You know the routine. Your visit to the doctor’s office is pretty standard. The physician listens, taps, and touches. These are the standard practices which exercise all of your doctor’s diagnostic skills. What would you do, though, if your doctor suddenly spit on your tongue or your eye? I bet you would run screaming out the door and immediately report the lunatic to the medical board. Maybe a lawsuit would be in the offing.
Surprisingly enough this “medical practice” was actually performed by the Divine Physician in very public settings and the crowds didn’t seem to mind at all. In Mark Chapter 7, Mark Chapter 8 and John Chapter 9 we see that Jesus actually employs his spit as part of the healing remedy to cure the man born blind, a blind man brought by the people, and a deaf man with a speech impediment. With the man born blind the “cure” actually involved his being smeared with a paste made of mud and spit. In each of these incidences we see that there is no crowd reaction or outrage expressed by anyone in verses following the practice. In each case the afflicted person was completely healed. Each miracle was after years of being afflicted.
So what can one make of this in our enlightened age of modern medical practice and advanced practices of sterility? Where those “bible people” just dumb or maybe they were ignorant and uneducated? Maybe these were just stories with “dramatic effect” added? The answer to all of these suppositions is “none of the above”. First of all, one of the things that we know about the bible is that it is a book in which nothing is wasted. There is not one “jot or tittle” (specific strokes used when forming Hebrew Text) that is not supposed to be there. The bible itself tells us that in Luke 16:17 and 21:33. All of the information and scenarios recorded in the bible are supposed to be there and what is not there is not there for a reason. John the Evangelist tells us that himself, when he closes his Gospel with at quote which mentions that if all of the works and words of Jesus were recorded they could not be contained in all the books of the world.
As far as the “dumbness” of the crowds that followed Jesus we need to look at the background information of the time. The crowds which followed Jesus were not composed of “country bumpkins” just out for some amusement. Jesus followers contained astute scholars of the Law (Scribes) and members of the priestly class (Pharisees and Sadducees) who were in that position because of family lineage, Judges from the Sanhedrin and people who were steeped in the law because of their religious practice in the Temple. Jewish society was an educated one especially when it came to the law handed down by Moses. Other non-religious followers most likely would have known quite a bit about the Law simply from living in and doing commerce in that society. Not all of His followers were “fans” but he was under microscopic scrutiny by all because His presence was earth shattering for everyone if he really was the Messiah of prophetic prediction.
Jesus was not unaware of this fact and the actions he performed and words that he preached were all meant to send the message; “I am the one”, whether covert or overt. For instance his very act of mixing mud and spit and placing it on the face of a man who had no eyes is an act of creation, making something extraordinary out of mud that was not there before. It is a rather bold re-play of God’s creative act at the beginning of the world. He spoke no words of creation in this instance, but the very act had to make the scholars nervous. Remember that in many other instances he healed by word or touch or simply by “remote” for people who weren’t even present. His act of “creating” with spit and mud was no fluke and not lost on the people who were present that day.
We must keep in mind that during his ministry on Earth Jesus had not one iota of concern about “upsetting things”. He even tells the people that because of Him households will be divided. He spent no time calculating how to be “politically correct”. He worked with a laser like focus on teaching the precepts of the Father’s love, all the time knowing that many would not like his message. But for the people who were able to look at his example as a whole and get past some of the things that were controversial, deeper information was available to them. The disciples even ask him why he always uses the parable. In response he instructs them that some will see and some won’t see but the ones he wanted were the ones who “got it”. Finding God and the “true self” that he wants to reveal to each of us is not easy, nor is it supposed to be. This is why he did not shy away from words that stirred people up and actions that seemed “crazy”.
The “spittle thing” is a prime example of his genius in managing to give a message, but not give a message. Remember that his followers were an educated crowd already armed with knowledge about the Law. In Jewish culture the Rabbi’s were the teachers and interpreters of the Law and the ethics it demanded for everyday life. For centuries Rabbi’s would debate and discuss the implications of the Law and record their discussions in books called “Talmud”. It so happens that there is an entry in the Babylonian Talmud (Talmud Baba Bathra 126b, first recorded ~ 500 BCE) that states that the spittle of a first born has healing powers, especially if it is a son! As Jesus moved through Jewish society he was making an unspoken declaration, by using spittle to heal, that indeed he was the first born son of God. No doubt this “detail” would have been lost on some of those who did not pay that much attention. But make no mistake that the ones who knew the Talmud and the Law knew what was happening in front of their eyes.
Sometimes God gives us information in ways that are unconventional. If some in the crowds surrounding Jesus were “put off” by the “spitting healer” they were the poorer because of that conclusion. It has been my experience in these last fifty years, or so, of working on a spiritual walk, that discomfort is something we need to pay close attention to. Often things that we have a strong reaction or aversion to are things that need further attention. They are beacons of light that point to things that are waiting and ready to be healed. Isn’t it interesting that in each case recorded of Jesus using his spit, the healed person was able to see and/or hear as a result of the healing? From experience we know that all the actions and words of Jesus are filled with many layers of metaphor as teaching.
When we lament the fact that our spiritual walk seems to be endlessly the same with no progress maybe it’s time to look closer at the things, people, situations that we really dislike. If you are not twenty, and have been working on a spiritual walk for more than a year or two, take advantage of the lessons in these three stories. What/who exactly do you vehemently dislike? Where have you had the same strong negative attitudes for years and years with no change? Could those be the places where you need to do some work or form a different attitude? Would you have been the one in the crowd who saw Jesus and could only see how “gross” his practices were? What have you missed out on because you could only think of what you didn’t like? Take the information that God has to give you no matter what form it comes in. You know the old saw about the way to train a mule don’t you? “First you have to get his attention!”
Copyright©2011, Kathryn M. Cunningham, All Rights Reserved
Take advantage of more of Kathryn’s thinking @ www.atravelersview.org
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