Today I want to talk about feet. Yes, feet. I’ve heard that in the average person’s lifetime, your feet will carry you the equivalent of five times around the planet—yet we give them very little thought. Until something goes wrong with them, that is. I’ve broken the little toes on each of my feet, and I’m amazed at how one little digit can affect so much about the way a person stands, walks, and balances. Now that I’m a runner, I think about my feet a lot more than I used to. I try to pick out shoes that will not only cover my feet, but support them properly as well. I may be developing a little tendonitis in one of my toes, so that makes the right shoes all the more important. My feet will be carrying me for the rest of my life, so I want to take care of them.
I know the consequences of not taking care of your feet. One spring break I went to New York City on a mission trip, washing and trimming and bandaging the feet of homeless people who had not taken care of their feet all winter. You can imagine what that was like! Feet are ugly things on anybody, but especially on those who haven’t taken care of them. But the Bible says there are some people who have beautiful feet. “How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation, and says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns (Isaiah 52.7 NASB)!’" Today I don’t want to talk about just any feet—I want to talk about beautiful feet.
In the third chapter of the book that bears her name, a poor girl named Ruth sneaks up on the sleeping landowner Boaz and uncovers his feet. He awakens and sees the woman at his feet. She introduces herself as his close relative in need of protection, and asks him to spread his cloak over her. Most readers are confused about the meaning of this chapter, and even biblical scholars disagree about its significance. Some think that this story is indecent, while others suggest a chaste ritual that has been lost to modern readers. Either way, the result is that by placing herself at the feet of Boaz, she makes a covenant with the man who will become her redeemer. No matter how funky Boaz’ feet are physically, Isaiah 52.7 rings true in the ears of Ruth.
As I read this story, I can’t help but think of other accounts of some women named Mary who place themselves at the feet of their Redeemer. There’s Mary of Bethany who anoints Jesus’ head and feet with expensive ointment. She wets his feet with her tears and dries them with her hair. She is rebuked for being so forward (especially for a woman with a checkered past), yet Jesus praises her for it.[i] In one form or another, this story makes it into all four gospels, and Jesus says that everywhere God’s word is preached, her story will be told because of the good thing she does for him.
Then there’s another story of Mary of Bethany, who has a particular love for Jesus. In Luke 10.38-42 we read about Jesus visiting the house that Mary shares with her brother Lazarus and her sister Martha. Martha gets irritated with Mary because Martha is making all the preparations for the meal while Mary sits at Jesus’ feet. Martha asks Jesus to tell Mary to help out, but Jesus affirms Mary’s behavior, saying she has chosen the better thing.
Again we have the story of three women named Mary who gather at the foot of the cross. Scholars disagree about all their identities, but many believe them to be Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary Salome the aunt of Jesus and wife of Cleopas, and Mary Magdelene. When all the other disciples abandon their Lord, only these three Marys and John the Beloved remain at the cross. Because she remains at Jesus’ feet, Mary receives a blessing from her son and John receives instructions to care for Jesus’ mother.[ii]
Today, Christians need to remain at the feet of Jesus. Like Ruth, we need to recognize our Redeemer, the only One who can save us. We must remove anything that separates us from our Lord, receiving His blessing and salvation. Like Mary of Bethany, we have to sit at His feet, not missing out on any opportunity to learn from Him. As she anointed Jesus feet with and wet them with her tears, we need to pour out our worship as we wait on the Lord. Remaining at the feet of Jesus means risking everything to be with Him, the way John and the Marys stuck by the Lord at His crucifixion. Like them, we receive His love and instructions when we wait at Jesus’ feet. Placing ourselves there, we relate to Him as Lord. It’s at His feet that we understand our position of humility and servanthood and gratitude for what He has done for us.
Nobody knows exactly what Jesus looked like physically. Isaiah 53.2 says that the Messiah would not be beautiful, that we should desire Him. Of all his body parts, certainly Jesus’ feet must have been the most ugly—dirty and worn from hard toil and travel. It was Jesus’ feet that received the nails that held Him to the cross. Yet the Bible says, “How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation, and says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’" It’s at the feet of Jesus that we meet our Redeemer, that we receive His teaching, that we pour out of love before Him, that we hear His pronouncement of love, and that we receive His instructions for life. Let’s make sure that we take a proper position with Jesus—and sit at His feet.