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Dave Brisbin

Graduating Obedience

Jesus heals two blind men with spit, and there’s been endless speculation why Jesus would use such a strange way to heal. Passing a man born blind on the Sabbath, Jesus spits on the ground, kneads the dirt into mud, applies it to the man’s eyes, and tells him to go wash.

Why the spit and dirt?

To heal with a simple word, would not break the unwritten rules prohibiting work on the Sabbath as taught and enforced by the Pharisees. But kneading the saliva and dirt did. Jesus is going out of his way to put mud in the eye of these rules that had grown exponentially to such a burden on the people as to subvert the intent of the written Law.

To imply that God was just about obedience to an inflexible system of ritual justification, obliterated the degreeless love that Jesus represented.

Jesus heals the second blind man by spitting directly on his eyes. At first, the man can only see dimly, blurry people walking around like trees. Jesus lays hands on him again, and full sight is restored. In Jewish culture, to spit in a person’s face was an ultimate insult, complete rejection—yet only after this insult and a second laying of hands is the man fully healed. This story is followed by another in which Jesus tells his followers that he will be rejected, humiliated, killed, then will rise again. That if they intend to follow him, they will also have to take up their crosses and lose their lives before they find them.

The two stories are meant to be understood together.

Jesus was spat upon, had to descend, lose everything it meant to be himself before rising to new life. We all must endure the same loss before rising to the Pentecost moment when we finally see clearly that we’re healed. Jesus’ followers saw him only dimly, clinging to their beliefs about law and justice restored when Jesus and they would rise to power. But Jesus is showing that obedience as a form of control is not enough.

Only in the humiliating loss of all sense of personal power can we clearly see the truth of a love that obliterates law.


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