And he [John the Baptist] preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.” – Mark 1:7
Here we have the most popular preacher of his day. He is an interesting choice as this same passage tells us that he wore camel’s hide (not a very fashionable statement for his day) and that he never cut his hair and ate grasshoppers and fought off wild bees for his honey. He was a spectacle, told people they stunk more than he did in their sins and that they needed to stop and take a bath! (repent and be baptized). Still, many flocked to see John in the wilderness, high and low. We see towards the end of John 3 that he has a major following, who are ready to decide that he is the chosen one of Israel. Yet, if everyone had listened earlier, he already told them what his position was – shoe shine boy.
The world’s most popular preacher is not even worthy to remove the sandals of the One he preaches. In fact, if we notice he isn’t even worthy to stoop to remove his sandals.
Many of us are enthralled with shoe shine boys – Preachers who are unworthy to untie the sandals of Jesus – in fact, we are even unworthy to stoop to remove his sandals. Yet, many get so excited about the shoe shine boy, they never look up to see the face of the Person whose feet are being shined. Often times, it is the fault of the one shining the shoes, that people are not led to see the One who is more powerful. Woe to those shoe shine boys! And woe to us, when we accept the praise of people! John would have the opportunity to accept the applause of men in John 3, yet responded, “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” And ultimately this route caused him to lose his head – literally.
Johnny Cash sang this catchy song in 1958 – Get Rhythm that tells the story of an extraordinarily good natured shoe shine boy:
Little shoeshine boy never gets low down
But he’s got the dirtiest job in town
Bendin’ low at the peoples’ feet
On the windy corner of the dirty street
Well, I asked him while he shined my shoes
How’d he keep from gettin’ the blues
He grinned as he raised his little head
Popped a shoeshine rag and then he said
Get rhythm when you get the blues
Here is “the rhythm” – that perhaps even John did not expect – the One he preached would ultimately stoop and remove the sandals of his followers, and shoe shining was not enough for Him – He cleaned their feet (John 13)! When we have a Savior that will even take on the form of a servant (Philippians 2), how dare any preacher think he deserves to wave his little shoe shine kit and expect people to be enthralled with him?
We have a Savior who loved us enough to serve us. That is a rhythm worth singing about. And sometimes it might be the dirtiest job in town, but how dare we think of getting low down? As we clean the feet of others, may we grin, pop our “filthy rags” and sing with confidence – it’s not your feet I am cleaning anyway, but the feet of my Savior, He must become greater, I must become less.