Rather than resurrect last week's controversy first thing Monday morning, how about we start with something a little more positive? It's still resurrection Sunday as I'm writing this post, and I frankly don't feel like writing something I know is going to unleash another flood of controversy. Let's just save that till another day later this week, OK? Instead, here are some thoughts on John 9:6-7, where the apostle John describes how Jesus healed a man who had been blind from birth.
"[Jesus] spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. And He said to him, 'Go, wash in the pool of Siloam' (which is translated, Sent). So he went and washed, and came back seeing" (John 9:6-7).
ere's a curious means of healing! Jesus spits on the ground. And I'm assuming He spat several times, because if you have ever tried to make clay with your own spit (and I have) it takes a lot of spit to make even a little ball of clay.
Then he takes this mud made from spit and rubs it into the eyes of the blind man.
It's remarkable that the blind guy submitted to such a remedy. If you go to a charismatic optometrist and he proposes something like that as a treatment for your nearsightedness, my advice is to find a cessationist doctor.
Why did Jesus use that method?
Well, for one thing, it makes a good picture of the gospel. It's offensive. It goes against propriety and common sense. It offends our sense of good taste. It is crude. In the judgment of worldly wisdom, it seems foolish. It is a stumbling-block and an offense to our sense of decorum and refinement. It is probably the last method you would expect God to employ.
And yet it was perfectly suitable to Christ's purpose. Underneath the crass and uncouth outward appearance of this act is a tremendous amount of divine wisdom.
Suppose Jesus had used a more refined means of healing the man. Suppose he had reached into his bag and taken out an alabaster vial of glycerin or oil and delicately put drops in the man's eyes, and the man received sight from that.
What would have been the result?
Everyone would have said, "What a wonderful medicine! What is that stuff? Where can I get some?" The focus would have been on the elixir. The cure would have been ascribed to the eye-drops rather than to the power of God.
But the way Jesus healed this man, no one would ever say, "The mud did it!" Or, "It was the spit." Instead, it was clear to everyone that Jesus possessed divine power, and the glory went to Him, where it rightfully belongs.
He deliberately chose means that were commonplace and menial. He purposely did something unconventional. Instead of an elaborate ceremony or a cultured and polished ritual, He chose means that people might think unsanitary, messyperhaps even indecent.
Again, that perfectly illustrates how God works through the gospel. "God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence" (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).
The atonement itself is regarded by many in this world as an ugly, appalling, embarrassing thinga blood sacrifice, involving the death of God's own Son on a cross of shame, to pay the price of sin in such a public and inglorious way.
But the wisdom of God is foolishness to this world. "The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God" (1 Corinthians 1:18).
What's more, the means by which Jesus healed this guy almost seems counterproductive. Who would ever think that putting mud in a man's eyes would help him see? The clay is actually an impediment to the light and an irritant to the eye. This is no way to heal blindness! Besides, clay is inert. It has no healing power or efficacy!
And you know what? That's right. The healing power was not in the dirt. It was not even in the spittle. The efficacy came from the power of Christ.
There may be a couple more reasons Jesus used such an unconventional method. Note: this miracle comes in a context where Christ was proclaiming His deity. What better proof of His deity than a miracle that shows His creative power? Remember how God made Adam in the first place? Genesis 2:7: "The LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." Here it was as if Christ took that same dust of the ground and fashioned new eyes for this man. It was a creative miracle, regenerating those eyes that had never before been able to see! What better proof of Jesus deity?
Perhaps another reason Jesus chose this means was to demonstrate that He was Lord even of the Sabbath. According to verse 14, this miracle occurred on the Sabbath, like so many of the healing miracles of Jesus. In this case, He actually made clay. And that was a deliberate breach of the Pharisaical system. It was tantamount to making bricks on the Sabbath. They saw it as workand it was. Remember, Jesus Himself said so in verse 4 ("I must work the works of Him who sent Me"). But it was not the kind of work that was forbidden on the Sabbath. In Matthew 12:12, Jesus had reminded them, "It is lawful to do [good] on the sabbath."
But that infuriated the legalistic Pharisees. Even when they knew the miracle itself could not be gainsaid, they turned their hostility against Christ into an accusation of blasphemy. As if the miracle itself were not proof of His deity, in verse 16, some of the Pharisees say, "This Man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath."
There you see the cold hard-heartedness of unbelief.