Redeeming Dust is a retelling of the story of Christ’s ministry, told very much with a political slant, mixed up with the religious fanaticism of the day.
It is told from the viewpoint of John, a fisherman, who went on to become a disciple of Jesus and writer of one of the gospel accounts. We see his discovery of faith, his assessment of religion and the impact of politics on this intense three year period that was the ministry of Jesus.
It paints a picture of a people living in fear from the aggressive Roman occupiers, as well as in fear of the religious leaders, whose influence was powerful over society, whilst plagued with corruption. There is a lot of detail in the book, additional to the Bible accounts, which appears to be well researched and adds a lot to the reader’s understanding. It offers a deeper context to the scriptural accounts.
The narrative highlights the disputes and disagreements that may have happened amongst the disciples, as they heard Jesus’ teachings and wrestled with understanding the counter-cultural and revolutionary teachings that would have challenged many of their deeply held beliefs and customs.
The disciples needed to change their thinking almost as much as the religious leaders of the time. The book shows the disciples transition from fishermen, tax collectors, zealots etc to be followers of this new way of living and thinking that Jesus presented, who did not really understand it fully until after the resurrection of Jesus.
It is fascinating to read about the political undercurrents that could have been prevalent at each stage of Jesus ministry – an interesting consideration that may not always be explicit in the gospel accounts. It highlights the clear dangers of rebellion and insurgency that threatened the disciples, especially with the Roman occupation.
There was a clear expectation of the Jewish people for the promised Messiah, bringing them freedom from Roman occupation. In the book there is a lot of speculation from the disciples that this revolution was going to be political, although peaceful, without much obvious correction from Jesus, who is portrayed as enigmatic and at times completely engrossed in his own agenda. Which He probably was.
But also I can understand the author not wanting to put too many words into the mouth of Jesus, words that may not be backed up by scriptural references. That seems the right way to handle the challenge.
As each Passover comes and goes, there is growing expectation for Jesus to bring the uprising, but never delivering quite how they expected. The truth being that Jesus delivered not just political freedom from Roman occupation, but a much more profound and eternal salvation.
There is much conversation between the disciples, imagining their doubts, speculations, concerns and the internal politics and relationships between them.
So when it came to the crucifixion, death and resurrection, you can understand the confusion that the disciples would have felt, initially shattering their dreams of a power shift and political change. The final few chapters cover the intense despair at the crucifixion, the sense of loss, grief and fear in the days between the crucifixion and the resurrection, and then the exhilaration and wonder as the depth of what Jesus did begins to dawn on them, breaking through their unbelief.
I was especially struck by the times when Jesus met with the disciples and spent time talking to them after the resurrection, before the ascension – it was great to imagine what these amazing conversations may have been like, as He revealed such great truths to them.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher, but was under no pressure to provide a favourable review.