Monday, 8 September 2014
The Incarnation: The God Who Has Feet
Where were you when the world heard its first sonic boom? Were you standing on both feet, looking up to see what made that sound?
It happened on October 14, 1947, over the Mojave Desert. The pilot, U.S. Air Force Captain Chuck Yeager, nudged his aircraft up to and then past the speed of sound for the first time in aviation history. The shockwave produced by crossing the sound barrier created that first boom. Those on the flight path of the aircraft heard it as the plane passed overhead.
If breaking an invisible barrier of physics produces such a shock, how much more would breaking a greater invisible barrier, the cosmic divide that separates the Creator from his creation?
God became man. God, who is Spirit, put on flesh. The almighty, invisible God pierced the barrier that separated the Creator from his creation and entered our timeline.
But instead of a sonic boom, there were angels. Instead of a shockwave, there was the wail of a tiny baby. Instead of God enthroned above the clouds with “thick darkness under his feet” (Psalm 18:9), there was God, wrapped in cloth and tiny feet resting on straw.
Picture that. God had feet. Feet! What could be more ordinary and creaturely than that?
Look down at your own feet. Ordinary, creaturely. They take a lot of abuse but don’t get a lot of attention. Mine need a pedicure right now; the heels are rock hard and the polish is chipping. I hide them in socks and closed toed shoes when they’re not presentable. Mine hurt, too, from years of abuse when I took ballet. I have to wear sensible shoes now.
But look at your feet again. Think of the places your feet have taken you. Think of the simple servants they are, lowly, uncomplaining. The jolly theologian GK Chesterton considered his feet and found them to be a source of religious astonishment. “What are those two beautiful and industrious beings…whom I see everywhere, serving me I know not why? What fairy godmother bade them come trotting out of elf land when I was born?”
Our nine month old granddaughter shared his sense of wonder. After she discovered her feet one day, dangling at the end of her legs, they became her constant playmates.
She pulled them to her mouth and tasted her toes. She flung off her socks, despite her mother’s efforts, and tossed them aside. Somehow she managed to slide one foot on top of her high chair tray so that she could enjoy dinner with her favorite companion.
Feet are ordinary. And wonderful. When a newborn is first handed to his parents, they ponder his little feet and count every tiny toe. They explore the foot reflex, running a fingernail gently along the sole of each foot, watching the toes curl out. They dream about where these little feet will take him in the big world.
Joseph was probably the first to see Jesus’ feet. Who else would have put Jesus into Mary’s arms? Mary would surely have handled him—marveling at his tiny fingers, counting his toes, comforting his cries—before finally swaddling him and laying him on the straw.
Did they wonder where those feet would walk? Could they imagine him ascending the ancient throne of David, as the angel had announced to Mary (Luke 1:32)? Did they gape at the shepherds’ words?
We know Mary did. We’re told that she “treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). More angels came. They fled to Egypt and then returned.
Jesus grew up in obscurity. Like any child, he crawled, pulled up to a wobbly stand, and finally took his first steps. Yet unlike any other child, his feet didn’t lead him into sin. One ordinary day at a time, he faced every temptation of childhood and early adulthood. His feet walked in paths of obedience to God and his parents, earning a righteousness to give to us.
After his baptism by John, the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness. Can you picture his feet? Leaving the crowds and cool waters of the Jordan river, he walked for days— weeks—across the rough, rocky ground. His feet led him into temptation, so he could resist the devil and watch him flee. For us.
Finally, after three years of fame, he was delivered over to his enemies. Bent under a cross, his feet led him to a place no one would choose to go. Having completed their calling to support his earthly life, his feet were nailed to a cross, pierced for us. His feet held him there until it was finished. He was buried.
Then he rose. When Jesus appeared to his disciples they thought he was a ghost—until he showed them his hands and feet (Luke 24:40). Those ordinary, wonderful feet remind us that he took our flesh so he could live for us, and then suffer and die for us.
I learned something new about a sonic boom. It seems like a momentary thing for us who happen to stand underneath it as the jet passes overhead. But the boom actually continues, following the plane as long as it travels above mach 1.
The cosmic barrier between God and man was breached by God himself launching his divine rescue mission. But the cosmic boom isn’t over. It didn’t just happen the moment Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit.
The cosmic boom continues to reverberate in the wake of his Divine/human footsteps forever.
This post was published yesterday at the enCourage blog.