Blinded. The sparkles rippling in the river attacked retinas and evoked light patterns like the fiercest of migraines.
Arms raised like shields to ward off the intense barrage on the senses.
Still they came. Wading into the waters one by one. Shielding their eyes as if approaching the Shekinah glory of God.
One man stood basking in the mid-day
sunshine. A ragged beard erupted from his jaw line. Piercing eyes were balanced by a full grin of joy. Strong hairy arms extended in welcome.
The words were few. The interaction brief. Down under the waters and emerging up again to embrace new life and new hope.
Andrew watched from the banks of the river and met each new follower with a hug. He quietly knelt and slipped on their sandals and tied them. One day he would fulfill a more important role. Today, as the newest recruit, he was servant of all.
The steady thunder of the prophet’s voice rumbled across the waters. “He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.” 1
Another pair of sandals moved off. Another pair of clean feet. Another clean heart. “Repent and be baptized” was easy to understand. This new comment about ‘someone who was before’ was confusing.
Hour after hour passed and as the sun burned down Andrew moved from exuberance at each new dripping believer to a sense of numb endurance and finally to a place of resentment. ‘Why couldn’t these people tie up their own sandals?’
He was a fisherman, used to demanding tasks beyond the strength of most men. ‘What worth was this? What example for those needing to be changed?’
From his kneeling position he noticed the ornate robes flowing by to the edge of the Jordan. “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 2
Priests and Levites from Jerusalem. The interrogators. Men with unwashed feet. Unwashed hearts.
Andrew heard the swish of braided tassels against long tunics. He turned to watch the dignified watch dogs of the Law take their stand beside the ornate watch dogs of the Temple. “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 3
“I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me,” the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” 4
Andrew stiffly rose to his feet and shielded his eyes. ‘What thinking was this? The great prophet in his camel haired coat saying he was unworthy to do the work of the lowest slave when it came to the Messiah?’
“Who was this Messiah?”
There had been rumours that thunder had rumbled across the clear skies some 40 days before when a lowly carpenter had approached John for baptism. Andrew had been among the curious who joined the throng of repentants in the days after that as expectations rose.
How long would it be?
And now, on this Passover evening, Andrew watched as Jesus knelt with towel and bowl before him. Reaching to untie his sandals. Reaching to wash his dirty feet. Reaching for his heart.
It had been the very next day after the confrontation with the watchdogs that John had announced the arrival of the Messiah as the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world.
“This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.” 5
The very next day Andrew had begun his journey with Jesus. Dirtying his feet with the others. Eventually abandoning his nets altogether.
Many days he had manipulated and argued with the others about his right to the inner circle. ‘Had he not been among the first to follow? Had he not found the boy with the lunch to feed the 5000? Had he not done the same miracles and shared the same good news?’
It was the towel and the bowl that burned into his retina on this Passover night.
The worthy reached to untie the sandals of the unworthy.
This lesson would never be forgotten. He would end this Passover clean of sole and soul.
1 John 1:27
3. John 1:25
4. John 1:26-27
5. John 1:30
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