Something tells me that whoever coined the phrase, ‘Getting there is half the fun,’ wasn’t talking about salvation.
The process of dying to our temporal selves, so we can become our true selves – fully in the next life, but to a limited yet growing extent in this one – will sometimes be painful.
If only we could get to the product without going through the process. But we can’t. The things we need Jesus to do for us will not always be pleasant for us.
This isn’t exactly front-page news, I suppose, but three Gospel readings really brought this reality into focus this week. And all of them involve the Messiah’s Saliva (Messialiva?):
In Mark 7:31-35, Jesus heals a deaf-mute man by sticking His fingers in his ears, then spitting and touching the man’s tongue. Then, in Mark 8:22-25, He spat on a blind man’s eyes and partially restored the man’s vision. (People looked like trees walking around.) Then, he repeated the grody process, and the man’s vision was fully restored. And in John 9:1-7, Jesus spat on the ground and made a paste with his saliva and the dust, then rubbed that on a blind man’s eyes. He told him to go and wash in the Pool of Siloam (which means ‘Sent,’) and the man was healed.
Ick, double ick and triple ick.
Now, I’m sure that once this was done, the three healees were extremely grateful, but I can imagine them being less than enthused while it was going on. ‘Really, Jesus, you need to involve your saliva in the transaction? You need to put your fingers in my ears? It’s necessary to touch my tongue? OK, but this better work…’
When it was over, perhaps they invoked the Buckley’s Mixture slogan – it tastes (and/or feels) awful, and it works.
As my pastor quipped when we chatted about these passages, at least the blind guys didn’t have to see what Jesus was up to. I wonder if the deaf man had second thoughts when he saw how the Savior Saves.
And really, they’d have had a point if they’d questioned the Master, wouldn’t they? Jesus was God Made Flesh, wasn’t He? Why did He have to get so personal – and so gross? He could have healed them with a wink, a smile, a high-five or a thought, just as easily, couldn’t He?
On that note, what’s with the Mulligan in the second story? Why didn’t his first healing ‘take?’ Seems unlikely that the half-heal was Jesus’ fault, him being perfect and all. Perhaps the blind man’s belief that the icky process would be effective was less than 100%, and therefore, it was less than 100% effective? Dunno.
But back to the original question – why did the process have to be so unpleasant and so intimate?
I suspect that the ickiness wasn’t for the benefit of the ‘healees’ who lived the story – He could have healed them any way He felt like. No, the Yuck Factor is for those who come to Him today – for you and for me; the people reading the story.
Maybe Jesus used this rather manky methodolgy to underscore for future believers that good can come from the nasty, painful, gross times in our lives. That not only does God use for good the mud and spit that the world throws our way, but sometimes He’s the one doing the spitting and the flinging – and as unlikely as it seems now, we’ll thank Him for it later.
Maybe sometimes, a paste made of mud and loogies is the clay He uses to remold us.
Peace be with you.