The translation makes it sound as if he wants his disciples to threaten those people within the towns that did not welcome his disciples. Sectarian teachers will say the threat relates to their coming destruction - as if Jesus was threatening them with the end of the world.
Debunking the "end of the world" interpretation
This 'end of the world' scenario as taught by sectarian teachers is obviously untrue. How can we say this?
Because Jesus said this some 2,000 years ago, and those people who were supposedly being threatened with the end of the world have long since died, and the end of the world did not happen during their lifetimes as threatened.
Let's say that even the youngest person living in one of those towns lived to be 100 years old. Since it was about the year 32 A.D., that would mean they lived until the year 132 A.D. before their body died.
Yet the world did not end before 132 A.D. - obviously.
Who, then, were Jesus and his students threatening with the end of the world then?
In fact, this 'end of the world' scenario has continued to be taught over and over through the centuries by sectarian institutions and their followers and teachers. Yet the end of the world has yet to come. Have they been lying to their followers all this time? Since the end of the world hasn't come yet, we can most certainly say yes.
Here is a short list of just those well-known teachers who have proclaimed not only an end of the world scenario but actually set a date for the end of the world:
Hilary of Poitiers: 365 AD (the date predicted as the second coming and end of time)
Saint Martin of Tours: 375 to 400 AD
Sextus Julius Africanus: 500 AD
Gerard of Poehlde: 1147 AD
John of Toledo: 1179 AD
Joachim of Fiore: 1205 AD
Pope Innocent III: 1284 AD
Melchior Hoffman: 1533 AD
Benjamin Keach (Baptist): 1689 AD
William Whitson: 1736 AD
Ann Lee (The Shakers): 1792 AD
Charles Wesley (Methodist): 1794 AD
Margaret McDonald: 1830 AD
Joseph Smith (Mormon): 1832 and 1891 AD
William Miller (Millerites): 1843 and 1844 AD
Ellen White (Seven Day Adventists): 1850, 1856 and "early 1900s" AD
Mother Shipton: 1881 AD
Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (Jehovah's Witnesses): 1914, 1915, 1918, 1920, 1925, 1941, 1975, 1994 and others more recent.
In some cases, as we see, some of these teachers set a new date for the end of the world after the first date past. Everyone got ready for the end of the world, and then the sun rose the next morning. Instead of being honest and saying, "well I guess I was wrong," they just set another date.
Others are still setting dates for the end of the world, and then resetting them after the date predicted passes. Are we supposed to still believe them?
What are we to make of all these false predictions?
Are they merely following in Jesus' footsteps in making false predictions for the end of the world? In other words, was Jesus also making a false prediction, and thus a false threat?
Just imagine: Say children are playing in a schoolyard and a group of kids kicks one of the boys out of the schoolyard. The boy starts to walk out but before he leaves he turns and threatens that he'll come back and beat them all up. What would we make of such a boy?
We will think he is immature. Only an immature kid would make such an idle threat against others.
Is this what Jesus is teaching his disciples to do? Make idle threats?
Don't be ridiculous.
The fact is, Jesus was not making a threat at all. The translation and interpretation of this statement only make it seem that way.
The reality is that yes, Jesus was indeed telling his students to walk away from the village and 'wipe the dust off their feet.'
But 'wiping the dust off their feet' is representing dismissing the village - not making idle threats against it.
In fact, the word being translated here to "warning" does not mean warning at all. The Greek word ἀπομάσσω (apomassō) means "to wipe off;" particularly, "to wipe off one's self, to wipe off for one's self."
So the word is precisely the opposite of what is being translated - "wiping off as a warning." It is wiping off on behalf of oneself.
What about the phrase "against you" then?
This is being translated from the Greek word σύ (sy) which means "you."
So Jesus didn't say "'Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you."
"We wipe the dust of your town off our feet."If we return to the analogy of the school boy and the schoolyard, Jesus would be in effect advising the boy to just walk away and leave it alone. Isn't this what the expression means:
"I will wipe the dust of you off my feet."
It means to be done with that person or persons. Forget about it. Walk away. Don't carry away any regrets or bad feelings. Just walk away.
But Jesus didn't tell them to only walk away. He also asked them to leave them with the words of wisdom:
"Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.'"
We have discussed the meaning of this statement at length in the link above - showing this phrase has nothing to do with time or the end of the world:
"Heal the sick who are there and tell them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.'"
So we see this statement is not a threat.
We can see that Jesus was telling his disciples to teach this to everyone - even those who listened with humility.
In other words, Jesus is not advising his disciples to threaten those who rejected them. He was telling them to walk away, yet have mercy on those who rejected them.
By insisting that "'The kingdom of God has come near to you,'" he wanted them to leave them with the teaching - continuing to offer them the reality that they can, in fact, make a change in their lives and come to have a relationship with the Supreme Being. They were to insist to them that God is nearby and they can still turn to Him.
Yes, Jesus would certainly not be happy with anyone who rejected the teachings of his disciples. But that 'not happy' is transcendental sadness. It is not an "I hate you cause you won't listen" situation. Jesus is not a vengeful person - and neither is the Supreme Being.
It is, rather, transcendental love. Mercy. It is compassion.
Certainly, this mercy and compassion are extended to all of us. And certainly, all of us at one point or another have rejected God's teachings and instructions. (As Jesus' teachings are coming from the Supreme Being.)
In fact, that is why we are here in this physical world - away from God. Each of us rejected Him. We fell.
And since then we have been given numerous chances to listen to His teachings and instructions. Yet we have continued to reject them to one degree or another.
And yet even though we have rejected the teachings of the Supreme Being, He continues to have mercy on us and give us additional chances. Why?
Transcendental love. Compassion. Unconditional mercy.
Yes, the Supreme Being wants us to return to Him. Not because He needs us. But because He knows we will be happy only when we have returned to our loving service relationship with Him. He loves us and wants us to be happy. And only when we have rejected our self-centeredness and our desires to enjoy without Him will we become fulfilled, and happy.
This is why Jesus' most important instruction was:
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)