Today’s message from John 9:1-41 is a lengthy passage about Jesus healing a blind man. What makes this episode strange is how Jesus spat on the ground and made a paste of saliva and dirt, concocting some sort of divine muddy remedy. There’s no other example of Jesus’ healing that is quite as unexpected as this method. After creating the salve, Jesus rubbed the messy mixture into the blind man’s eyes. Jesus then ordered the man to go wash in Jerusalem’s Pool of Siloam, during which the man’s sight was miraculously restored.
You’re not alone if you think this method of healing was weird. After all, Jesus in most of his other healings simply touched a person or spoke healing words from a distance. The method of creating something like a home remedy and rubbing it in on a defective body part doesn’t fit Jesus’ usual pattern. Perhaps there’s a lesson here in that there’s more than one way to heal, and that using natural substances—even spit and dirt—can contribute to prescription for health.
Just when you’d think that the wonderful healing of the blind man would be praised it gets condemned by religious bureaucrats. Rather than accept the healing as a blessing, the critics twisted the healing through cynicism and legalism. Undeterred, the healed man provided a simple, powerful defense by stating plainly what had happened: “One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25). The critics attempted to coerce the healed man into denouncing Jesus. But when reminded about how only a righteous man could do God’s healing, the shamed critics spewed insults and accused the healed man of being Jesus’ stooge.
As has been the case throughout history, centralized religious authority is easily corrupted, often destroying what it tries to control. Sadder still is that many people are complicit in this, abdicating personal responsibility in allowing third-parties to manage and supposedly fix their souls. The blind man’s healing illustrates how even a healing from God can be denounced by bureaucratic officials who undermine peoples’ individual autonomy.
No mere religion has within it the means of salvation. God directly sets people free and Jesus helped this by clearing meddlesome middlemen who often hurt people more than help them. Jesus sets people free from institutional yokes by encouraging the faithful to forge a conscious, continuous relationship with God. The challenge remains to struggle against anyone and anything that interferes with your quest for spiritual intimacy with the Almighty.
The greatest and most useful lesson about the healing story is that Jesus came to restore spiritual sight to those walking in darkness. Physical blindness is always a serious problem but so also is spiritual blindness. The man in the center of today’s story had an even greater gift than physical sight, which was his spiritual awakening provided by Jesus’ healing. Sight is a wonderful gift, but the formerly blind man also embraced Jesus as Lord and Savior. The transformation of defective eyes is one thing, but the greater feat is to overcome spiritual blindness.
The example of Jesus healing the blind man highlights the importance of spiritual vision. You are blessed to have physical sight, but it doesn’t end there. Better it is to be continually aware and awake, yearning for spiritual enlightenment and illumination.
You can open your heart and mind to God’s Spirit, and crave both the sight and insight that comes from spiritual renewal. Yes, always celebrate whatever form of healing you receive, whether it comes from medical doctors and medicines, folk remedies, or from the divine physician who is the Lord of Heaven. –Reverend Larry Hoxey