In John chapter nine, Jesus heals a blind man and declares himself to be the Light of the World.
John wants us to see Jesus as the light that brings sight to dead eyes, physically and spiritually. To compare the arrogant Pharisees who condemn Jesus for healing on the Sabbath to the blind man who confesses that he does not know who Jesus is, but he must be from God. To compare the physical healing to the spiritual healing as Jesus forgives the blind man when they later meet after revealing himself as Daniel’s ‘Son of Man’, the divine Messiah coming to rescue and rule.
It’s majestic, with sweeping theological themes I’ve barely touched written lightly across the story. It’s not difficult to dive deeply in many directions—the Bible is usually like that, but John wears it more obviously than the other gospel writers. I always get caught on one detail though:
Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.John 9:6–7
He spat on the ground and made mud. Since Jesus frequently heals with a word or a touch it seems oddly specific, and convoluted, to mix spit and dust and then send the man to a specific pool. How strange. While John’s narrative and the theological points he wants to make carry on despite how Jesus accomplished the man’s healing, it always makes me sit up and start to think. It’s possible its just a detail, ‘because that’s how it happened’ that has no further import, but the Bible never works like that.
Here are some initial reflections on what we can speculate was going on:
He takes dust, the material the God uses to affect the curse against humanity, that cannot enter Holy ground (hence all the foot-washing and shoe removing) and works healing with it. Jesus has been asked whether the man sinned to be born blind, he’s already answered (no), but then picks up the stuff of the curse to make his point clearer. Jesus takes the material that speaks the curse to us to use it to bring new life. He has declared himself the seed of the woman. (Genesis 2-3)
He forms something new from dust, we are back in Genesis 2 with the Lord forming Adam from the mud of the ground and breathing into him. It is not a big stretch to say that Jesus took earth and combined it with spirit or breath in the form of spit and then brought new life. He is combining heaven and earth, promising both the future union of heaven and earth and declaring himself as the bridegroom here to marry the bride and wipe away all tears (Genesis 1-2, Revelation 19-21).
And since our mind is with Adam’s creation, perhaps we also sense a hint of the second Adam, the last man, here to complete the mission that Adam, the first man, failed in. Later in the chapter he declares himself to be Daniel’s Son of Man, or literally, the Son of Adam. The divine figure who is the promised priest-king to complete where Adam failed. And the man-once-blind believes in him.
Immediately before this encounter, Jesus has claimed that “before Abraham was, I am” (John 8), and now he is remaking the world while claiming to be the light of the world. He is positioning himself not just in relation to Adam, but in Genesis 1.1 as the one who spoke light into being. In the context of his words, this is an act pregnant with meaning. He is not simply before Abraham, but before Adam, and before the world itself. This is Yahweh who walked with angelic pomp to meet Adam in the garden.
There is something very child-like about the action. Like making mudpies at the bottom of the garden. As though Jesus, who is free from the jaded ‘wisdom’ of adulthood, finds a joy bubbling within him at the thought of making new eyes, while filling with compassion for the man born blind. His love and joy meet in action, and the kingdom is announced.
Perhaps he fondly remembered when he shaped Adam’s eyes with his pre-incarnate ‘hands’ and breathed on them as he encountered this beloved child with eyes cursed by Adam’s failures, and remade them anew, before continuing on his way to take the dust of his own body and the spit/breath of his own blood and remake the whole world.
There is no artifice in Jesus. He does not see a man and think “here is an opportunity to demonstrate the second Adamic commission on my life”, or consciously think, “now I will act as Creator by doing this.” He simply is Yahweh enfleshed and the anointed King, so his every act drips with layers of biblical meaning. It is not an act, it is not simply a literary artifice, it is who he is.
None of this is the main point of the passage, all of it adds depth and layers to our reading, all of it is worthy of further speculation. The Bible is a ‘thick’ book, and for reading three-dimensionally. There’s always another gem to uncover, another connection to fathom. The Bible is a ‘simple’ book, the main point is the main point, the things that are harder to unearth are to enhance and nuance what is easier to find.
To circle back around, Jesus the potter—who takes mud and speaks to it—is worthy of your worship.
Photo by Chris Yang on Unsplash
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