Jesus, Mud, and Joel Osteen

Few of Jesus’ miracles are given as much face time as His healing of the man born blind in John 9. It’s a beautiful and tragic passage—beautiful for what it reveals about Christ, tragic for what it reveals about His opponents. It’s been captured quite faithfully in this video (HT: Dan Winnberg). Here are some meditations on this great work of Jesus:

1. Jesus corrected a common misconception about hardships. The chapter begins with the disciples questioning Jesus about the cause of the poor beggar’s blindness (John 9:2). They assumed that it was due to some great sin, either on his part or his parents’. It was a common assumption (John 9:34; Luke 13:1-5), but an inaccurate one, denying both common grace and universal sin. And it’s a cruel assumption, assigning blame where there should be compassion. 

We may be tempted to think that we’re beyond the mistaken idea that every trial can be traced to personal failure. But are we? Do we not assume that hardships—from a flat tire to a diagnosis of cancer—are God “zapping” us for disobedience of some sort, as though He were in heaven just waiting for us to skip our devotions for a day so He can bop us on the head? More pointedly, the notion that hardships can be traced to frailty is the dark side of Joel Osteen’s seemingly cheerful lessons about having your best life now. “Prosperity Gospel” types come off as such an optimists, but in reality, there’s a cruelty in the notion that I’m sick or poor or unemployed because I lack the faith to make the change. Really? Far better to submit to the teachings of Christ in John 9:3. Yes, hardships exist in our fallen world. And Jesus has compassion on us. But our trials aren’t random. God has ordained them to magnify His work through them. Even our headaches and heartbreaks are part of a God-glorifying plan—and that’s fine (Phil 1:20).

2. Jesus displayed His deity by the manner in which He healed the man. Just restoring sight to the blind is a sign that Jesus is God. It shows omnipotence. It fulfills Messianic promises (Luke 7:18-23; Luke 4:16-21; Isaiah 61:1-2). But the way in which He did it is especially striking. I love this. Jesus could have healed with a thought, or a word, or a touch. But this time, He acted very intentionally and symbolically. He spat on the ground, made a mixture of mud, then applied it to the man’s eyes. It’s no random detail—the “mud” is recorded in John 9:6, 11, 14, and 15. Why’d He do that?

Well, throughout the Gospel of John, Jesus has claimed to be God. John started the book by saying that Jesus was the Creator of all things (John 1:3), and he’s in the process of presenting evidence of the deity of Christ (John 20:31). Jesus’ use of mud to heal the man’s blind eyes is an audacious and glorious allusion back to the original creation of man. In Genesis 2:7, Christ formed man from the dust of the ground. He created galaxies with just a word, but He formed man with attentive delicacy. Now, in John 9:6, He again uses the dust of the ground to repair His creature—to “remake” him, if you will. It’s a beautiful, meaningful act.

3. Jesus used the miracle to show His power to save. The miracle of mercy is beautiful to behold. However, Christ had a bigger agenda. He preceded the healing by announcing again that He is “the light of the world” (John 9:5; cp. John 1:4, 5, 9; 8:12). Then he used a physical miracle to prove it. It’s very like Matthew 9:1-8, where Jesus healed a paralytic for the specific purpose of proving that He had power to do something far greater—to forgive the man’s sins. Similarly, Jesus heals the blind man’s eyes as part of a greater plan: (1) to save his soul (John 9:35-38; cp. a similar circumstance in John 5:14), and (2) to introduce a discussion on spiritual blindness (John 9:8-41). Jesus healed the blind to display His power to give “sight to the inly blind,” as John Mariott put it (cp. 2 Cor 4:4-6).

What a Savior He is! Grace!

(Note: John Mariott’s great hymn “Thou, Whose Almighty Word” is a delight to sing to the tune Italian Hymnusually associated with “Come Thou, Almighty King.”)

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5 Responses

  1. Have you ever wondered about the various means by which Christ healed blindness? Why not the same way every time? Why those specific means for those choice individuals? Why the partial (“I see men as trees walking”) healing before the complete healing in Mark 8? I’ve thought of these things more than a few times…

  2. Excellent post Chris…What a Savior!

  3. Great post Chris. It encouraged my heart and stirred up gratitude, awe, and wonder towards our great Savior. Oh, to have seen that with my own eyes.

    Godspeed!

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  5. Hey, Chris, I read someone once who suggested that the man might not have had eyeballs, and that this truly was a creative act, and not just a restorative one. That would fit with the emphasis on him being born blind and with the use of “the dust of the ground”. The Scripture doesn’t say, of course, so it’s speculative, but it might fit. I don’t remember where I read it.

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