Beautiful Feet

The Old Testament reading for Christmas Day includes the following verse from Isaiah: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’” (Isaiah 52:7)

When it comes to things of beauty in God’s world, feet are not the first thing that comes to mind. Not even the first thing in the human body. There are things like hair and faces and shoulders. But feet?

Maybe it is an argument for the least to the greatest. In other words, if even the feet of the one who brings good news are beautiful then all the rest of their body must be beautiful as well.

There are three notable stories about feet in the Bible

In John 12 we read about a woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume and dried them with her hair.

[1] “Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. [2] So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. [3] Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. [4] But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, [5] ‘Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?’ [6] He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. [7] Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. [8] For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.’” (John 12:1-8)

When Judas objected to such an expensive ointment being put on Jesus’ feet Jesus replied, “She is anointing my body for burial. Soon I will be giving my life for the sins of the world, and she is getting my body ready for burial.

On the last night Jesus spent with his disciples before he suffered, Jesus washed his disciples’ feet:

[1] “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. [2] During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, [3] Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, [4] rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. [5] Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. [6] He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, do you wash my feet?’ [7] Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” [8] Peter said to him, ‘You shall never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.’ [9] Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!’ [10] Jesus said to him, ‘The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.’ [11] For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’

[12] “When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, ‘Do you understand what I have done to you? [13] You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. [14] If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. [15] For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.’” (John 13:1-15)

Jesus explains that, in washing his disciples’ feet he was giving them an example of how they should serve each other.

As Jesus is preparing to send his disciples out to preach and heal, he tells them:

[14] “And 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. [15] Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.” (Matthew 10:14-15)

Just as the feet of those who bring good news are beautiful, their feet are to be used as a testimony against those who reject the good news.

Paul quotes this verse in Romans 10:14–15:

[14] “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? [15] And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’”

As Paul points out, people cannot call on someone they have not heard about, they cannot hear unless someone preaches to them, and they can’t preach unless they are sent.

Many times, people would fall at Jesus’ feet. Jairus, the synagogue ruler who wanted Jesus to heal his daughter, fell at Jesus’ feet. The Samaritan whom Jesus healed of leprosy fell at his feet to thank him. And on Easter morning when the women saw Jesus alive, they fell at his feet.

Then there is the beauty. The world is obsessed with beauty and has developed all kinds of products to help us be and stay beautiful but I’m not aware of any products designed to make our faith beautiful.

Jesus is God’s one and only “product” to make us beautiful in his sight. Jesus came to restore us to the original beauty we had when God looked at us and said “Behold, it is very good.” (Genesis 1:31) soon after we were created, we lost our beauty through the sin of Adam and Eve.

Only when we are clothed with Christ in Holy Baptism do we have the kind of beauty that God finds attractive. No matter how ugly we may appear to the world, in Christ we are beautiful in God’s sight.

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