The Good Samaritan – a Modern re-telling

I wrote this as an addendum to my regular devotional writing on my devotional blog: Daily Enduring Truth. I decided to share this here because I think the story, while simple, has an important message.

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” 28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” 29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:25-29)

In reply, Jesus said to him, “A certain man was going down to Washington, D.C. to petition his congressman, when he was pistol-whipped and mugged. They stripped him of his clothes, his money, and his credit cards. They left him for dead and went on their way. A Libertarian drove up and looked at the half dead man. “Everyone knows this is a bad neighborhood. He should have made better choices. We’re all responsible for our own choices.” He shook his head and then went on his way. Then a Republican came along and looked at the man who was beginning to stir. “You know you could have prevented this,” he said as he patted his chest. “If you had just gotten your concealed carry license you wouldn’t be having these problems.” Then he drove away also smiling and patting his chest. Then along came a Democrat. When he saw the man he immediately got out of his car and made sure that man was breathing. He pulled out his first aid kit and bandaged the wounds. Then he put the man in his own car and drove him to the nearest hospital. When the nurse asked about the man’s insurance, he couldn’t reply, since he was still out of it, so the Democrat looked at her and said, “I’ll pay for everything, Just take care of him.” He pulled out his American Express® card to let her know that he was serious.

Jesus then said, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:36-37)

We live in a world that is so politically charged that many will read this story wrong. Still, Jesus probably had some of the same problem. So, before you misinterpret this story, let me point out that I am an Independent Conservative, not a Democrat. That is why a Democrat is the hero of the story. If you are a Democrat, or even a liberal who doesn’t identify with the Democrat party, you need to have a Republican as the hero of the story. Switch the order and have the Democrat say something like, “Oh, that’s terrible. Someone ought to help him,” and then drive away while the Republican cares for him. The key is understanding the message of Jesus about loving our neighbor. We are called to be neighbors to all people: Republican or Democrat – even Libertarians, citizen or immigrant, Christian or non-Christian. Being a neighbor doesn’t mean thinking good things of the people around you; being a neighbor means being the kind of person who helps people in need without worrying about how they got there. Our job is to show mercy.

Iscariot by Tosca Lee – a Review

FYI, after you read this review you will find contest rules at the end. If you would like to win a copy of Iscariot by Tosca Lee, please join in the fun!

How do you add suspense to one of the best known stories in the world? We all know the basics: Jesus was a teacher who went around healing people, and performing miracles, signs and wonders. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind about whether or not He was the Messiah. Well, except for the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the political leaders and perhaps some of His disciples. Then, after Jesus arrived in Jerusalem in what we know as the Triumphal Entry the crowds pretty well let people know that Jesus was the Messiah. He was then betrayed by Judas and crucified.

So how do you add suspense to that story? In the book Iscariot, Tosca Lee invites you to re-examine everything you know about Jesus and the relationship with His disciples; especially the only one that Jesus called friend – Judas. This novel is historical fiction, but you have a hard time remembering the fiction part of that as she weaves a realistic story of the life of Judas from a young boy until the time he ends up killing himself after betraying Jesus. As she writes about the life of Judas the question she asks at the beginning of the novel continues to stick with you: “Would I have betrayed Jesus? Would you have done the same thing?”

The automatic answer to that question, of course, is “Never!” Yet, as we follow the story, an unwilling sympathy for Judas arises. You can’t help but wonder if Tosca Lee has in mind a new version of the story; one where Judas doesn’t betray Jesus! In the end, the story doesn’t change. As you read, though, your outlook on Judas changes. Rather than seeing him as the evil moneygrubber that we all instinctively believe him to be, he becomes an almost sympathetic protagonist; a tragic hero in the true sense of the phrase.

I have no doubt that once you read Iscariot, that you will never be able to sit through a “typical” sermon about Judas without wanting to yell out at the preacher, “But have you thought about….” The scariest thing about this book is that as you read it, you feel the dust on your feet, you smell the unwashed bodies all around you, and you realize that as strong in your faith as you may be, you could easily have betrayed Jesus in the same set of circumstances. Then when we come back to reality, we realize that we betray Jesus daily by our thoughts and actions. You can continue in your safe little bubble if you don’t read this book or you can confront yourself as you let the words force you to examine your own relationship with Jesus Christ.

So here are the contest rules. You can be entered to win a copy of Iscariot by Tosca Lee by doing these simple tasks. 1) Follow this blog. 2) Leave a comment here. Somewhere in your comment let me know which disciple you would like to talk with and why. Your user name should have contact information in case you win. If it doesn’t, keep checking back. 3) Have a friend come by and comment saying something like, “John asked me to read this and say hello.” If they would like to win also, they need to give you credit for bringing them here.

Interview with Tosca Lee

Iscariot is coming

[The following is a dramatization of an event that never took place. Just enjoy!]

I had just received word that I had been invited to a small gathering of fans to ask Tosca Lee some questions about her newest book Iscariot. Meeting in an undisclosed location we all talked nervously on the ride to the meet. The windows were blacked out so that no one could tell the route. When we arrived the guard asked each of us if we were prepared. I took out my recorder and at first didn’t understand why I received a frown and a threatening move. Suddenly I remembered and pulled my coat away to reveal a pound of bacon: the entry fee. I was allowed to enter

We gathered in the room and were reminded of Ms. Lee’s previous works: Demon: a Memoir; Havah: The Story of Eve; Forbidden, Mortal and Sovereign all written with Ted Dekker. Her numerous awards were subtly displayed in the background, almost as an afterthought. We looked around, trying to decide where we would sit or stand. Suddenly she came in and every eye turned as she entered the room. She sat down at the table, gesturing that we should join her and opened the floor for questions.

Q. What was the hardest part of the creation of Iscariot?

A. The first hardest part was deciding to do it, because my initial reaction to Jeff Gerke (who had acquired and published Demon and Havah) and who had suggested I write about Judas was “NO WAY.” The second hardest was doing all the research. I had a lot to learn.

Q. Did you learn anything unexpected while writing it?

A.  I learned more unexpected things than I have room for here, from the context of the stories we know so well to nuances of the parables formerly lost on me. But the over-arching thing was the context of oppression under Rome. The fact that other would-be Messiahs had risen up in the past, only to be violently put down. You could not safely make a bid at Messiah-ship without risking life and limb, and the freedoms (including religious freedom) Israel already had under Rome. In Jesus’ case, it became far safer to silence him than to risk retaliation.

Q. How have people in your church reacted to you penning this book?

A. With wide-eyed looks, questions of “why?” and “Wow. That sounds fascinating.” Not everyone wants to see a humanized Judas. But for me, I found looking at Jesus through Judas’ eyes–and the eyes of the first Century Jewish Everyman–a way to understand Jesus far better. And the story is ultimately about Jesus.

Q. How did your opinion of Judas change after writing the novel?

A Through the writing of the novel, Judas went from being an intriguing infamous character to a lens on the first Century Jewish Everyman… to an Everyman I identified with closely. I was writing my story, ultimately–a story about the tension between love and grace, and our expectations of a God that cannot be controlled. And so the central question became for me: would I have done the same? And the answer is I can’t say that, in the situation, I wouldn’t have.

Q. How can you relate our experience as disciples to Judas’?

A I think it was Barth who said that all the disciples failed, really. Judas’ was just the most spectacular failure. I don’t think we always understand or expect what God means for us or what God is doing at the time, and we forget that it’s usually something bigger than we could imagine.

She paused for a second as if in thought, then said:

I should add, too, that Jesus talked a great deal about how to live, and how to live included a lot of mercy and love. I think we, like the 12 disciples, can get very caught up in the intricacies of faith, in seeking answers, but the biggest answers always seem to boil down to being filled with love and mercy.

Ok, it didn’t EXACTLY happen that way. What really happened is that she has a group on the internet that she gave the opportunity to ask questions. These are questions and answers from that group. If I did get to meet her, I’m thinking I would bring some bacon, though. Iscariot releases on February 5, 2013 and can be pre-ordered at Amazon. I can guarantee that you’ll find the story intriguing. Oh, and there’s an great video/trailer for the book here