Summary: We stand at the feet of Christ, guilty of the sin that precipitated those feet being nailed to the cross. But those wounds also mean forgiveness, grace, and healing.
The Feet of Christ
First Sunday in Lent
March 5, 2006
Feet. We don’t think too much about our feet, do we? We pretty much take them for granted…that is unless they start to cause us trouble…blister on our heel, a corn on our little toe, an ingrown toenail. Pretty much though, we don’t think about our feet. They are just there, doing their job, helping us get through the day. We’re glad we’ve got them, but we just don’t think too much about them.
I’ve been trying for awhile to think about the feet of Jesus. That’s been hard for me. You see, it is difficult to imagine the Lord of the universe having feet like mine. It is easier for me to think about the disciples’ feet…Peter’s feet which walked back and forth across rough planks of his fishing boat, Matthew’s feet which he tucked under himself as he was collecting the taxes from his fellow citizens, Simon the Zealot’s feet which were in constant motion as he tried to mobilize popular resistance to the Roman occupation.
Still, Jesus had feet as well. These were the feet which Mary played with while he was still in diapers. I don’t know if she knew the rhyme that we all say to our children… ”This little piggy went to market, this little piggy stayed home. This little piggy had roast beef. This little piggy had none. And this little piggy went wee wee wee all the way home.” There was no doubt some first century equivalent.
These were the feet on which he ran and played with his friends as a young boy from Nazareth. These were the feet that carried him to the synagogue each Sabbath to worship God. These were the feet that stood among the sawdust and wood shavings in his father’s workshop. These were the feet that stepped into the Jordan River at his baptism. These were the feet that walked the dusty roads of Galilee and Judea as he ministered to his people. These were the feet that even walked on the surface of the water of the Sea of Galilee. These were feet that were used to walking. They were tough feet. They were calloused feet. They were busy feet. They were dirty feet.
These were the feet that took him to the home of Simon the Pharisee one day for dinner. They were all there, reclining at the table, an elbow resting on a pillow with their feet stretched out behind them.
And then entered the woman…the sinful woman…by implication, a harlot. Private dinner parties in that day and age were different than private parties with which we are familiar. It would not have been unusual at all to have uninvited townsfolk out on the fringes of the dinner party in order to stare and gawk at all of the important citizens of the city gathered in one place.
For some reason, celebrities attract gawkers. I think that is what was going on at Simon the Pharisee’s house that day, at least for many of the people. They wanted to get close to the town’s elite. In that culture, it wouldn’t have been all that unusual to have lookers-on.
Back in chapter 7, verse 34, Jesus declared himself to be a friend of tax collectors and sinners, which sets up the scene which is about to unfold. In the crowd of lookers and celebrity seekers that day was a woman…a sinner…a harlot. She had obviously gotten an advance look at the guest list somehow and knew beforehand that Jesus was going to be there. This was not just a chance encounter.
She came prepared. In her hand was a jar of ointment. Somehow, she made her way through the crowd and into the house. Suddenly she found herself standing and weeping at the feet of Jesus. She came to anoint him, but aware of the state of her life she wept at missed opportunities, at her sinful past, and at the thought of what he must think of her. Her tears flowed and washed the dust and grime from his feet. Seeing nothing else, she let down her hair and dried his feet with her flowing locks. If that is not a great enough sign of devotion, she began kissing his feet and then proceeded to anoint them with the oil which she had brought.
Now you have to understand what this looked like to these good, pious Jews gathered around the table that day. Touching a man’s feet in that culture could have sexual overtones. Plus, she was a sinner and therefore unclean. Touching Jesus would have made him ritually unclean as well. Suddenly, what was an elegant social gathering just a few minutes before, had become a scandal of immense proportions.