A Mile in My Shoes
"Walk a mile in my shoes." That's a saying that became a 60s song. "Walk a mile in my shoes," the song says before you condemn or accuse me. The song was popular; the saying still is because no one knows exactly how our shoes fit: where they pinch, how they bind. No one knows what mud from which roads we've walked weighs them down. No one knows how many pebbles are in our shoes as a result of our travels and travails. I really don't know you, and you really don't know me till we've walked a mile in each other shoes. Of course, I want no part of your stinky, broken down muddy shoes and you want no part of mine. Actually, even if we wanted to, we couldn't really get into each other's shoes. You know how it is with shoes; they mold, form, conform to your feet; nobody can wear them the way you do. No one except for Christ Jesus.
Christ has walked a mile in our shoes, hasn't He? In the Incarnation, He came from heaven and stepped into our shoes. He put on our shoes in the womb. God the Son, who walked in the heavens on the backs of glistening angels and tread the clouds of eternity, slipped into our human shoes through the womb of the Virgin Mary. He whose feet were so holy that angels worshiped them and kissed them assumed the feet of a human embryo.
But God the Son didn't just walk a mile in our humanity; He walked a mile in our fallen humanity, in our sins. He didn't just become Man but He became a Man of sorrows and one acquainted with griefs. He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows. He stepped not into brand new shoes but into shoes caked with mud from where we ought not to have walked, scuffed by our missteps, and shrunken by our salty tears.
To show you how deep into the shoes of fallen people Jesus went, consider that some rabbis believed, based on the Old Testament, that the Christ would be a leper and blind. That's how plagued and tormented by human weakness and sickness the prophets said the Christ would be. Yes, Jesus has walked in those sick shoes of yours, and He has walked in your tired, hopeless, sad, and weak ones. All of those shoes of ours that someway reflect the fallen condition of humanity, Jesus has walked in. And He walked a lot more than a mile in them. A mile is a long way to walk in tight, binding, wet, or stone-filled shoes, but Jesus went miles and miles before He slept in our grave. He wore our ugly, "holey," too small shoes all the way to hell.
Have you ever been made fun of because of your shoes? Growing up other kids wore Converse tennis shoes. My brother and I wore 2 for 5 dollar ones. We were teased mercilessly being called "two-fers." It was all the worse if white shoes were in style and only the black were 2 for 5 or vis versa. You get over that sort of teasing. Jesus didn't get over His. Because He had our shoes on, He was made fun of, mocked and ridiculed. They called Him names, spit on Him and hit Him. All He had to do was kick our shoes off and the abuse would've stopped. But Jesus kept walking in our shoes even to the point of coming under the terrible wrath of God. Because He wore our shoes Jesus went ever deeper into the pit of hell;He went so deep that the love, the grace, the mercy of God disappeared. He went deeper and hotter into our agony till He died the death of a damned sinner.
Jesus died with our boots on. What's more He rose from the grave still wearing our shoes, still being clothed in our humanity. And what's even more important, Jesus walked in our shoes all the way into heaven itself. This simple fact is why Ascension is the third major festival of the Church along with Christmas and Easter. Those of you who have never given a thought to the fact that Jesus bodily ascended into heaven, that Jesus had on the shoes of our humanity when He went up into heaven, have been missing the point that the Ascension accounts emphasize.
When Jesus walked the earth for 33 years in our shoes, whenever He went away from the disciples, He did so just like we do. He walked to Mary and Martha's, they walked toward Jerusalem. The could see Jesus walking away; they could see Jesus walking back. They knew He was right over there eating with Mary and Martha, and would come back from there.
Once Jesus rose from the dead that changed. For the 40 days after Easter Sunday till Ascension Thursday, Jesus didn't walk toward them or away from. One minute Jesus wasn't visible; the next He was. One minute He was standing there; the next He wasn't. Then on Ascension Thursday Jesus met them in Jerusalem, led them out to Bethany on the Mount of Olives, walked with them like He had during His earthly ministry but as He had NOT done since Easter. There He was lifted up from them. One more they bodily saw Him going higher and higher away from them.
We need to pause a minute to be sure we see that the Holy Spirit wants us to notice that Jesus ascends in our shoes. Why do you think He tells you that Jesus gave "many proofs" that He was physically alive? If you read the verses right before our text, you'll see that Jesus points out to them His flesh and bones and even asks them to give Him something to eat. The message is that this body you see before you ascending is the same one that was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, crucified, died, and buried.
This fact is emphasized in Luke. For example, Jesus during His earthly life must have lifted up His hands many times, but only at the Ascension are we told, "And lifting up His hands He blessed them." What was on those hands? The nails marks that He allowed the disciples to touch and invited Thomas to stick his finger into. These very visible wounds were seen by the disciples; they were proof positive that He still wore their shoes, still bore their humanity as He went up.
Went up to where? To find out where Jesus went pay attention to the first and second reading. Acts tells you Jesus was lifted up till a cloud received Him. This was no ordinary cloud. This was the Cloudy Presence of the Godhead. You find it in the Old Testament leading the Israelites, hovering above the Ark of the Covenant, and filling the temple. In the New Testament you find the Cloudy Presence descending on the Mount of Transfiguration and whisking Moses and Elijah back to heaven.
Where exactly does this Cloudy Presence take Jesus and our shoes with Him? Ephesians tells you where. It takes Him to the Right Hand of God which Ephesians says is not a place but "far above all rule and authority." Ephesians 4 says that Jesus "ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things." Jesus since the Ascension is now everywhere all the time. He is walking the streets of earth, the craters of the Moon, and the far reaches of the Delta quadrant right now. Jesus, shod in our shoes, walks and talks with angels, the four living beings, and all the host of heaven.
What I'm saying to you in plain English is that those shoes of ours are now part of the divine nature. When Jesus was bodily received by the Cloudy Presence, the Son of Man, the Virgin's Son, the Man in our shoes was taken into the Godhead. You know how groups of people are always wanting one of their own to be represented on boards, committees, and commissions? In Christ, man, humanity, people, men, women and children sit on the Board of Heaven, have a seat on the Committee of Eternity, are part of the Commission on Everlasting Life.
Jesus took our shoes where no man, woman, or child has gone before. Our shoes now have all things, bar none, under them. Doesn't Ephesians say that? Jesus is far above all rule, authority, and power and dominion with "all things under His FEET." And in the Introit didn't the Father say to His son, "Sit at My right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for Your FEET?" Well, those feet are wearing our shoes. Those feet that have angels prostrate before them kissing them; those feet that are firmly planted on the necks of demons; those feet that use death and disease as a footstool are wearing your size 3, 5, 7, 9, or 13s!
Do you see what the Festival of the Ascension is really all about? You will when I read the Proper Preface in the Communion liturgy. It says that Jesus was taken up to heaven "that He might make us partakers of His divine nature." And in the Collect, what did we pray? That "we may also in heart and mind ascend and continually dwell there with Him."
Friend, nobody but Christ will ever walk in your shoes. Nobody but Christ will go to the depths you have been. I'm sure you know all that. That's the stuff you hear during Christmas and Lent. But the fact that Jesus walked in your shoes into the abyss of sin, death, and the grave is only part of the story. He also walked back out on Easter, still wearing your shoes, and was taken up into heaven in the Ascension still having them on. Walking in your shoes where Jesus has taken them is your glorious privilege now.
That's a glorious privilege we don't, at least I don't, take advantage of. I walk around in my tight, mud crusted, sin caked shoes. I plod through my day to day life with shoes that seem nailed to this earth at the mercy of sin, disease, death and the devil when I could be striding through the realms of eternity in the shoes Jesus took to heaven. I look at every problem, every fear, every sin, every future, every day in shoes soiled by mud, messes, and manure when I could look at them from my heavenly shoes with my feet propped up on my problems, fears, sins, and future.
Do you understand what I'm saying? Do you see how greatly perspective effects everything? Don't things look remarkably different depending on whose shoes you're standing in? The boys and I were out looking for turtles in Louisiana. One startled a 6 foot or better snake on the bank which made a beeline down the bank into the canal. Their friend was standing on a tiny island in the canal. As the snake hit the water, the boy shot up the opposite bank. Later, I chided him for deserting his post. He replied, "You didn't see what I saw coming toward me!"
He was right. I didn't see a 6 foot snake coming at me opened jawed and angry. From where I stood, things didn't look that bad. How different things look depending on where you're standing. Dear friends, in Christ we have a choice. We can look at life standing in the shoes we have on or in the shoes that Jesus ascended into heaven wearing. We can look at life in shoes caked with sin, mired in death, and chased by the devil, or we can look at life in shoes propped up the devil's back, in shoes planted on death's neck, in shoes unsoiled from sin.
Walk a mile in these shoes friends. Try them on like you do those in a store. Walk around in them. Look at your problems, your ailments, your sins while standing in them. Don't things look different from inside these shoes rather than outside, from inside of heaven rather than from outside of heaven? Yes, they do. The Scripture says that when God looks from heaven at His fierce enemies all He does is laugh. Come to think of it; the picture of sin, death, and devil all hunched over and scrunched up to form a footstool for my feet is pretty funny. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Ascension Day (5-9-02), Luke 24:44-53