Jesus’ Footprints

James Tissot “The Ascension” (Detail)

A late 19th-century artist, James Tissot, is among the probably thousands who have depicted the Ascension. But his approach is unique as far as I can tell.

In the picture, Jesus is rising up as the disciples watch him disappear into the clouds. If you look closely at the picture, not in the clouds, but on the ground, you can see footprints on the earth. The artist has carefully etched Jesus’ footprints down on the level where the disciples are standing with their mouths open. Perhaps the artist was simply imagining a homey detail that isn’t in the text. Or, perhaps, the artist is pressing us with the old question, “Why do you stand looking up into heaven?

His emphasis sets my mind exploring. Maybe we should not be looking up to the heavens. Maybe we should be looking for his footprints on earth today. Apparently, I am not alone in exploring this question.

Jesus’ footprints in the pages of the Bible

Rev. Dr. Barbara K. Lundblad writes

* Can you see Jesus’ footprints in the wilderness? Each time he was tempted to claim earthly power and glory, he reached up and touched the words of Torah. One does not live by bread alone. Worship the Lord your God and serve only God.
* Can you see Jesus walking on the wrong side of the street with the wrong people?
* Can you see Jesus walking up to a sycamore tree, then looking up at Zachaeus, the tax collector, perched in the branches? “Come down, Zachaeus,” Jesus said, “let’s walk over to your house for dinner.”
* Can you see Jesus walking, then riding, into Jerusalem?
* Can you see him stumbling toward Golgotha, loving us to the very end?

Jesus footprints in our world today

Deacon Greg Kandra takes looking for the footprints of Jesus a step further.

I’ve come to realize that the most enduring footprints of Christ are not to be found on a pebbled hilltop in the Middle East. They are not on stone or clay. I’m not sure you can even take a picture of them. They are the footprints he has left on lives. And they are everywhere — too numerous, really, to count.

* You will find them in New York City, at the Catholic Worker, where volunteers ladle soup every day to dozens of homeless men and women. His footprints are there, in the soup line.
* You will find his footprints on the marble floors of great cathedrals, and on the plain planks of roadside chapels, where believers of many faiths gather to sit and kneel, to listen and pray.
* You will find them on the floors of nurseries where mothers walk all night caring for their sick infants, and on the coffee-stained carpets of church basements, where weekly AA meetings are held; they are found in velvet-draped reconciliation rooms where burdens are emptied; they are in diners and laundromats, in bus stations and on train platforms, in crisis centers and nail salons.

Look carefully. You might even find them in your own living room.

Looking for the footprints of Jesus

  • Have I been looking for the footprints of Jesus today?
  • Do I recognize them when I see them?
  • Do I accept that I am the footprint of Jesus today?

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