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Holy mud?

Jesus spit on the ground and made some mud with the saliva.

What does this say about who Jesus is?

And, what difference can this make for you?

I’m calling this 'the sign of holy mud'.

Take a moment to read what happened in John 9:1-7.


The problem

To begin, we encounter a man blind from his birth. He had never seen light – the first ‘thing’ that God created (Genesis 1:3-5).

The disciples attempt to pinpoint the cause of this problem. Their diagnosis is that either this man or his parents sinned and a congenitally blind baby was the result (John 9:2). According to the disciples, the man and/or his parents are to blame for their 'misfortune'.

Indeed, somehow this suffering is a result of sin – that ‘thing’ that has knocked Creation out of alignment. However, it is not a result of any act or omission by this blind man or his parents.

Jesus corrects the misconception: “this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (9:3).

What’s going to happen next?

Jesus next refers to himself as “the light of the world” – again, something this blind man had never seen, and had no hope of ever seeing.

It’s at this point that Jesus spits on the ground.


Holy mud

“He spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes” (9:6).

This action puzzled me. Why does Jesus do this? Why not speak a word, or touch his eyes? Why saliva and dirt? Why holy mud?

Two thoughts came to mind.

First, the reference to “light of the world” triggered a connection with Genesis 1:3. It located me in the Creation narrative.

Second, with my thinking in Genesis 1, the action of Jesus forming the mud with his hands suggested Genesis 2:7:

the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

Granted, the text doesn’t refer to saliva – but it does talk about God’s breath. More to the point, "God formed the man from the dust of the ground ..."

I’m not alone in this connection. Leon Morris notes:

Some patristic writers [i.e., early Christian scholars and leaders] saw in the mention of clay [mud] a reference to Gen. 2:7 where man is made out of the dust of the earth. If this is the right way of viewing the passage then we are to discern in Christ’s action a work of creation. [1] 

I’m proposing that this holy mud is an evocative connection between:

  • the pre-life form of the first human and this pre-sight blind man;
  • the LORD God and Jesus Christ; and,
  • the first Creation and the new Creation.

There is another difference.


Go and wash

It was not enough that Jesus apply the holy mud.

Although Jesus had done everything that he could do to give this man sight, this blind man was still blind.

The man had to respond intentionally to the command of Jesus: “Go, wash in the Pool of Siloam” (9:7).

This reminds me of Naaman in the Old Testament. Naaman was a foreign general wanting to be cured of his (incurable) leprosy.

The prophet Elijah directed the general to dip seven times in the Jordan River. At first, Naaman challenged the condition, but when he responded intentionally to the prophet of God he experienced God’s healing (2 Kings 5:1-14).

Now, picture this:

With mud encrusting his eyes, the blind man makes his way to the Pool of Siloam.

He wades into the pool.

Cupping his hands, he dips them into the water.

He raises the water to his eyes and begins to wash.

As he washes his eyes, he sees light for the first time.

He can see.

His obedient response to Jesus unleashed the creative power of God in his life.

God’s blessings – such as receiving life in Jesus Christ – require intentional response from each of us if we are to unleash the power God to bless our lives.


Another sign of Jesus

This is the sixth sign of Jesus described in John's Gospel.

John tells us that these signs point us in the direction of answering two crucial questions (20:30-31):

1.         What does this sign tell you about who Jesus is?

2.         In responding to Jesus Christ, how does this sign lead you to experience “life in his name”?

 What do you have to say to these questions?

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[1]       Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, NICNT (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1971), 480-481


Photo Credit: Theen ... via Compfight cc . I thought this image suggested what the blind man began to see as the encrusted 'holy mud' was washed from his eyes.

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