John the Baptist spoke of Jesus by saying, “the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie” (John 1:27). This statement is an allusion to a servant, the one who washes the feet of the guests. When someone came to his master’s home, his job was to take off their sandals and clean their feet, getting rid of the dirt, dung and other crud that may have been collected. That job of untying the sandals was left for the lowliest of the servants.
Of course, we all know now that Jesus radically upended the idea that this was a job only for the ones upon who everyone else looked down. By washing the feet of His disciples, the Son of God demonstrated that we are all to be servants. Not just those who were of a lowly estate by way of occupation, everyone is to serve. But Jesus’ footwashing lesson took place years after this scene in John’s Gospel. This happened before Jesus changed the meaning of the idea.
So to John’s original audience, those words were clear. There is someone coming who is so great, so bodaciously wonderful, that John the Baptist—a guy who obviously was admired and respected by the people—even John was not good enough to do the lowly untying the sandals job. That means that the one who is coming must be someone really, really special.
I’m pretty sure that’s what John’s hearers would have understood. Yet, I’m also certain that they would not have understood the full extent of just how special He would be. Could they, after all, truly grasp that God-incarnate would come in the flesh and dwell among His creation? Could they take in the notion that the Father would send His own Son to die as an atonement for the sins of mankind? I think not.
Unfortunately, the same is usually true for you and me. If we were to truly comprehend how mighty and majestic and powerful and holy—how bodaciously wonderful—Jesus really is, we could not help but fall at His feet, not to untie His sandals, but to worship Him.