By Pastor Glenn Pease
Centuries ago the Danes decided to invade Scotland. They very cleverly moved their great army in the night so they could creep up on the Scottish forces and take them by surprise. In order to make this advance as noiseless as possible they came barefooted. As they neared the sleeping Scots, one unfortunate Dane brought his foot down on a bristling thistle. He let out with a roar of pain that was like a trumpet blast which rang through the sleeping camp. The Scots were alerted, and quickly grabbed their weapons, and the Danes were driven back.
One could say that they came within one foot of victory, but one foot led to their defeat. The thistle from that time on was adopted as the national emblem of Scotland. Feet are vital for the onward march, but they can also be your foe and lead you to defeat because of their weakness. Not all have the feet of the Kentucky backwoods farmer who never wore shoes. One day he came into the cabin and stood by the fireplace with his callused feet. His wife said, "You'd better move your feet a mite, you're standin on a live coal." He replied, "Which foot?" Unfortunately, most foot soldiers do not have feet that tough. Even Achilles, the great Greek warrior, had one weak spot, and that was the heel of his foot. It was by means of an arrow in his heel that he was brought to defeat. Our feet determine whether we stand or fall in more ways than one.
The statue, or government, or organization, with feet of clay is easily toppled. When we want somebody to become independent, we tell them to stand on their own two feet, and to get both feet on the ground. The unstable position and shaky argument puts a man where we say he doesn't have a leg to stand on. All of the many texts about the Christian walk and the Christian stand make clear that feet are essential equipment for the Christian life, for you cannot stand or walk without feet.
The feet can bring you to defeat, or they can march you to victory. Either way the feet play a major role in every life, and that includes the life of our Lord. There are 27 references to the feet of Jesus in the New Testament. That is likely a greater focus on feet than you will find in the biography of any other man. Biblical times were times of far greater foot consciousness. There are 4 Hebrew and 2 Greek words for feet. There are 162 references to feet in the Old Testament, and 75 in the New Testament. Feet were just more conspicuous in that world where walking, marching, and cleaning of feet, and sitting at the feet of others, were daily events.
The feet of Jesus were exposed, and so more people beheld the feet of Christ than other great men of history. The feet of Jesus were the center of so much of His activity. In Matt. 15:30 we read, "Great crowds came to Him, bringing the lame, blind, the crippled, the dumb and many others, and laid them at His feet, and He healed them." Mary became famous for sitting at the feet of Jesus and soaking in the wisdom of His teaching. Many were laid at His feet unable to walk, and Jesus lifted them up and stood them on their own two feet again, and enabled them to walk and be restored to the world of folks with feet that would function again. Only those who have lost the ability to walk can appreciate how beautiful it must have been to be laid at the feet of one, who because He created feet could fix them, and make them work again.
"I cried because I had no shoes till I saw a man who had no feet," is a popular saying, but here were crowds who wept for joy, for those with no feet walked away from the feet of Jesus having been made whole. Walking is being revived in our day for health and exercise, but in the day of Christ walking was a necessity, and that is why one of the most frequent miracles of the New Testament was that of making the lame walk. To be put back on your feet was to be given new life. We take our feet for granted, and do not often consider that they are one of the wonders of creation.
Leonardo da Vinci called the feet, "A masterpiece of engineering and a work of art." There are 26 bones in each foot or 52 in both, and that is one forth of the bones in our body. By means of these instruments the average person by the age of 55 has walked 70,000 miles, or 2 and one half times around the world. Gilette Burgess may sound silly, but he was rightly amazed when he wrote-
My feet, they haul me round the house,
And hoist me up the stairs.
I only have to steer them, and
They ride me everywheres.
Another poet wrote some lines that became more well known.
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And departing leave behind us
Footprints in the sands of time.
Jesus did so more than any other who has ever lived, and we want to sit at His feet and focus on them, for His footprints have changed the course of history. Every place the feet of Jesus touched have become places of deep interest, study, and research. We cannot look at all 27 references, and so we will only get a foot in the door of this lowly yet lofty subject. We will focus on the feet of Jesus from the point of view of them being instruments of sovereignty, suffering, and of service. First lets look at His feet as-
I. INSTRUMENTS OF SOVEREIGNTY.
Many ancient monuments picture the kings with their feet on the necks of the vanquished to show they are sovereign and victorious. They have the enemy in complete subjection. The feet are symbols of power. We see this very thing in Joshua 10:24 where we read, "When they had brought the kings to Joshua, he summoned all the men of Israel and said to the army commanders who had come with him, 'come here and put your feet on the necks of these kings.' So they came forward and placed their feet on their necks." This was to encourage the commanders and give them assurance of victory over the enemy.
We see Paul doing the same thing on a spiritual level for the soldiers of the cross. He writes in Romans 16:20, "The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet." The image of the song Onward Christian Soldiers is very biblical, for Christians are to march forward like an army of foot soldiers conquering territory that is under the power of Satan, and liberating those he holds captive. Our feet are weapons of warfare, and by means of our feet we are to gain victory and sovereignty over Satan. In Epb. 6 where Paul describes the whole armor of God that we are to put on, he does not neglect the feet, but urges us to have our feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel. The point is that foot power was, is, and will ever be, a primary power, for the feet of our Lord will forever be a place where we worship His majesty and glory.
Paul in I Cor. 15;25 says of Jesus, "For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet." The last enemy to be destroyed is death, and when this final foe is fully vanquished the whole universe will be under the sovereign feet of Christ. This is the plan of God that Paul explains in Eph. 1. He says that this is why God raised Jesus and exalted Him to His own right hand, "..far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under His feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the church." He who has the most powerful feet is the head.
When the Apostle John was caught up to see a vision of the ascended Christ he was very conscious of his Lord's feet. In Rev. 1:15 he says, "His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace." And in verse 17 he says, "When I saw Him I fell at His feet as though dead." One day all who loved Jesus will experience the wonder and joy of falling before His sovereign feet.
Lo, at His feet with awful joy
The adoring armies fall!
With joy they shrink to nothing there
Before the eternal all.
Whenever you fall at the feet of Jesus you have arrived at a high point in your spiritual life. William Cowper wrote,
Tis joy enough, my all in all,
At thy dear feet to lie;
Thou wilt not let me lower fall,
And none can higher fly.
We may never in time walk where Jesus walked, but all who submit to His Lordship will walk with Him in white, and our feet will walk with His on golden streets, and all over a redeemed and perfected earth. Following the footsteps of Jesus will be forever, for His feet will be our guide for all eternity. We will sit at His feet; worship at His feet, and serve at His feet with joy forever and ever. "Footprints of Jesus that make the pathway glow. We will follow the steps of Jesus wherever they go."
When Jesus comes again He will come, not with the feet of the lowly carpenter, but with the feet of a sovereign Lord. His feet will then be instruments of sovereignty as all will bow before His feet and acknowledge Him as sovereign. B. Whitney Allen wrote,
Down the minster aisles of splendour,
From betwixt the cherubim,
Through the wond'ring throng with movements strong and sweet,
Sounds His victory-trend approaching
With a movement far and dim-
The music of the coming of His feet.
He is coming, O my spirit,
With His everlasting peace,
With His blessedness immortal and complete;
He is coming, O my spirit,
And His coming brings release.
I am waiting for the coming of His feet.
No one can fill the shoes of Jesus, for He alone will finally conquer this world, and all will be under His feet, for His feet are instruments of sovereignty. Next, we see His feet as-
II. INSTRUMENTS OF SUFFERING.
The feet are a very sensitive part of the body. William Stidger tells of how on one occasion Helen Keller gave a speech to a large crowd. There was a great round of applause when she finished. Even though she was blind and deaf she knew they were clapping, and she fairly danced with joy, and she clapped her hands as well. The chairman asked Miss Sullivan to find out how she could hear that applause. Helen said, "Through the vibrations in my feet."
The feet are feelers, for they can feel pleasure as well as pain. Jesus felt both in His feet, but the focus of attention is usually on the pain His had to endure. One of the most famous references to the feet of Jesus in all of literature is that of Shakespeare in Henry IV.
In those holy fields
Over whose acres walked those blessed feet
Which, fourteen hundred years ago
For our advantage on the bitter cross.
It was quite a surprise to me to find that there are no references in the crucifixion accounts to the nailing of Christ's feet to the cross. We only have the reference to the nail prints in His feet in John 20:25. We have heard of it so often, however, that we think it must be there in the accounts of the cross, but it is not. We know His feet were nailed to the cross because that is what crucifixion was, but there is no dwelling on this agonizing fact in the Gospels. Jesus implies that His feet were clear evidence of His resurrected body, however, in Luke 24:39 where He says to the startled and doubting disciples, "Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself." In verse 40 it says that He showed them His hands and feet. His nailed scared hands and feet were proof that it was the crucified Christ who was the risen Christ. This has lead to His feet becoming symbols of His suffering. Bishop Bradlay of India wrote,
Christ, if ever my footsteps should falter,
And I be prepared for retreat,
If desert or thorn caused lamenting
Lord, show me Thy feet;
Thy bleeding feet, Thy nail-scared feet,
My Jesus, show me Thy feet.
It was by means of His nail-pierced hands and feet that Jesus shed His blood which atoned for our sins. When Jesus came into the world, He came with the intention of doing more than just getting His feet wet in the human experience. He came to be tempted in all points like us, and to suffer to the fullest the infirmities of man, even to the point of death. He leaped into life with both feet, and He entered death the same way. He could have escaped anytime, but He was determined to follow God's plan all the way until they carried Him out feet first. We seldom think of it, but the feet of Christ were instruments of suffering by which we are saved, and by which Jesus won the victory which made him sovereign over all.
We need to focus on the suffering feet of our Savior as objects of beauty. Feet are not thought of as objects of beauty in our culture. They are hidden and lowly, and out of sight is out of mind usually. Our culture rejects bare feet, and it sees them as repulsive and dangerous, and so one of the most common signs we see is, no bare feet allowed. Or we see such signs as no shoes, no shirt, no service. In other words, we will not respect anyone with exposed feet. The modern poetess Eileen Logeer speculates as to how Jesus would be accepted in our culture today.
No, no, young man, you can't come in
-Your feet all mud like that.
Look how your footprints spoil the steps!
Don't you ever take a bath?
You say its blood?
It's wounds in both your feet?
Then all the worse!
Our carpet's new
And blood stains just won't vacuum out.
A hospital's the place for you,
Most certainly not a church.
We can't admit disgusting things
-It wouldn't honor God.
We aim for things that please Him most.
So, no bare feet allowed.
There was no beauty in Jesus when He bore our sins according to the prophet. From head to foot He was bruised and bloody, and there was nothing of His body that had any appeal. It is only as we consider that He bore all this shame and suffering for us that we see any beauty. His hands and feet were nailed to the cross because He bore in His own body our sins on that tree. Because He did we will have bodies forever with feet that will walk all over God's heaven. Next we look at His feet as-
III. INSTRUMENTS OF SERVICE.
The first thing we note in our text is that instruments of service need service. The feet in that day were the primary means of transportation, and all means of transportation need to be serviced. The feet of Jesus were often tired and dusty as He was constantly going about doing good and meeting the needs of others. Jesus was not like the young lady that Benett Cerf wrote about.
There was a young lady of Crete
Who was so exceedingly neat.
When she got out of bed
She stood on her head
To make sure of not soiling her feet.
Jesus soiled His feet daily in travelling the dusty roads to serve. Any good host knew that you had to focus on the feet to be hospitable. It made a traveling guest feel refreshed and comfortable to have his feet cleansed. Simon knew this, but he neglected this hospitable touch because he did not love Jesus.
The former prostitute, however, saw the feet of Jesus as objects of love. Serving the needs of His feet was one way she could say, thank you for the gift of new life. You cleansed me from sin, and the least I can do is cleanse and refresh your feet. How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news is the famous Jewish saying from Isaiah. If this be so, then Jesus had the most beautiful feet that ever walked his earth, for He brought the greatest news men have ever received. This is how this woman felt, and she was glad Simon had neglected his feet, for it gave her a chance to wash the feet of Him who washed her soul and made it white as snow. To her it was no lowly duty, as Simon would see it, but it was the highest privilege. Tennyson wrote,
All subtle thought, all curious fears,
Borne down by gladness so complete,
She bows, she bathes the Savior's feet
With costly spikenard and with tears.
There is no hint that the woman spoke a single word. Simon on the other hand was a talker, and he had plenty to say. This woman shows by her actions that love is not something you say only, but love is something you do. Mary of Bethany expressed her love for Jesus on another occasion by doing something similar. The poet put it-
Love is the true economist,
She breaks the box and gives her all;
Yet not one precious drop is miss'd,
Since on His head and feet they fall.
Not many feet in history have ever been washing in the mixture of perfume and tears. It is a unique solution nobody has figured out how to market because so few have such a deep love as did this weeping woman. Spurgeon says, "She wept because she had sinned so much, and then wept because He had forgiven her so freely. Love and grief in equal measure made up these precious tears." She had no idea what was ahead for these feet she so much loved. She only knew they had brought His love and cleansing power to her. She could not dream that they would one day be nailed to a cross.
She knew not of the bitter way
Those sacred feet had yet to tread,
Nor how the nails would pierce one day
Where now her costly tears were shed.
It is a pleasure to have the feet service by being cleansed and massaged. It is so relaxing and refreshing, but it can be a pain to use the feet in the service of others. Service can be costly, and the feet often bear that cost. Many, after a day of service, have said, "my feet are killing me," or "Oh my aching feet." The feet bear the heaviest load, for they get all the rest of the body to the place where service is needed. The hands can do little labor until the feet get them to where the need is for their labor. "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel," was our Lord's command, but it cannot be fulfilled without the feet. That is why the feet of those who bring good news are so beautiful. They are beautiful because they get the tongue to the place where the beautiful message of salvation can be delivered.
Except for His brief ride on the colt on Palm Sunday Jesus went everywhere on foot to teach, preach, and heal. People loved the feet of Jesus, for they were ever active in carrying Him where He could meet the needs of others. His feet were the most precious instruments of service.
The patient Christ long ago
O'er old Judea's rugged hills,
With willing feet went to and fro
To find and comfort human ills.
Jesus was not only the Living Word, He was the walking Word, for He was constantly on the move in service. There are over 100 references to His walking in the Gospels. His feet were swift to carry Him about in service, and that is why we have the popular concept of the footprints of Jesus.
Judean hills are holy;
Judean fields are fair,
For one can find the footprints
Of Jesus everywhere.
Beautiful feet are they that go
Swiftly to lighten another's woe.
This focus on the feet of Jesus is not a matter of trivial pursuit in anatomy. You cannot know Jesus adequately without a focus on His feet, and the role of the feet in His plan. Two of the major commands of Christ were, "Come follow me," and, "Go into all the world." Both of these demand the obedience of the feet. Soldiers of the cross are foot soldiers, and only by means of the feet can we be and do what our Lord expects. The world does not look at your feet. They never sponsor a beautiful feet contest. They look for beautiful hair, eyes, face, hands, and legs, but they pay no attention to the feet. God, however, does have a focus on our feet. Are they swift to do folly, or are they beautiful because they are swift to obey and do His will?
Jesus used his feet for the glory of God, and the good of man. He not only had love expressed to Him by means of His feet, but He expressed His love for His disciples by washing their feet. By this act of love He made it clear that the servant is the greatest. D. L. Moody had a pastor's conference at Moody Bible Institute, and he came upon some guest rooms where the pastors from Europe had put their shoes outside the door. This was the custom of their land. It was expected that a servant would clean and polish them for the next day. Moody spotted some students and asked them to polish the shoes. They protested that they came to school to study for the ministry, and not to be cleaning shoes. So Moody did it himself. He followed His Lord on the focus of feet. He recognized that Jesus did not come to be ministered to, but to minister and give His life a ransom for many. He was to be a saving servant who would focus on feet, and we never fully understand the love of Jesus until we too are willing to be a servant and focus on feet.