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  • Peter Johnston

THE CRUSH OF WOUNDED FEET

Jesus' feet are principal figures in Come See A Man, Stephen Procopio's illustrated gospel of John. Especially notable for us in Holy Week is the image of Jesus' feet on the cross, bleeding and encircled by a serpent:



While the image is an illustration of the crucifixion in John 19, in a sense it is also an illustration of Genesis 3:15, in which God tells the serpent:


"I WILL PUT ENMITY BETWEEN YOU AND THE WOMAN, AND BETWEEN YOUR OFFSPRING AND HER OFFSPRING; HE SHALL BRUISE YOUR HEAD, AND YOU SHALL BRUISE HIS HEEL."

But the careful observer will notice that in this image, while Christ's heel seems to be bruised, the serpent's head is upright, like a lion rampant, seemingly triumphant over Christ. Evidently Satan believes that the death of Christ will be his greatest hour. But Satan does not understand the deeper magic of reality, that by going to death on the cross, Jesus revealed not just weakness but also power, or to put it biblically, "power perfected in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9) For in God's economy, the greatest is the one who serves.

Before Jesus served us by his wounded feet on the cross, Mary of Bethany served Jesus by anointing his feet with very costly ointment, and wiping it with her hair.


Notice that in Stephen's image of Mary's anointing, we see not only Jesus' feet together with the perfume bottle and Mary's hair, but also an intermixing of coins. The coins refer to Judas, who like Satan, could not make sense of this act of devotion, arguing that the perfume ought rather to be sold and the proceeds given to the poor. Judas' argument had the appearance of righteousness, for Jesus did indeed teach his disciples to care for the poor. But serving the poor is never to be contrasted with devotion to Christ, for the greatest poverty we all have is the poverty of our worship. Stephen subtly indicates this in his image, by including only 29 coins (yes, I counted multiple times), apparently to suggest that the viewer has Judas' 30th, and is always implicated in the betrayal of Christ.


In the scriptures, one of the most prominent functions of feet is in a posture of authority. The prophets and the psalms repeatedly promise the people of God that in the end their enemies will be placed under their feet. But of course our greatest enemies are sin, death, and the devil, for which reason Paul promises in Romans 16:20, "the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet." Inasmuch as Mary prepared Jesus' feet for death and burial, she also anointed the feet that would rise in triumph. Stephen's last image in Come See A Man reflects this dynamic:



We still see Jesus' wounds, but his feet are now transformed into resurrection glory. Where before we saw the mortal feet that would die, here are the immortal feet, fragrant as flowers, ascending to their home in heaven. And notice that below, in the remaining grass of this world, there lies the crushed skeleton of the serpent. Here is the final fulfillment of the promise in Genesis 3:15, the final victory of the God of peace. For when peace reigns, death dies.



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