I loved doing this study, for there’s so much information here, as well as a lot of misunderstandings and lots of information missing in Jesus’ instruction:
- And if any place (vicinity, spot, location) neither receives (accepts, takes, welcomes, bears with) you,
- nor do they listen to you,
- When you leave from there, shake off the dust…
- If on one hand the house (home, property, family, household) happens to be worthy (deserving),
- (Put) your peace upon it.
- If on the other hand it (3rd person/Singular/Present/Active/Subjunctive) is not worthy,
- (let) your peace return to you
- And whoever neither (should anybody neither) receive(s) you nor listens to your words,
- while leaving (going outside, away from) that house (home, property, family, household),
- shake off the dust from your feet.
- Truly I say to you,
- It will be more tolerable for the land (country, region) of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than that city (town, inhabitants).
Luke 9:5 =
- And whoever (Masculine, Plural, Nominative) does not receive (accept, take, welcome, bear with) you,
- As you are leaving from that city (town),
- (y’all must) Shake off the dust from your feet
- as a testimony (witness, evidence, proof) against them (3rd person/ Masculine, Plural / Accusative)
- So my first question was what the background is of Jews shaking off the dust from their shoes. What is the original meaning to that? Well, in my search, I learned that the Bible Gateway has commentaries, and theirs said that “At their final, forced withdrawal, the missionaries [shake] the dust from their feet in protest against them. Some take the action as a sign of contempt, parallel to the Jews’ practice of shaking off the dust of “unclean” foreign lands as they reentered the Holy Land (Lake and Cadbury 1979:160). Others, more correctly, see it, according to the Lord’s instruction, as a sign of disassociation from a community doomed to destruction (Luke 9:5; 10:10-11; compare Acts 18:6). Such destruction will be so complete that if one is to avoid it, one must remove from oneself the very dust of the place. Because the disassociation is from the persecutors, Paul can later return to the city and work there.” Another source suggested “While Israel was a holy land, the land of the Gentiles was not. This is why Jews would shake the dust off their clothes and shoes on leaving a Gentile area. It was a symbol of disregarding any connection with the pagans.” Most other sites suggest basically what both are saying.
- The second difficulty of this instruction that I found is that it doesn’t give any information about limits. Should we sit and argue with them a bit, hoping they’ll get it or accept Jesus? Should we give them up to 3 strikes before shaking off the dust? Should we run in there, share our message, and leave if rejected with a curse? In searching for help on this, one blogger suggested, “(Jesus) makes one thing sure: if they accept you, stay and be a blessing to them; if they reject you – leave and leave for good. The shaking off of dust is where the power of the message lays…So what Jesus is actually saying to the twelve is: if they welcome you, get in and do well; if they don’t – get away and make sure you let them know you’re not coming back.” So we’ll look into this in a moment.
- A third piece of information that confuses this instruction is whether the curse is upon only those who don’t receive our message about Jesus, the whole town, or just the little household? Jesus gives this direction in the first 3 Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke (above). In Mark, Jesus gives reference to a larger area, such as a town, place, vicinity, or location”. In Matthew, Jesus seems to be talking about the household that His Apostles would be staying in, and Luke appears to be talking about individuals. So what are we to make of this?
So my next step was to see if the Bible mentioned this action anyplace else, and it does, in Acts 13. There, Paul and Barnabas (I like to call him “Barney”) were sharing their message about Jesus in their local synagogue. Once finished, the people invited them to speak more about all that on the next Sabbath. Also, as they left, many devout Jews and Jewish converts followed them Paul and Barny, who urged them to continue in the grace of God (to accept Jesus).
On the next Sabbath, it says that almost the whole city gathered to hear the Word of God. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with Jealousy and began to heap abuses and contradictions on what Paul was saying. When they realized they were not getting anywhere with their message, Paul and Barny boldly rebuked them.
Then, throughout the rest of the week, as the Lord’s Word spread, the Jewish leaders incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city, who stirred up persecution against Paul and Barny, and expelled them from their region. So they shook the dust off their feet as a warning to them and went to Iconium.
I believe this example answers some of my questions. You don’t just go and give your message once as if to be impersonal, but share it gladly with all who will listen. When opposition arises, rebuke it, and continue sharing/spreading your message about Jesus. But when the opposition comes to where they expel you, or to where the opposition is so great that it becomes obvious that there is nothing more you can do, then THAT is when you kick off the dust from your shoes as a testimony against them, and move on.
I have actually done this at the last 2 (almost 3) churches where I served. They all gladly invited me in at first, many listened, many accepted and began following Jesus (some grew closer to Jesus) from my ministry (God through me), but some rejected the message and began to incite the leaders. Persecution and conflict arose against me, and soon they “expelled” me. So after collecting all my things, before getting into my car, I kicked the “dust” off my feet as a testimony against them. For in each of these churches, I did everything in my ability (blood, sweat, tears, stress, fasting, prayer, etc.), to introduce Jesus, strengthen people’s faith, and incorporate Jesus into those places (my friends in those areas will testify to this). But instead, they insisted on keeping Him out. So I left them to His judgment.
Notice also that in 1 Samuel 8:5-7, when the people told Samuel that they wanted a king to rule over them instead of him, he felt rejected. So when he prayed, the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected Me…”. So when people reject our message about Jesus, they are not so much rejecting us (or maybe they are too), but God. You may notice this among your friends: If you try to talk with them about Jesus, and they refuse to hear, you may remain friends, but they will reject Jesus each time you bring Him up. So when these churches were rejecting me and the message of Jesus Christ, they were not only expelling and rejecting me, but Jesus Himself, and that is why Jesus told His Apostles to kick off the dust from their feet against them. The people insist on rejecting Him, so Jesus will not be there in the time of judgment.
Now about this judgment: Does this mean that the judgment is upon everybody in the church, town, region, house, etc.? I think it depends on the situation, really. Or, maybe it could be compared to the event with Sodom. Remember in Genesis 18:32, Abram talked God down to 10 righteous people! “If there are 10 righteous people, will you still destroy the town?” And God said, “No, if there are 10, I will not destroy it.” Turns out there were only 4: Lot, his wife, and their 2 daughters, and when the time of judgment upon Sodom came, the Lord was sure to get Lot and company out of there in order to rescue them from its destruction (Genesis 9:15-17). So I think that when we lay such a testimony against places, though it will surely be doomed in the time of judgment, that if there are any believers there at that time (or if those who rejected Christ earlier will later accept Him), that they will be rescued from that time.
Notice also that when Paul and Barney were sharing their message about Jesus, and as the arguments began, they may have continued for some time, but when they realized that they were not getting anywhere, they stopped, rebuked the opposers, and avoided anymore conflict with them directly. I mention this because, though I do enjoy a good theological conversation at times, I notice that many with whom I have one are basically arguing for the sake of arguing, or to try and stump me. They have some thoughts and ideas, and regardless of the evidence put in front of them, they have no agenda of changing their stance. Often times, I will get to the point where the questions are becoming repetitive, or irrelevant, or just moronic, and I will stop to ask, “if I was to come up with answers to all your questions, would that bring you any closer to wanting to either accept Jesus as your Lord and God, or even giving Him a chance?” Often, the answer is “no”, and that is where the conversation/debate ends. Rebuke, shake the dust from your feet, and move on to share with others who WILL listen with the possibility of responding to it.
- Share the message about Jesus with all who will listen, and remain there as long as people will accept you and listen to you. Answer questions about Jesus and your message to all who ask, so long as there is still interest.
- When opposition arises (and it will), and you get to the point where the conversation is not going anywhere, rebuke them and avoid any more conflict. But keep spreading your message throughout the area/land.
- If and when opposition should get to the point where it is either flat out rejection, or they expel you from their presence, then upon leaving, shake their “dust” off your shoes as a testimony against their rejection of the Lord and His message. As such who have rejected the Lord, unless they should turn to Him soon, they will share a fate much more worse off than those of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Discussion / Reflection Questions:
- How does it make you feel knowing that if somebody rejects your ministry, that it is not only you they are rejecting (or maybe not you at all), but Jesus? Explain.
- Does it encourage you to share the Gospel more boldly, knowing that if you are rejected flat out and persecuted or expelled, by kicking off their dust from your feet, God will back up your testimony against them on Judgment Day? Explain.
- What are your thoughts about having such authority?
- Will knowing all this change your ministry or give you reason to share more? Explain/reflect on why or why not.