The Means of Mud

The Fourth Sunday in Lent, March 22, 2020 (John 9:1-41)

…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. (vv 6,7).

God has consistently used the natural to connect man with the supernatural.  For example in the Old Testament He used the natural fruit of two normal trees to bring life or death to mankind.  He used a bronze serpent on a pole to convey healing from poisonous snake bites. He used a tree to make bitter waters sweet.  He employed the blood of lambs daubed on door jambs to deliver the Jews from death.  The Jordan River was God’s healing agent for leprous Naaman.  And as a final example—and there are many more—God used the sacrifice of animals in the Old Testament to bring communion and forgiveness to the people of Israel.  Was there magic in these things?  No!  That which empowered such things was God’s Word, and the center of such Word is the eternal Son of God.

So also in this Sunday’s Gospel account Jesus employs spittle-generated mud.  Some look at this miracle and are offended by both the spit and the mud.  This muddy spit is foolishness to some and a stumbling block to others. However the incarnation and humiliation of the Son of God are being illustrated. With this spittle-mud there is the magnification of God’s incarnation; this is God’s spit.  The Son of God truly had and still has spit—and flesh and blood. The fact that the mud was a physical, tangible substance also then magnified Christ’s salvation for physical, fallen man in a physical, fallen world.

The Son of God is incarnate to do dirty business.  Dealing with sin, sickness and with the fallenness of mankind is dirty business.  Going to the cross is dirty business. How appropriate that the Son of God should create mud with His saliva and use this mud to reverse blindness!  It was truly sacred mud!  It was mud directly linked to the Word made flesh, for it was made not just by Him but from Him.  If the dirty Jordan River could heal Naaman of leprosy, should not the mud made from Christ’s saliva heal the man born blind?  Does not God use the foolish things of the world to confound the wise?  So the Christ would go to the cross, and people would witness His agony and bloody sweat.  They would hear the parched one whose spit had made healing mud call out, I thirst.  People would witness the torturous death of an apparent criminal, and yet there at the cross hung the physical man Jesus who was redeeming physical man from sin and physical death, and whose physical resurrection would then seal this victory for fallen, physical mankind.  We now know that even as His body rose from the grave, so our bodies will rise from the dust, never to die again!

Now, continuing His Old Testament practice of using natural things to convey the supernatural, the Son of God has given us physical, sinful pastors to speak absolution.  He has given the water of Holy Baptism to wash from sin, connect with Christ’s work and give new birth. And He has instituted a meal of bread and wine so that we would partake of His very body and blood, the body and blood physically given and shed on the cross for our eternal—physical—life.  Indeed, praise God that He has applied the “spittle-mud” of Word and Sacraments to our eyes, so that we who were blind now see—forever!