“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
What comes to your mind when you think of the twelve disciples Jesus chose to follow Him? In most cases, I would venture to say the first thing that comes to mind is how ordinary they were. Nothing special here, right? When we consider their actions and responses to Jesus, in most cases they came across clueless, and at times even heartless. In the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry at the cross, they appeared to be disillusioned and lost.
But when we factor in the entire story, we see that these are men whom Jesus chose to entrust His mission. They would be men who, in the power of the Spirit, would preach the gospel and thousands would be saved. They are men who would be used by God to perform miracles, and through their powerful ministry considered more than mere men but even gods at times. More than that, these men were eyewitnesses of Jesus. They knew firsthand the One who conquered death and felt the scars on His hands and feet.
I can’t imagine what must have been going on in their minds when these things happened. When Peter preached Jesus and thousands were converted, don’t you think he was tempted to become a celebrity preacher? Don’t you think when the disciples healed the sick and raised the dead, they did not battle a sense of prideful exceptionalism along with self-promoting platforms from which they can boast of their accomplishments? What was it that kept them from being destroyed by pride and brought down by self-deceit?
I believe a significant reason for their faithfulness and perseverance in the mission was due to the fact that Jesus got to their feet so that what God does through them never got to their heads.
That dinner in the upper room where their Master, the King of Heaven and Lord of all creation, took off his outer garments and dressed Himself in a towel was one Jesus’ disciples never forgot. Much like Jesus’ last words in the Great Commission, this Great Example had to have a lasting impression. Knowing that He was going to depart to the Father (John 13:1), Jesus went after their feet to get to their heart.
Jesus indicated by His example the kind of life His disciples would live. Jesus entered our world and took on our mess. The cross stands in history to reveal Jesus’ determination to take on the mess and filth of our sin by being the servant who made the greatest sacrifice (Matt. 20:28). By laying hold their feet, Jesus was showing that He had loved them to the end. Their mess was going to be His masterpiece, and when their vision required them to look down upon their Master, they knew this was a moment that would define their mission for the rest of their lives.
With the exception of Judas, the son of perdition, the disciples feet never wandered away. These filthy feet washed by Jesus would be the beautiful feet that take the good news to the world. They are feet that went to the poor, to the prisons, and to Patmos. They are feet that belonged to men whose hearts were arrested by the humble service and example of their King.
Imagine what it was like to be used like the disciples after the ascension of Jesus. Imagine how much praise they had to deflect, how much pride they had to mortify, how much power they had to control. How easy must it have been for one to walk away and try to become a re-make of Jesus (Jesus 2.0). But not one of the disciples flaked or fizzled out. And while I certainly believe this was due to the Spirit’s work in their hearts, I also believe this was due to Jesus’ work on their feet.
Those of us who represent the King must always remember that we look most like Jesus, not when we are looking down on others from a platform, but when we are looking up at them from a basin. We are to get dirty and live in the trenches of front line mission work, not quarantine our labors in the laboratory of religious events. Jesus said we are blessed if we follow His example and do likewise, and while that may not always be washing the feet in an upper room, it will always be humbly applying the gospel to broken lives through a servant’s heart of love.