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.