A little Jesus spit

Jul 7, 2014 by

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My son Daniel learned at a young age seeing clearly is an essential skill. His older sister made him a chocolate milkshake. At least that is what she called it. I’m not sure of all the ingredients — a little mud, a little pulverized chalk, mixed together with some water. To him it looked like a shake. He drank some and threw up. When I confronted his sister, she said he should have seen that it wasn’t really a shake.

Yoder-Short

Yoder-Short

Things are not always what they appear to be. Mud soup and chocolate milkshakes may look similar, but they aren’t interchangeable. We have to be careful whose words we swallow. Who do we trust — big sisters, corporate news channels, politicians, assorted religious leaders?

Seeing the truth is not a new challenge. The thread of seeing runs through the Gospel of Mark. This is observable in the intriguing story of the blind man healed in two stages (8:22-26).

There are multiple ingredients mixed into this story. Location enters in. Jesus and the disciples are in Bethsaida, an old fishing village that had been upgraded into a Hellenistic city. Mark seems to be communicating a cultural disapproval by calling it a village (from Binding the Strong Man, by Ched Myers). We hear that Jesus takes the blind man out of the Bethsaida before healing him. Can one see better away from city noise and cultural distractions?

Jesus adds a little spit to the story when he places saliva on the blind man’s eyes. It may not be as gross as it first seems. What parent hasn’t used spit to clean off that little bit of breakfast left on a child’s face as they drive to church? Using spit was an ancient healing practice.

Partial success enters the narrative. Jesus’s first attempt doesn’t result in clear vision. The man says he can see people, but they look like walking trees. Is Jesus lacking in power? Does the man lack faith? Is Jesus trying to say something about how the disciples and all of us see in a murky sort of way?

Jesus doesn’t leave the man half-seeing but touches him a second time. Then he sees everything clearly.

Seeing is not easy. Our villages and culture surround us with a constant barrage of messages. Humans walking like trees begin to seem normal. We see super attractive, photographically touched-up people, and expectations of flawless bodies begin to seem normal. Reality TV becomes more interesting than real life. We can gradually become content with half-vision.

The media continually offer us tempting perceptions. We hear that the United States is a good Christian nation, and we take a swallow. We hear that wealth and the latest gadgets satisfy, and we begin to believe. We can drink from the loudest, most current voices, or we can build a different vision on the power of God’s story.

Can we see how lavish consuming threatens us with indigestion and lack of satisfaction? Can we see how commonplace, nice-sounding Christian platitudes muddy our vision of what Jesus-centered faith looks like? Can we see how the charm of privilege blinds us to the blessings of diversity?

As Jesus gets close enough to spit in our eyes, we too begin to see differently. We see the hungry and think about including them in our next party. We see our enemies and those we fear and realize they are loved by God. We see worldly status and decide it is a muddy imitation of real significance.

Let’s keep coming back for a little more Jesus spit so we see clear enough to avoid ingesting muddy concoctions.

Jane Yoder-Short attends West Union Mennonite Church in Parnell, Iowa.


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