The expression ‘He couldn’t lace his boots’ is used when one person is compared less favourably with another.
Think, for instance, of the occasions when you meet an older man who is convinced that the football era of his youth was the greatest ever. He might say with nostalgia, ‘The players of today couldn’t lace the boots of a George Best, Bobby Charlton, Nat Lofthouse, etc.’
A wag once quipped, ‘Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be’! You sometimes meet people who are convinced that the music, sport, working-life, social conditions, and so on, of the past were all far better than the present. Perhaps they have ‘rose-tinted spectacles’.
Ecclesiastes 7:10 though reads pointedly, ‘Say not, Why were the former days better than these? For it is not from wisdom that you ask this’. Whilst we may be thankful for past mercies, undue disgruntlement with the present is ultimately disgruntlement with God’s providence. We must repent if this is true of us.
The expression, ‘He couldn’t lace his boots’, is not found verbatim in the Bible. But the cultural equivalent is.
John the Baptist was Jesus’ forerunner. He prepared the way for the Messiah by his preaching. In proclaiming the coming Christ, John the Baptist announced: ‘There comes one after me who is mightier than I, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to stoop down and loose’ (Mark 1:7).
According to Jesus, John the Baptist was the greatest prophet ever. He said of him, ‘For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist’ (Luke 7:28).
Great man though John was, however, God gave him an insight into one who alone could be described as truly ‘great’. God gave John an insight into the person of his own Son — the longed-for Messiah, who was about to begin his public ministry by being baptised in the Jordan.
In Bible days, one task of a slave was to untie his master’s shoes and wash his feet. But John was aware that Christ was so great that he was not worthy even to act as his lowly slave.
He was not worthy even to stoop down and wash the feet of the Master. In saying, ‘I am not worthy to stoop down and loose’. John was saying the cultural equivalent of, ‘He couldn’t lace his boots’. He was declaring the supreme, incomparable greatness of the Lord Jesus Christ.
If the truth be told, no one can ‘lace the boots’ of the Lord Jesus. The great and prominent personalities, princes and politicians of this world fade into insignificance when compared with Jesus.
He is the eternal Son of God and second person of the Trinity. He came into the world to save sinners. He lived and spoke like no one else. He died and rose again to procure the salvation of his people. He is the only Saviour, who ascended back to heaven and is enthroned at God’s right hand.
One day he is coming back to earth in power and great glory and every knee shall bow and pay homage to King Jesus. There is none like Christ. The greatest person on earth cannot ‘lace the boots’ of the eternal Son of God. His greatness is not a comparative one, but superlative.
The following tract, fittingly entitled The incomparable Christ, brings out something of the wonder of the one whom John knew ‘whose sandals he was not worthy to untie’:
‘Jesus, the Christ, born of a virgin some 2000 years ago, was raised in obscurity.
‘He possessed neither wealth nor high social standing. His relatives were inconspicuous, and he had neither training nor formal education. In infancy he startled a king; in childhood he puzzled doctors; in manhood he ruled the course of nature, walked upon the billows as if pavements, and hushed the sea to sleep.
‘He healed the multitudes without medicine and made no charge for his service. He never wrote a book, and yet many times more books have been written about him than about anyone else who has ever lived.
‘His discourses and teaching have been translated into over 1000 languages, and have a circulation many times greater than that of any other writing in existence.
‘He never wrote a song, and yet he has furnished the theme for more songs than all the songwriters combined. He never founded a college, but all the schools put together cannot boast of having as many students.
‘He never marshalled an army, nor drafted a soldier, nor fired a gun; and yet no leader ever had more volunteers who have, under his orders, made more rebels stack arms and surrender without a shot fired.
‘He never practised psychiatry, and yet he has healed more broken hearts than all the doctors far and near. Once each week the wheels of commerce cease their turning and multitudes wend their way to worshipping assemblies to pay homage and respect to him.
‘The names of the past proud statesmen of Greece and Rome have come and gone. The names of past scientists, philosophers and theologians have come and gone, but the name of this man abounds more and more.
‘Though time has spread over 2000 years between the people of this generation and the scene of his crucifixion, he still lives. Herod could not destroy him and the grave could not hold him. God raised him from the dead.
‘He stands forth upon the highest pinnacle of heavenly glory, proclaimed by God, acknowledged by angels, adored by saints, and feared by devils, as the living, personal Christ, our Lord and Saviour’.