Mark 6:10-11 “And He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave town. Any place that does not receive you or listen to you, as you go out from there, shake the dust off the soles of your feet for a testimony against them.”
In first-century Jewish culture, shaking the dust off your feet was a commonly understood form of separation and renunciation. In fact, whenever Jewish people traveling outside of Israel returned to their country they would shake their feet and clothes free of Gentile dust as they crossed the border home, so as to not spiritually “pollute” their homeland.
Jesus was here instructing his disciples to denounce any in Israel that rejected their teaching, and in so doing to demonstrate to the hearers that, though they were Jewish, they were essentially pagan at heart, having heard the message of God but rejected it.
Matthew Henry in his famous 17th century commentary says that dusting feet off “was to signify that they were base and vile as dust, and that God would shake them off. The dust of the apostles’ feet, which they left behind them, would witness against them, and be brought in as evidence, that the gospel had been preached to them, … They who despise God and His gospel shall be lightly esteemed.”
Jesus himself often strongly pronounced God’s judgment on those who rejected his message, comparing unfavorably even to sinning Gentiles.
- Matthew 11:20-24 “Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.”
The disciples took Christ’s instruction and example to heart, and we later see the Apostle Paul repeating it:
- Acts 13:50 “But the Jews incited the devout women of prominence and the leading men of the city, and instigated a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. But they shook off the dust of their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium.”
- Acts 18:5-6 “But when Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul began devoting himself completely to the word, solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. But when they resisted and blasphemed, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”
APPLICATION FOR US:
More than one person who works in the Capitol has confessed to me that they dust their clothes off when they leave the building each day. Here are some other applications to consider:
1. As Listeners
It is a sobering thought to realize that God will ultimately “dust his feet” off towards those who rejects his offer of salvation through Christ, even if they are devout and religious. God is reaching out to us now, calling us to yield to Him. We will only get so many chances, and we should not toy with His patience. As Romans 11:22 warns, “Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off”
2. As Preachers
How do we know when to “dust off our feet,” so to speak towards a person or a place? Here are some biblical principles that might prove helpful:
- We stick to one message. We do not change the message to try to attract people. Rather, we stay true the Lord’s message of salvation through faith in Christ for all who believe and repent, as the Apostles did, and we leave the results to God.
- We offer the Good News to everyone. The disciples spread out to bring the good news to all. In the same way, we must not presume to know who will respond to the Gospel. Sometimes, those we would expect to be most interested are not and those who we would expect to have no interest do. Like the farmer who scattered seed widely (Matthew 13), so we tell everyone the good news.
- We force it on no one. Jesus made this point clear here and also in Matthew 7:6. “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” Wild dogs and swine were considered unclean and dangerous animals to be avoided. When we encounter people who violently reject the Gospel, we should not feel compelled to continue to preach to them. Doing so may only inflame their rage more and does neither them nor us any good.
- We can be patient. The apostles did not wait long to decide whether they would move on from a town. Since Jesus had instructed them to not take any money or food and to arrange no lodging, they were completely reliant upon a receptive household. If no one responded, their very survival prompted them to move immediately. On the other hand, God also demonstrates great patience to sinners. Ezekiel 33:11 “Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord God, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?”, Isaiah 65:2 “I have spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people.”, 2 Peter 3:9 The Lord “is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” Some of the Old Testament Prophets spent years crying out to an unresponsive nation. So, we must seek God’s wisdom for when to dust off our feet in a particular place.
- We don’t judge preachers by responders. Jesus and the apostles found much receptivity in some towns, but no response at all in other places. So today, some minister in areas that are more spiritually receptive than others. Our job is only to faithfully and accurately convey his message, and entrust the results to the hearers and to God (1 Corinthians 3:6).
(A printable formatted copy of this and other Capitol Bible Studies is available online at http://www.capitolcom.org/california/studies.
(c) 2014 Frank Erb