Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was going on. And he was perplexed because some were saying that John had been raised from the dead, others that Elijah had appeared, and still others that one of the prophets of long ago had come back to life. But Herod said, “I beheaded John. Who, then, is this I hear such things about?” And he tried to see him.
The 12 disciples might seem a ragtag group of followers - some fishermen, a tax collector, a couple of religious/political zealots, etc. One would even betray him. But to this group of men, Jesus transferred his power. These men had authority to heal demons, cure disease, and proclaim the kingdom of God with his authority in a way that no self-proclaimed exorcist, faith healer, or preacher has possessed since.
Jesus sends them out on their first solo mission with interesting instructions. They couldn't even bring a spare tunic! Nothing could weigh them down. They were forced to depend on God's guidance and provision. If people did not believe the gospel, they were to shake the dust off their feet and move on to the next town. At this point Jesus was sending them only to Jewish settlements, but even with that there was too much ground to cover to waste time arguing. Surely these lessons served them well after Jesus' ascension when the remaining eleven faced trials, persecution, and disbelief.
Shake the dust off your feet. What does this mean for us today? Other scriptures do not back up the thought that we can simply "shake the dust off our feet" and give up on people. Wives of unbelieving husbands are called to stay with them, continuing as a witness in their lives. And we have all heard stories of those who prayed for and witnessed to family members and friends for decades before seeing fruit. When we in the modern church are rejected, shaking off our "dust" and arrogantly claiming it is a testimony against unbelievers is not an option. We are called to not take it to heart when people do not believe the message. That is the dust we shake off - negative comments, scorn, and rejection. Never imagine someone is a lost cause for Christ. Just remember all the "lost causes" God used in Scripture to further his kingdom!
Herod was greatly perplexed. The Greek is diaporeó - used for someone at a complete loss, like a traveler unsure of which way to go when his journey meets several paths or one who when faced with several options to a problem finds no way out. He is confused by all the messages he hears about Jesus - he is Elijah come back to prepare the way for a military Messiah, he is another prophet raised from the dead, or he is John the Baptist himself raised back to life. This one seems a stretch since Jesus and John the Baptist were seen together on at least one occasion, but to the superstitious Herod who had beheaded John this would be troubling. Herod would be on the lookout for anyone or anything that would threaten his power, and Jesus was now on His radar.
Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart... On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God... We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body... Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. - 2 Corinthians 4