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THE RABBI'S BLESSING
"'When you enter a town and are not received, go out in the street and say, 'The only thing we got from you is the dirt on out feet, and we're giving it back. Did you have any idea that God's kingdom was right on your doorstep?' Sodom will have it better on Judgment Day than the town that rejects you.'" Luke 10:10-12 (The Message).
This is a bit vindictive, isn't it? Does it sound like Jesus? What is He getting at?
"The rabbi's dust" is a euphemism for the rabbi's blessing. It was the disciples' duty to walk behind Him; to follow Him, literally and figuratively. The one who walked close behind Him picked up dust thrown up by His sandals. It was an honour for a disciple to "wear" his rabbi's dust because it indicated that he walked closest to Him.
To shake off his rabbi's dust was to scatter the blessing of his rabbi on others. Would Jesus really have advocated that His disciples thumb their noses at people who refused to receive them? He always had an attitude of compassion towards everyone, even those who rejected Him. He knew that they would be the losers. He wept over Jerusalem for not recognising the time of His visit to them.
It would be out of character for Jesus to instruct His disciples to call down curses on a family or community that rejected Him. He had stopped James and John from wanting to incinerate a Samaritan village for refusing Him hospitality. Why would His attitude to any other community be different? If we read this story through the spectacles of Jesus' redemptive mission, what He was instructing His disciples was not to retaliate but to leave behind the rabbi's blessing, even if the people did not receive them.
Another lesson His followers had to learn was that they were representatives of their Master. Whatever they said or did was on His behalf. He would not want them to act out of character with Him or His Father. However people treated them was what they thought of Him but that did not deter Him from wanting to bless them. After all, did He not say that His Father pours out rain on the just and the unjust?
What is God's wrath all about then? Is He not angry with wicked people, and does He not plan to take vengeance on those who refuse to believe the gospel? God's punishment always takes the form of the consequences people call down on their own heads when they refuse to heed His Word. Jesus said that it was not He but His Word that would judge them in the end (John 12:47, 48).
God's wrath, rightly understood is His passionate grief over wasted potential. He has a good plan for every person and, when they choose their own way and make a mess of their lives it causes Him sorrow because of what they could have been. His plan is that every one of us should be a member of His forever family, to live with Him and to share all the benefits of a perfect world in fellowship with a living and generous Father.
He wants us to be like Him so that we can mirror His splendour (Isaiah 61:3), enjoy the freedom of the children of God and live in the safety and provision of His love. Why should we want to run away from that and set up a life of our own which can only bring us disappointment and emptiness?
God has proved His love for us by giving His own Son as a sacrifice of atonement for our sin, so that we can be reconciled to Him and return to the family as beloved sons and daughters. Jesus paid the debt of sin for the whole world and He is not mad with anyone any more. Can you get hold of that?
It is never His intention to take vengeance on anyone for not receiving the good news of His kingdom. The consequences of our choices are enough to contend with. His passion is that we respond to His invitation and enjoy the blessing and benefit of being members of His family.
With arms wide open He says, 'Come home.'
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