Jesus has big feet.
We’re told that upon His resurrection and ascension, God “put all things in subjection under His feet” (1 Cor. 15:27). That’s a strange phrase; feet are not the most sanitary of things. So why does God put everything under a pair of them? What does this phrase even mean?
King of Creation
“Under his feet” has two meanings in the Old Testament. First, it means “authority over creation.” Marveling in Psalm 8, for example, that God has responsibility to care for His world, David sings, “What is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him?... You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet” (Ps. 8:4; Ps. 8:6).
David unpacks this “all things” under our care—flocks, wild animals, birds, fish—climaxing in a cry of praise to God: “How majestic is Your name in all the earth!” (Ps. 8:9). This is a “creation song” that harkens back to Genesis 1, where God called us to steward the earth He created. “All things under his feet” means we have authority over creation.
But notice anything strange? This psalm’s not talking about Jesus. It’s talking about Adam—and us. When Paul quoted this, did he make a mistake? No. He made a powerful observation with his choice of words. Let’s zoom out to the bigger story to see what he was getting at.
Adam was given authority over the earth, but we know things quickly took a turn for the worse. Our rebellion unleashed destruction into God’s good world. Creation was disrupted; the earth was corrupted; trials and difficulties erupted. As Romans declares, creation now groans under the weight of our sin and the heaviness of our feet, and it longs to be “set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21-22).
Adam’s disobedience brought bondage; Jesus’ obedience brings liberation.
Jesus is the new Adam. He succeeded where we failed, faithfully bearing the death-dealing curse of our sin in order to bring the life-giving rule of God to the earth. The end of our groaning world began in Christ, through the power of His resurrection. God putting everything under Jesus’ feet means creation has been placed under His authority. Our resurrected King has redeemed Adam’s calling—and ours—to establish God’s redemptive kingdom.
Yes, Jesus has big feet. So big, in fact, all of creation can fit beneath them. His authority is over the world.
The Coming Victory
But the phrase also has a second meaning: victory over one’s enemies. For example, King David wanted to build a temple for God but could not because of “the wars which surrounded him.” Eventually, however, once “the Lord put [his enemies] under the soles of his feet,” the land had peace and rest, and the temple could be built (1 Kings 5:3).
During the war years, there was a tension. King David already had the land (God had established him as king), but he did not yet have his enemies under his feet. Similarly today, there is a tension: God has established Jesus as the resurrected King over the earth. But injustice still runs rampant. There are “wars which surrounded him,” and God’s will is not currently done on earth as it is in heaven.
Like King David, Jesus is enthroned and out to “build God’s temple”—to flood the earth with God’s presence—but there is still widespread opposition to overcome. So Paul also uses “under his feet” in this future sense, indicating not only that Jesus reigns over the earth today but also that “He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.” And Paul reminds us, “The last enemy that will be abolished is death” (1 Cor. 15:25-26). Because Jesus has risen, He is victorious over the grave today; but the fullness of His victory is coming.
Every Square Inch
Jesus is exalted over all. Or, in Abraham Kuyper’s words, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!’” And this is not a greedy, selfish claim, like a toddler refusing to share a toy. It is the claim of divine love made by the pursuing God who comes to find us in our wreckage and who—through the power of His presence—makes all things new.
When we cry “Jesus is Lord,” it can at times sound as if it’s just for us—a private confession that has nothing much to do with the world at large. But to say “Jesus is Lord” is to place ourselves under His feet today and submit our lives to His kingdom.
And when we do, we become joined to “His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Eph. 1:23). Jesus wants us—the church—to embody His life, fill the world with His light, and flood all things with His love.
We believers are the body and bride of our resurrected King. That means we’re more than an inspirational poster or a sound byte to remind people of Jesus. Rather, through the power and fullness of His actual presence, we are called to embody His life in the world as we’re placed, along with all of creation, under the massive, glorious resurrected feet of Jesus.
Illustrations by Jack Unruh