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The King's Foot

by Tim O'Hearn

There are many legends that have grown up around a former slave in Ireland named Padraig, who is better known as St. Patrick. He is, of course, said to have driven all the snakes out of Ireland. That was pretty easy, because islands like Ireland rarely have any snakes. He is supposed to have sent the devil rolling downhill in a bell. But one of the great stories, possibly true, about Padraig concerns the conversion of the King of Cashel to Christianity.

It seems that the King of Cashel had heard Padraig’s preaching, and decided to become a Christian. Since he was a king, this was a very big deal. If the king converted, so would many of his followers, so this was quite a coup for the preacher. On the day designated for the ceremony Padraig arrived in all of his ecclesiastical regalia, including a tall metal or wooden crosier. As he began the ceremony, which required at times the use of both hands, he forcefully stuck his crosier in the ground. Then he proceeded with the appropriate rites, including the sprinkling of the king which, by that time, had replaced baptism (immersion). As the public ceremonies ended, Padraig reached for his crosier, preparing to leave. At that time he noticed that he had stuck it through the king’s foot, pinioning him to the ground. He immediately apologized to the king, and asked why he had not cried out or objected. In answer, the King of Cashel reportedly said, “I thought it was part of the ceremony.”

Some people would probably condemn the blind faith of the King of Cashel. They might point out that ignorant faith is of little value, because God wants to be worshipped in “spirit and in truth.” (Jn 4:24) Going through the motions without understanding, they would point out, is worthless. It is like the Methodist minister who was traveling by horseback with “Raccoon” John Smith and debating infant baptism. As they crossed a river, Preacher Smith pushed the other minister off his horse. He then asked the Methodist if he had just been baptized. When he replied that he had only been dunked because he hadn’t intended to be baptized, Mr. Smith pointed out that he had just proved his side of the debate. The ceremony without the knowledge of the individual is of no value.

On the other hand, perhaps the King of Cashel can be praised for his faith. He was so willing to become a Christian that he endured pain for a considerable time, thinking it was part of his commitment to his new God. How many people today would do the same thing? Some people are afraid of what others would say if they talked about God. Others refuse to participate in worship, even in congregational singing, because of fear of embarrassment. Still others are willing to be known as Christians, as long as they can keep their own pet sin in a closet at home.

God wants our total devotion, even if it means having our foot pierced with a crosier. “He that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.” (Matt 10:38) His disciples at the time probably did not understand what he meant by taking up their cross. They had not yet seen him literally take his on his back. Chances are he did not mean a cross in the foot. But if a cross through the foot is what comes your way in Christian life, then perhaps that is what he meant.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. (Rom 12:1)