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Shake the Dust off Your Feet


Jesus instructed his disciples, “And wherever they do not welcome you, leave the town and shake the dust off your feet: it will be as a testimony against them” (Lk 9:5). It is natural that dust clings to the feet of a pedestrian, especially on dusty roads. The same could happen when the disciples travelled on foot, preaching the gospel from house to house.

The Jews during that time had the practice of shaking the dust off their feet and clothes when exiting from Gentile territory. It expressed their disgust against the Gentiles and to show that they did not want to bring anything pagan into Judaea.

When Jesus asked the disciples to apply this to their ministry, it was with a different connotation. If the townsfolk would reject the Word of God, the disciples were to shake off the dust from their feet in public in the town square to show that they did all they could for the salvation of the townsmen and were thus no more obliged by the fate of the land. The Jews could understand this because they had themselves done such acts in relation to the gentile towns.

When Paul and Barnabas preached at Antioch in Pisidia, the Jews rejected them. So, they turned to the Gentiles, who happily welcomed their exhortations. The Jews “stirred up a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their territory. So they shook the dust off their feet in protest and went to Iconium” (Acts 13:50-51). However, being “filled with joy and the Holy Spirit”, they refrained from taking the rejection from the villagers as a personal affront (Acts 13:52).

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