Author: G. K. Johnson
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Book: The Zealots
The Zealots is a story of enduring friendship, weathered traditions, and struggling faith at the intersection of heightened political angst in the land of Judea. #YA #historicalfiction #newreleaseTweet
From Shame to Hope
Interview by Jenny Fulton
G. K. Johnson is a debut author with Capture Books who, like me, resides in America’s Southwest. Her first book, a newly released young adult historical fiction novel, reflects her love for adventure, traveling, and biblical history.
God placed the idea for The Zealots in her heart over ten years ago.
“I have wanted to know more about the context of Scripture since I was in my early teens,” G. K. said. “I remember reading passages in the Bible and wondering, ‘what does this really mean?’, ‘How did this apply to the lives of the Hebrew people?’, and ‘What does this mean for my life now?’ I’m intrigued by characters in the Bible who get a brief mention, but we never know their full stories – people like Rahab, Methuselah, the unnamed woman at the well, and Barabbas, the imprisoned murderer who is released while Jesus is taken to the cross instead. I love reading their stories and wondering about the untold years surrounding their brief cameos in biblical history.
“The idea of writing a story about Barabbas lodged in my heart when I was a teen. Why write about him specifically? Until I wrote The Zealots I wasn’t sure, but now I believe it’s because I can resonate with the themes of pride, self-righteousness, shame, grace, and forgiveness that are woven into his life story. I believe there’s a deep story of God’s mercy and redemption in the story of Barabbas despite the very little the Bible tells us about him.”
Although G.K. started writing The Zealots in 2017, it wasn’t “fanned into flame” until the spring of 2018 when she and her husband took a trip to Israel and Jordan.
“Being in Israel was an incredible experience!” she exclaimed. “Standing atop Mount Zion and looking into the Hinnom Valley, sitting on a rocky ledge looking out over the wilderness where Jesus was tempted by Satan, and listening to the waves lap against the shore of the Sea of Galilee…those are only a few of the memories I treasure from my time in the Holy Land! Up until that point, reading my Bible had been one-dimensional, but from then on, I read the accounts of the Bible through eyes that have seen, tasted, and touched many of the places referenced in the Bible and my understanding has much more color! I realize that getting to travel to Israel is a privilege, and is one I do not take for granted. I felt humbled to be there, and I still feel incredibly humbled and grateful for the opportunity.”
After seeing and touching the lands where her story takes place, G. K. returned to her manuscript and in the fall of 2020, it was finally finished.
Aside from the historical and adventure aspects, The Zealots also deals with such themes as the impact of shame, guilt, fear, hope, forgiveness, and mercy.
“It shows our inability as humans to free ourselves from the consequences of sin and our need for a Rescuer,” G. K. said.
Many of those themes were ones G. K. could well relate to, as many of us can. As she was writing the book, she drew from her own experiences of healing from shame, legalism, and fear.
“I grew up in a legalistic environment,” she shared, “and, because of that, I experienced a lot of shame, fear, and performance-based thinking and behavior. Shim’on and Yeshua bar Abba, characters in the book, struggle with those emotions and backgrounds as well. I loved seeing Jesus and his impact on them through their eyes. It has been my experience that God reveals Himself in new and deeper ways when I immerse myself in my characters, imagining their emotions and reactions to life experiences and events. It was also a lot of fun to remember the experiences and locations I visited in Israel while writing scenes in the book.”
“What do you hope readers come away with after reading your book?” I asked.
“I hope they gain a fresh perspective on biblical characters they may think they know, and some they never thought about! I also hope readers will finish the book with hope…hope that we are never ‘too far gone’ to receive God’s grace, forgiveness, and redemption!”
For anyone interested in biblical history and geography, G. K. shared the following announcement.
“The faculty of Jerusalem University College (JUC) hosted my visit to Israel and Jordan in 2018. I cannot speak highly enough of them. I was excited to learn that JUC will be hosting its first-ever online seminar, The Bible, Geography, and You on January 10th and 11th. The seminar is open to the public and FREE! I would highly recommend this resource for anyone that wants to deepen their knowledge of Biblical times and Scripture! Register Here.”
Book Blurb for The Zealots
Shim’on bar Jona and Yeshua bar Abba have been friends since childhood. But a tragic event changes the trajectory of their friendship and the direction of each of their lives.
When Shim’on chooses to join a radical movement in Judea, he hopes that seeking vengeance will alleviate the demons of guilt and hate that plague him every day. Yeshua is surprised by an opportunity to pursue a calling that will take him to the Holy City of Jerusalem. But neither of the men can predict the outcome of his choices. Will Shim’on find the peace he craves? Will Yeshua ever see his friend again? And what is the true identity of the mysterious rabbi who challenges their beliefs?
The Zealots is a story of enduring friendship, weathered traditions, and struggling faith at the intersection of heightened political angst in the land of Judea. For hundreds of years the Hebrew people have been awaiting their long-prophesied Mashiach to rescue them from their enemies. But when the Mashiach comes, will they recognize him?