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Speaking of Spit

Jesus healing the Blind Man, 2008 © Brian Jekel

After Jesus took him aside privately, away from the crowd, he put his fingers in the man’s ears, and after spitting, he touched his tongue. He took the blind man by the hand and brought him outside of the village. Then he spit on his eyes, placed his hands on his eyes and asked, “Do you see anything?” (Mark 7:33 and 8:23) Let’s face it, the spitting thing is weird. My initial reaction is, “Ew!” It reminds me of when I was child, and my mother, seeing a smudge on my face, would lick her fingers and use her own saliva to clean me up. This was only ever done in pinch, as a last ditch effort, when I needed to be presentable. The funny thing is, the very act of “cleaning me up” only left me feeling dirty and violated. I’ve never met a kid who appreciated the mom-spit cleansing technique. In New Testament times, spitting was a means of cursing. The thought of Jesus “cursing” seems contrary to the person of Christ, but I wonder if Jesus is cursing the infirmity as means of healing the person. Is he cursing the blindness, the deafness, and the muteness, just as he cursed the barren fig tree, and in so doing, rendering the blindness blind and the muteness mute? Looking closely, there is something besides saliva that these two healing stories in Mark have in common. In both cases, before doing the awkward spitting part, Jesus takes the person away from the crowds. Even more intimate is the fact that Jesus himself takes the blind man by the hand and leads him outside of the city before healing him. I’m struck by the gentleness of this act—He could have been spectacular before the crowds, instead he was tender towards the one. Clearly, Jesus wanted to protect those he healed from any shame. He knew the process was going to be messy and uncomfortable, maybe even controversial, so he performs the procedure “outside of the village” and “away from the crowd.” There are times when I sense that Jesus is taking me by the hand and leading me away from the public eye. Times when the thing he wants to heal in me might require some uncomfortable steps, and so he invites me to a place of solitude. There are times when I need to feel the sting of His cleansing curse, like salt in a wound, killing the very thing that is out to kill me. The temptation is to resist the process; to prefer blindness to the healing procedure. But healing comes through surrender to the work and ways of Christ. Even if spit is required. Recently, I took three days to seek some counselling, and that time “outside of the village” and “away from the crowd” became just such a place for healing. I had to face some ugly realities about myself; I had to let Jesus apply His spit to places of brokenness in my life. I was thankful for the privacy, but even more blessed by the healing that came. Most unexpected was the overwhelming gentleness of Christ through it all.

For Reflection:

"Show me how you work, God; School me in your ways. Take me by the hand; Lead me down the path of truth. You are my Savior, aren’t you?" (Psalm 25:4-5 The Message)

  1. How do you sense when the gentle healer is taking you by the hand to lead you to a secluded place?

  2. Might Jesus need to curse some brokenness in you so that you might be made well?

  3. In what unconventional ways has God brought healing to your life?

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