“FOOTPRINTS OF JESUS”
“If any will come after Me, let him…take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matt. 16:24)
INTRO.: A song which talks about following after the example of Jesus is “Footprints of Jesus” (#239 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #195 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by Mrs. Mary Bridges Canedy Slade, who was born at Fall River, MA, on Jan. 18, 1826, and spent her entire life in her hometown. Her husband was a Methodist minister in Fall River. A schoolteacher, she also served as assistant editor of The New England Journal of Education for a period of time.
In addition, Mrs. Slade wrote a number of gospel song texts. This one, perhaps her best known, seems to have been first published in The Amaranth, a supplemental Sunday school collection for the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, which was prepared by instruction of its General Conference of 1870 and compiled at Nashville, TN, in 1871 by Atticus G. Haygood and Rigdon McCoy McIntosh (1836-1899). Another one of Mrs. Slade’s well-known hymns is “The Kingdom Is Coming,” changed in many of our books to “The Kingdom Is Spreading,” and beginning “From all the dark places of earth’s heathen races,” which first appeared in 1873 with music by McIntosh.
The tune (Footsteps) for “Footprints of Jesus” was composed for The Amarinth by Asa Brooks Everett (1828-1875). Other collaborations by Slade and Everett include “Beyond This Land Of Parting.” “Hark, The Gentle Voice,” “There’s A Fountain Free,” “Hear Him Calling,” “To That City Will You Go?”, and “Who At My Door Is Standing?” Mrs. Slade died at Fall River on Apr. 15, 1882.
Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “Footprints of Jesus” has appeared in the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) and the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 both edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1), the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2, and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 all edited by L. O. Sanderson; the 1959 Majestic Hymnal No. 2 and the 1978 Hymns of Praise both edited by Reuel Lemmons; the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater; the 1965 Great Christian Hymnal No. 2 edited by Tillit S. Teddlie; the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann; the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat; the 2009 Favorite Songs of the Church and the 2010 Songs for Worship and Praise both edited by Robert J. Taylor Jr.; and the 2012 Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs edited by Steve Wolfgang et. al., in addition to Hymns for Worship and Sacred Selections.
This song discusses what following Jesus entails.
I. Stanza 1 tells us that the footprints of Jesus are steps meant for our example.
1. Sweetly, Lord, have we heard Thee calling,
Come, follow Me!
And we see where Thy footprints falling
Lead us to Thee.
A. The means by which we hear Jesus calling today is through the gospel: 2 Thess. 2:14
B. Yet, by means of the gospel, He still calls us to follow Him as He did the apostles of old: Mk. 1:16-17
C. Peter tells us that Jesus left us an example that we should follow in His footsteps: 1 Pet. 2:21-22
II. Stanza 2 tells us that the footprints of Jesus are steps of helping others
2. Though they lead o’er the cold, dark mountains,
Seeking His sheep;
Or along by Siloam’s fountains,
Helping the weak.
A. Jesus told the story of the good shepherd who went through the cold, dark mountains: Matt. 18:12
B. The purpose of the shepherd was to seek His sheep: Lk. 15:4-5
C. Jesus Himself went by Siloam’s fountains to help men see: Jn. 9:1-7
III. Stanza 3 tells us that the footprints of Jesus are steps of proclamation
3. If they lead through the temple holy,
Preaching the Word;
Or in homes of the poor and lowly,
Serving the Lord.
A. Jesus often went to the temple holy: Mk. 14:49
B. His purpose there was to preach the word: Matt. 11:5
C. We must likewise follow His example to serve others rather than being served: Matt. 26:28
IV. Stanza 4 tells us that the footprints of Jesus are steps of sorrow and suffering
5. If Thy way and its sorrows sharing,
We go again,
Up the slope of the hillside, bearing
Our cross of pain.
A. Jesus certainly experienced the way of sorrow and suffering, as illustrated in Gethsemane: Lk. 22:41-44
B. And He endured even more suffering as He went up the slope of the hillside bearing His cross: Jn. 19:17
C. We too must go through life taking up our cross to follow Him: Lk. 9:23
V. Stanza 5 tells us that the footprints of Jesus are steps that will walk the street of heaven
6. By and by, through the shining portals,
Turning our feet,
We shall walk, with the glad immortals,
Heaven’s golden street.
A. Portals are gates, and the eternal city is pictured as having twelve gates: Rev. 21:12
B. It is also pictured as being populated by glad immortals who have done the Lord’s commandments: Rev. 22:14
C. And it is described as having a street of gold: Rev. 21:21
VI. Stanza 6 tells us that the footprints of Jesus are steps which will lead to rest at His throne
7. Then at last when on high He sees us,
Our journey done,
We will rest where the steps of Jesus
End at His throne.
A. When the Lord returns, we shall see Him as He is, and He will also see us: 1 Jn. 3:2
B. Even before then, if He tarries, our journey will be done when we pass from this life in death: Rev. 14:13
C. But either way, the promise of Jesus is that those who follow Him here will sit down with Him on His throne just as He sat down with His Father on His throne: Rev. 3:21
CONCL.: The chorus states our desire to follow in the steps of Jesus.
Footprints of Jesus,
That make the pathway glow;
We will follow the steps of Jesus
Where’er they go.
There is one other stanza that has not been used in any of our books.
4. Though, dear Lord, in Thy pathway keeping,
We follow Thee;
Through the gloom of that place of weeping,
This is a good song for children to learn, for adults to sing, and for everyone to practice that we might be encouraged to walk in the “Footprints of Jesus.”