Summary: Sometimes we come across a verse of scripture that is difficult to understand. We need to know and understand the context of that verse and sometimes the meaning is found by using different versions of the Bible - in this case the Message Bible.
A former archbishop of Canterbury arrived in New York. A journalist asked him, “Will you be visiting any of our nightclubs whilst you are here?”
The archbishop mischievously replied, “Are there any night clubs here?”
Next day a newspaper headline read: “Archbishop’s first question on arriving in New York: ‘Are there any night clubs here?’”
How easy it is to misquote or misunderstand without a context!
Context is of primary importance in our understanding of Holy Scripture as the context helps us to appreciate how those who heard the WORD for the first time understood what Jesus was actually saying.
The context makes the WORD live for today as we understand the political, sociological, geographical and historical aspects of the day in which Jesus lived and worked His life giving preaching and miracles.
We can then make that WORD live for us today!
A missionary was preaching in Africa from the book of Rev 3:20 (ESV), “Behold, I stand at the door and knock,” without knowing that in this African context only thieves knock on doors to see if anyone is at home.
Friends, on the other hand, announce their presence by calling out.
So these missionaries were inadvertently preaching that Jesus wanted to steal from them!
CONTEXT we need to understand and relate to our audience - deliver the Word of God so that it is understood by those you are delivering the address.
Today's gospel has what we call a long and short version to the extent that the verses in square brackets can be omitted.
But this morning I was a little unorthodox in that I ended the gospel reading with a verse from that omitted area - I hope the boss didn't notice!
It’s a verse of scripture that has foxed me for a number of years - in that it doesn't make sense and the reason for this is that I'm not aware of the context.
'If anyone will NOT receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.' Matt 10:14 (ESV)
Shake the dust off their feet?!
To quote that verse on its own is in a sense taking it out of context as the disciples of Jesus were out on a mission, taking the word of Jesus to the villages and people in the area.
It is there first mission and they do not know what to expect and naturally they are a little apprehensive about it all.
So Jesus reassures them giving appropriate advice and guidance for their approach in taking out the Good News that they had learnt and heard from the master's lips.
'Jesus sent his twelve harvest hands out with this charge:
Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighbourhood.
Tell them that the kingdom is here.
Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons.
You have been treated generously, so live generously. '
In other words share your good fortune with those you meet, share the Good News of the Hope and Salvation that Jesus has won for you. Don't keep it to yourselves.
As you may know I have the fortune to work in a Christian bookshop and I meet a large cross section of the public in that role as well as the whole spectrum of Christian denominations.
Frequently someone might come in looking to buy a Bible for a friend, or relative, or even themselves - what version would you like?
We only have a small selection of the vast numbers that are available, RSV, NRSV, NIV, ESV, JB, KJV, NKJV, NLT, GN etc, etc...
Let alone style, size of print, youth version, study version etc..
What do you want - poetry of language or a version in modern language that you can easily understand?
Compare a well-known passage of scripture: Psalm 23, the Lord's prayer, Opening to John's gospel..
Understanding God's word is vital for us so that we can emulate that word in our lives.
Back to context and our understanding of the word in the time when it was first written.
Why use the illustration of shaking the dust off your feet as an illustration NOT of contempt but rather, well if you don't want to hear some good news - fine I'll take it elsewhere.
The symbol of shaking off the dust from your feet would vividly and yet solemnly portray the disciple’s freedom from involvement in their opponents’ guilt and coming judgement.
They had their chance and they rejected it – that’s up to them, be it upon their own head.
Their loss my gain to move on to where the harvest, the people are more receptive to hearing God’s word.
There is a new version of the Bible called the Message and it proclaims the WORD of God in a language we can easily relate to.