And They Shook the Dust Off Their Sandals
The selection from Acts 13:44-51 is a landmark of sorts in the spread of Christianity. We have seen Peter baptizing the first Gentile (Acts 10) and the Jerusalem Church approving it in Acts 11. Also in Acts 11 we find the Church in Antioch (Syria) emerging; it is from this Church that Paul and Barnabas will go forth to another Antioch (Pisidia). This is the place where Barnabas and Paul announce that they are now turning to the Gentiles. They also demonstrated this turning away from Jews by shaking the dust off their sandals (see also 18:6). The gesture is originally described in Mark´s gospel as the response of the missionary to a town or place that rejects the Good News.
The gesture of shaking the dust off one´s feet is something done among Jews after they have travelled through pagan lands. It is therefore related to an act of decontamination from what is unclean. As used in the context of Christian missions, it is a strong gesture against those who refuse the Gospel. Jesus identifies himself with his emissaries to such an extent that he could say: ¨Whoever rejects you, rejects me. Whoever rejects me, rejects the one who sent me.¨ (see Luke 10:16; also Mark 9:37). The dust of the land shaken off the emissary´s feet does not enter the presence of the one who sent him. And since the one who has sent is also the one sent by God, those who rejected the Gospel have also rejected the message that could have saved them from judgment. Worthy of note here is Paul´s warning to those who insulted him at Corinth. After shaking the dust from his sandals he tells them: ¨Whatever happens to you will be your own fault! I am not to blame. From now on I am going to preach to the Gentiles¨ The gesture puts an end to any attempts at evangelizing any further those who have rejected the Gospel.
The expression “shake the dust off the sandals” appear in the following passages:
• Acts 13:51; 18:6
• Luke 9:5
• Luke 10:11
• Mark 6:11
• Matthew 10:14
A related article in Otium Sanctum: And He Sent Them Out Two by Two.
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