I don’t like feet. No, I hate feet. I especially hate my feet. I don’t wear sandals or walk around in bare feet because I am ashamed of my ugly feet. After over a decade in the infantry, my feet have been beaten up. I have a sixth toe on my right foot. Okay, it isn’t really a toe. When I was young I broke my toe and a piece of bone split off forming a growth that I have labeled my sixth toe. My extra toe, hairy toes, callused heels, and stubborn warts complete the whole gross package.
In the Bible, we find that Exodus 3 tells us about Moses and the burning bush. There, we find God stating those famous words, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” This is where the record player screeches, the brakes squeal, and it gets real quiet in the room. Let me ask you this, have you even seen a real shepherd? Not an Americanized Jesus painted shepherd, where he is holding a spotless white lamb. I’m talking about a real life, nomadic, sun stained skin, darkened teeth, filthy no access to running water kind of shepherd?
I spent a year in southern Iraq, working with the nomadic Bedouin population. These are shepherds. They look nothing like the Jesus paintings that I remember from Sunday school. Their feet are the stuff that nightmares are made of. Calluses so thick they began to crack. Toenails are in only one of two conditions, overgrown or broken off. Dirty doesn’t even begin to describe the condition of their feet.
Now, this is where some of my friends believe I begin walking into heresy. Why did God tell Moses to take off his sandals? I could understand if Moses was walking into a temple filled with fine rugs, which the priests diligently vacuumed after worship every week. But no, we are talking about the ground. Can it get any dirtier? Wouldn’t the bottom of his sandals be cleaner than bottom of his sweaty, hairy, blistered feet? If I had a choice of touching a sandal or a bedouin’s feet. I would touch the bottom of those sandals all day long. BUT WAIT, this is not just ground, this is ‘Holy Ground”! What if God was saying, “When you come to me, there can be nothing between us”?
Let’s go back to the beginning, to the book of Genesis. After eating the forbidden fruit Adam and Eve saw they were naked and made loincloths out of leaves to cover themselves. Welcome to the Human condition. When we sin, we try to cover it with our own petty excuses and irrational reasoning. We try to manage our sins and fears. Just like my feet. I could probably go to the doctor and have my sixth toe and warts removed. However,I have learned to just manage it and accept their condition. I have made up a lot of excuses such as, “it will be too embarrassing, it will hurt too much, or it will cost me too much. Jesus isn’t concerned with our excuses or our reasoning but rather came to intimately involve himself in our shortcomings.
The disciples walked a lot and I guarantee they had some sour feet. This is what makes Jesus washing his disciples feet amazing. John 13:1-17 isn’t about hygiene and proper grooming. It is about Jesus touching the parts of our lives that are dirty that we don’t want anyone else to see.
I remember a time when I had just started working under an amazing children’s pastor and now good friend, Greg Jones. On my hour long commute to church, Greg called me to let me know he wanted to use me for an illustration. He wanted to wash my feet in front of the children. I tried to convince him not to. I explained my warts, my hair, MY SIXTH TOE. He didnt care. When the time came to wash my feet he quickly realized I was not lying. He washed them through tears and dry heaving. The truth is, I often find that my human condition, my heart or my sin is much grosser than my feet could ever be.
When God told Moses to take off his sandals, I don’t believe He was trying to keep the ground from getting dirty. I believe He was showing us that when we come to Him, there can be NOTHING between us, nothing the separates us from Him. We have to come as we are bringing our dirty, gross, and broken self. He wants the dirtiest parts of us. Not to hold against us as blackmail or guilt, but simply to fix us. He wants to TOUCH and HEAL the DIRTIEST parts of us. God is not interested in staying clean. If He was, he would never would have sent His son Jesus to come to earth and walk with us. Ultimately, bearing our dirty sins on a filthy cross. He is not interested in avoiding our sin. He is interested in spending eternity with our fixed souls.