” I baptise you with water so that you’ll give up your sins. But someone more powerful is going to come, and I’m not good enough even to carry his sandals.” Matthew 3:11 (CEV)
When I heard this verse recently, I started to think about what John the Baptist really meant in his comment that he wasn’t even good enough to carry Jesus’ sandals. So often we gloss over these familiar words and think of the image as a spiritual metaphor, but remember, Jesus was fully human. I don’t know about you, but there are several young men in my house, and going near their discarded footwear, let alone touching it, is not for the faint-hearted. (But maybe for the hard-of-smelling.)
Let’s see the image in its vivid earthiness and humanity, the way that John’s hearers would have head it. We’re talking about the sandals that Jesus would wear all day, every day, in the hot and dusty, in the damp and muddy, no matter what he stepped in. Jesus is fully human – yes – so his sandals would have been really revolting to carry.
When we are struggling with our own broken humanity, and even more so with other people’s, with their stinky feet, with the distasteful aspects of other people, let’s remember Jesus had smelly feet too. John was underlining this point in his prophecy. Jesus had to be fully human so he could minister to us. May we in our human-ness minister to others, and look for Jesus in everyone we meet this Advent.