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Spit-Mud Face Mask

Today’s Gospel passage is one of my all-time favorite lessons to teach with kids - of all ages. It has such a terrific “yuck” factor that it simply captures their attention – and really invites them into the story.

It’s the story, as recorded in John, of Jesus healing a man who has been blind since birth. Sounds pretty normal for a Bible story miracle, right? Except for the way that Jesus does it: he restores the blind beggar’s sight by spitting into the dirt, mixing up some mud with the saliva, and then smearing it onto the man’s eyes. “Eewww – gross!” say the kids. “Go and wash,” Jesus tells the man. And when he washes away the spit-mud, he receives his sight, he is able to see. Some translations say “his eyes were opened.”

Now, while I’m really okay skipping the spit-mud face mask, I think there is an intriguing invitation from Jesus in these verses. I suspect that this story applies to more than just this one blind man who lived a long time ago. I find myself wondering what it was about Jesus that made the man willing to follow through on what seems like a pretty silly solution. Certainly spit-mud and a bath seemed as unlikely a solution to the man’s blindness 2,000 years ago as it does today?

And yet, there must be something in Jesus’ manner, in his speech, in the look he gives the man, some sense of authority or presence, perhaps, that leads the man to follow the instructions. And with that step of faith, the man creates an opening for Jesus to act, to change the man’s life. As the story unfolds, the man reports what has happened to him, first to his neighbors, and later to the officials, the Pharisees. At first he says simply “the man Jesus”; later he describes Jesus as a prophet, one sent from God. And in that reporting, we can see that the man’s understanding of who Jesus is beginning to grow. We see that, in fact, his eyes have been opened – not just to seeing the material world around him, but also to seeing Jesus, to recognizing God, to opening his heart and mind to belief in who Jesus is. Not only has his physical blindness been removed, but he has begun to see spiritually as well.

So, while we may not suffer from physical blindness, I just have to wonder: In what ways does Jesus ask us to wash away the mud, to “open our eyes”?

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