee style she brings beautiful prose to this book as well as an intense realness to the situations. I found it to be masterful, compelling storytelling and a story that I will remember for a long time.
I was given a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.
I love it when great writers take the time to completely research a project if they are going to write a historical fiction novel. It's even better for me as a reader when I can get my hands on a greatly researched and well-thought out biblical historical fiction. When they can take me by the hand and transport me back into history and allow me to walk side by side with a character, it truly helps me understand them better and what may have motivated them to make the decisions they did. Such is the case in the latest novel from Tosca Lee in Iscariot: A Novel of Judas. She provides an in depth look at what the life of Judas Iscariot may have been like and attempts to fill in the missing holes to help us understand why someone who was invited into the sacred circle of being one of the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ, could easily sell him out to the men who wanted to kill him.
It provided me with a different view point. First of all by tackling the difficult process of establishing the time period where Judas would have grown up in. What was really happening in the world? Why was there such a great fear from the Roman's from the Jews? What was life really like living back in Israel so long ago and what might have life been like looking at these circumstances through the lives of one of the most notorious biblical men in history? I have to say, I completely applaud Tosca Lee. Too often it's hard to label people just based on one side of the facts. We obviously know more happened that just what the writers of the gospels have to say, and I think she filled in the holes masterfully.
I never realized just how difficult it was growing up for Judas. How difficult it was to deal with all the backlash from the Romans towards the Jewish people. If just a handful of people voiced their concerns against the Romans and caused conflict, they were dealt with harshly, either imprisoned or crucified. Sometimes even entire cities were may to pay for the consequences caused by a group of men who didn't agree with the way Herod was handling things such as taxes or even property disbursements. How hard it would have been to be such faithful followers of the old Jewish laws and in studying the Torah, believing that the Lord would return bring about justice to those that oppressed the Jewish people. This is why so many didn't believe Jesus was the promised Messiah. They wanted someone to punish the Romans and reward the Jewish people, but Jesus was the complete opposite. He dealt with things justly with love, grace and peace, but was not the promised Messiah the Jewish people believed would come to right all the wrongs in their minds.
This is a novel that I believe every single Christian should read. Not to glorify what Judas Iscariot did but to understand why he may have did it. It was such an exceptional read, I had to go and purchase a copy of Tosca Lee's other biblical novels, Havah: The Story of Eve and Demon: A Memoir, a story about the fall of Lucifer. Tosca Lee's exceptional ability to find the truth and fill in the holes without much to go on, allows us to see things differently while still holding on to the Biblical truth. I easily give this one a perfect 5 out of 5 stars. I received Iscariot: A Novel of Judas by Tosca Lee compliments of Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster Publishers for my honest review. Trust me, you'll want to pick this one up, to see if there really was a motivation for Judas making the decision he made and wondering if we, in fact, would have followed in his footsteps as well.
I approached this book not knowing what to expect, thinking to myself "Is it actually possible to be entertained by a story from the Bible that I've heard over and over?" The answer is a resounding yes! Iscariot is one of those novels that satisfies on every level, offering the pleasure of a beautifully told story, combined with an entertaining plot and a character that is sure to shatter every preconceived notion you have ever had about Judas Iscariot. Tosca Lee writes with exquisite prose, with colorful, vivid descriptions that transport the reader deep into the heart of the story. I found myself living and breathing alongside Judas, soon experiencing a surprising heart of empathy as I met the Judas that Tosca Lee has constructed. But let me be clear that you aren't going to read anything here that shouts, "That's not what the Bible says!" Yes, this is fiction, and so the author did take some poetic license to flesh out who Judas may have been. But nothing she wrote rings false. Instead, with her usual careful research, Tosca Lee has unpacked the character of Judas and offered us what might have been, a truly plausible take on a person I've read about in the Bible over and over, but never considered as deeply as I have while reading this book. I found myself holding my breath as I raced through the pages, wishing for a different ending despite knowing how things must end. And yet the author did an amazing job at creating a conclusion that still surprised me, and one that left me deep in thought as I closed these pages. My faith has been stirred, and I know yours will be too as you read through this story.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough, and award it a full 5 out of 5 stars.
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher, Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, for the purposes of this unbiased review.
When I read the gospels, I fail to think that each of the characters Jesus interacted with had a story. Each disciple had a family. Each needy person came to him with a history. And what about Judas? Tosca says she ran from writing his story for a year before she casually mentioned the possibility of it to others. She hoped they would talk her out of it. They didn't. A year later the idea was rooted in her heart. She spent three years on the quest to write the story of Judas, based on the belief that we all err in ways that make sense to us. (329) That included a research trip to Israel and consulting hundreds of books, articles, lectures, etc. The result is fascinating. Tosca helps us see the reality of the Jews living under Roman rule. The death of Judas' wife at the hands of lustful Roman soldiers. We are with him when he sees the destruction of Sepphoris and then his own father, crucified along with hundreds of others. We feel the intensity of the rebels trying to cast off Roman rule. We feel, along with Judas, the excitement when Jesus comes on the scene, claiming to bring the kingdom of God. Discouraged by a prior false messiah, Judas thinks, “But in that moment I felt I had found a thing, a person, worth the resurrection of my every hope.” (111) Tosca brings alive the stories we read in the gospels, exploring the horror of the disciples when Jesus confronted the Pharisees, their indignation when Jesus tells a man his sins are forgiven, and their puzzlement when they ask about the kingdom and Jesus says, “It is here! Now!” (159). Yet Judas loved Jesus. He felt completely known by him. “But when I looked at him, I saw a great tenderness in his eyes as though everything within me were already laid bare.” (130) We feel the frustration of the disciples when Jesus does not move fast enough to establish the kingdom. After John's death, Judas' attitude toward Jesus was, “He was the Messiah. And if not him, then no one. So now we must move, and quickly.” (197)
I know, there is always a danger when one novelizes parts of the Gospels. I tremble at the thought of putting words in Jesus' mouth and have been very critical of attempts to do so by others. I am very impressed, however, with this novel. Tosca has remained true to the spirit of the gospel account, I think. Granted, it is fiction, but I really got a sense of the Roman occupation and the groan for national freedom. I felt the frustration of Judas as he was caught in the web of his national patriotism and commitment to Jesus.
Well done. I highly recommend this novel.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.
Tosca put skin on Judas, and made him a real person. She took him from a young boy, up to when he joined Jesus. As Judas walks the shores of Galilee with Jesus and sees each miracle he does he is in awe of this Jewish teacher, who talks in stories. At Peter's house one night Judas goes outside and Jesus is outside. Jesus says to him "The thing you seek is not along this shore, or in the hills. But with me. Follow me." Yes. I said it in my heart. I do not know if it made it to my lips. It defied logic. He was a laborer and one of questionable birth and I was an educated businessman. But in that moment I felt I had found a thing, a person worth the resurrection of my every hope. In that moment you see Judas' love and devotion for Jesus. With each miracle that was performed I had goosebumps, and tears streaming down my face. I could taste the dust from the road, and smell the salty sea air. This is not just Judas' story this is everyone's story. At some point we all have been Judas. We've betrayed Christ. The only difference is we're on the other side of the cross. Tosca has written a beautiful story that is my top book for 2013. It will be one that will be read again and again. And it's not just a story, it is one that can be applied to each of us every day. Are we going to live for Christ today or for ourselves. I highly recommend this book!
Nobody puts skin on biblical figures and brings them to life as well as Tosca Lee. For some reason she also picks the toughest ones to portray in fiction. This novel, Iscariot, rang true to me. Her depiction of Judas Iscariot's belief system had a convincing historical basis. And unlike the stereotyped condemned man who personified betrayal, she made him human and someone who truly did love Jesus when he became one of the disciples. Even in the end, she showed his regrets and they made sense given the story up to that point. I didn't know how she'd pull off making him a sympathetic character, but she did it well!
There was a lot of symbolism in this novel including the dirt that lingered in the bowl when it came time to wash Judas's feet the night Jesus was betrayed. I loved how the author brought the scriptures to life with this book. So many things I'd read many times before brought tears to my eyes as I saw them unfold in my head. I understood their horror when he said they needed to eat his flesh and drink his blood.
The many miracles he performed brought tears to my eyes. And perhaps the best of all, seeing the prophecies fulfilled on the page and Judas's recollection of them as he pondering everything in his heart really made an impact on me. I have always loved reading about the fact that Jesus never did what people expected. This is shown very well in Iscariot. I loved this story so much it's making my favorite fiction list for 2013!
In the glimmer and promise of night thoughts are but a challenge.
Travel back to the time of Christ and experience first century anew narrarated by Judas. As a young boy Judas and his older brother Joshua struggled against the brutality and cruelty of Roman depression. What Judas experienced throughout his childhood and adult life as a disciple of Jesus shaped him into the man he ultimately became.
His regrets, dreams, longings and life as well as numerous appearances of Jesus and others are portrayed brilliantly by a most gifted storyteller. Highly entertaining, an exciting must read! I was drawn into the book from the first chapter as the story of Judas comes full circle throughout this unforgettable and impossible to put down read. Time well spent which will guarantee reflection long after the book has been devoured and put on the shelf.
A suspenseful, loving and heartbreaking read that has it all promising absolutely no dragging or dull parts. An easy to follow storyline and climatic plot, engaging uplifting and challenging dialogue, familiar very well developed characters that will read as friends, complete with descriptive picturesque scenery. I absolutely loved this book! I found it overall to be faith challenging with an inspiring message. I was highly entertained and will be recommending it to others! Extremely well written! 5 Stars would give it more if I could! Thanks to Howard Books and Netgalley for the ARC for my review.
Traitor by a kiss, thirty pieces of silver, and a noose. The story of Judas Iscariot seems well known to plenty yet we focus only on the last week of the man's life. Who was this man that was called by Jesus to be one of the twelve disciples? What drove Judas to turn on his master after three years of marvels, wandering, and teaching?
Tosca Lee's “Iscariot” brings to life the infamous disciple of Christ, the man who traded Jesus for the price of a slave: Judas. The tale begins with a Jewish boy who faced persecution, loss of loved ones, and a longing for the prophesied Messiah. Judas's past is not unlike that of many in his time as he clings to the faith of his forefathers and seeks refuge in the Law. We follow his life as he grows from the lost boy into a man grounded in his faith, an intellectual, and a growing family. Whispers begin to grow as a Galilean begins teaching in the temple. Is this man the long awaited Messiah; is he another heretic that will lead to the Jews being punished under the Roman thumb. Judas decides to follow this man called Jesus.
Lee, known for her eloquent spinning of words, has brought another historical character to life. As with her novel “Havah: the story of Eve”, we visit a character that is nearly forgotten except for his specific and obvious role within the life of Christ. This is a refreshing glimpse into the ministry of Christ that does not ignore the fact that Judas was one of the twelve that Jesus gave authority to perform works in His name according to the gospels (Matthew 10).
If you have caught yourself wondering if there is more to the life of Judas Iscariot, wondering what role he played during the three year ministry of Jesus Christ, then pick up a copy of Iscariot that releases February 2013. Tosca Lee brings forth a novel of speculative fiction like no other author I've come across. Do not miss the opportunity to experience the journey of a disciple like you've never read before. Be ready to go on a literary journey that will have you pondering what you truly know about these Biblical figures we so easily gloss over. Who was Judas? And more importantly who was Jesus in Judas's eyes?
Judas--looking into the mirror of our darkest self
Date:January 5, 2013
Tosca Lee's intimate and sympathetic portrayal of Judas Iscariot draws the reader deep into the world of ancient Rome, as lived by a Jewish patriot. Orphaned as a boy when his father was crucified by the Romans, Judas carries a burden of guilt--that he survived and that his last interaction with his older brother was to spit on him in a moment of childish anger. Miss Lee's emotional and richly researched novel moves quickly through Judas's life and involvement with a secret group watching for the coming of the Messiah, hoping for the overthrow of the Roman's. She explores the theme 'Would you have done the same?' If your actions have ever been colored by past guilts, fears, and your own desires, your best, most honest answer may have to be 'I hope not.'
Riveting….explosive…..revolutionary are just a few meager words that describe Tosca Lee’s latest literary masterpiece. She has immersed herself in the life and time of the well-known disciple of Jesus Christ known as Judas Iscariot. She brilliantly succeeded in humanizing this notorious traitor of Jesus Christ. She skillfully and intricately laid before our eyes an intimate, less traveled path of the motivations and desires that Judas passionately followed to the end of his life.
We are granted the honor to have such an intimate experience with Judas as we walk alongside him as his life is turned upside down and forever twisted and altered by the effects of the cruel and brutal Roman occupation of Jerusalem and the surrounding Jewish cities. My heart broke at seeing all of the horror and evil that Judas and his family had to endure when he was a young boy. Seeing such ugliness that most of us only read about in books at such an impressionable age transformed him into the driven and empty man that he became.
The sum total of Judas’s existence in light of the Jewish law and religious elite of that time was to strive to find out for himself if God truly existed and to be cleansed by Him and made pure. If we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that this is also the same ruthless pursuit that we all tirelessly struggle to answer. No matter how much we might like to separate ourselves from Judas, we find that more and more we are just like him. We are all lost in the darkness stumbling around on our hands and knees with tears streaming down our faces screaming and whispering out to God desperate to know if He is real and how He will save us from ourselves. Frighteningly enough, the darkness that surrounds Judas and us is not from the pit of Hell like we would convince those around us that it is, but in reality it is leaking and bubbling up from the depths of our own heart. The madness and evil that haunted Judas and haunts us still is born from the evil that lives inside us that can only be expelled with the light of God’s radiantly pure love. However, no amount of persuasion of others can make us understand this. Just like Judas, we have to see this for ourselves no matter how long it takes us to blindly stumble upon this shocking revelation.
Jesus message at that day and time was just as radical as this piece of haunting truth. He turned the religious community on its ear with his teaching, His words, and his strange yet simple parables. He drove people into madness as He taught love rather than the harsh, skin-deep hollowness of what had become of the Jewish law at that time. It was this mad, revolutionary idea that God loved them and wanted them to love each other including their Roman oppressors that the religious elite and learned men like Judas were dumbfounded and either driven deeper into their pious depravity or dared to be changed and remade by the desperately deep craving that they had for His love. I believe it was the overwhelming light of Jesus message of love which laid bare the base desires of the religious elite that led to their ravenous calling for His death. Evil can’t stand when good shines its light on it and reveals its ugliness not only to others but especially to itself. It will do anything to hide itself in the shadows once again while destroying the light that exposed itself.
At the end of this journey that we have taken with Judas, we find that we have one question to answer - the same question that has been posed for the past 2,000 years. Why did Judas betray Jesus? Tosca gently yet decisively leads us to the answer of this question. She lays before us the consideration that Judas is no different than any of us. In fact, I believe that she proposes that we are all Judases in the depths of our hearts, and we need to beware that we do not fall into the same traps and pitfalls that he did. We need to be sure that we choose love over the law - that we choose life over death\power\influence.
I don’t believe that Judas hated Jesus. Rather, I believe that Judas was transformed by Jesus and His message of love, but I also believe that the evil in us fights for control of us just as vehemently as Jesus fights for our love. It’s this battle that was at the heart of Judas’s betrayal. When we don’t give our whole hearts to Jesus to be filled with His love, we allow the darkness to silently creep in and slowly take control back. I believe that the answer to the accusation of guilt lies in Judas’s fear of giving Jesus full control over his heart. While he reveled in and marveled at the intensity and completeness of Jesus’s love for him, he didn’t believe that Jesus could love such a man as him. He held back his heart, and in so doing allowed the darkness from his past to overcome him and give up control of his heart to the teachers of the law who wanted to remain in the luscious darkness of their selfish ways. He allowed these evil men to unknowingly work through him to quash the light that was brought into their world for a short time, but they unknowingly did us an immense favor in ushering in God’s new kingdom of devastating love and unfathomable forgiveness for the benefit of all mankind.
Instead of condemning Judas, we need to learn from him. We need to see him in ourselves and strive to become what he deeply longed to become but was so terrified to allow himself to embrace. We need to realize that Judas is all of us. He is every man, and we need to come to the understanding that we have to die to ourselves in order to live for and with Jesus in this time and in His coming kingdom.
This is a story that will not only transform your heart but will also pour the intoxicating light of God’s love into your life. You will never be able to think of Judas or yourself in the same way ever again. Even though our culture is so far removed from the Jewish culture of 2,000 years ago, in our hearts, the human race is still the same band of men prone to great evil and yet who desperately search for their own salvation and tirelessly crave the love of the almighty Creator of the universe. This book is a must read for those who desire to be led into the past by a master storyteller who skillfully creates a glorious tapestry filled with rich culture, human frailty, and unrestrained love to unmask this man of loathing and deceit in order to deepen our own relationship with God.
Tosca gently wipes away the stale, Sunday school understanding from both our eyes and our heart and offers up a fresh take on Jesus, His life and work, and how it touched Judas and the other disciples around him. She breathes life into Jesus and His powerful effect on those around Him. This story will have you gasping for air and reeling at how you feel you have missed knowing Jesus at this depth your entire life. Your heart will long for the same meaningful and palatable relationship that Judas had with Jesus, and it will leave you refusing to settle for anything less.