Jesus, Spit, and Urban Legends
For Christians, this week (between Palm Sunday and Easter) is often referred to as Holy Week. Holy Week is a week of remembrance and reflection on the last several days before Jesus was crucified (Good Friday).
As we spend this week remembering the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, here are some thoughts on Jesus' most astounding claim - being the Son of God.
Now Jesus focused a good portion of His ministry here on Earth on teaching and performing miracles - unleashing the Kingdom of God in a world of great need. And that is what we have accounted for us in the Book of John in the Bible.
Jesus is going around performing some awesome miracles and sharing some challenging teachings. And that is where we find Him at the end of chapter 8 in the Book of John. Jesus speaks to the religious leaders and tells them they are missing the point of following God and the reason that He knew this was because He is the Son of God. It went over so well that we are told in John 8:59: "At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds."
It is here, where He was slipping away, that we pick up the story. Here's what the author tells us:
First off, can you imagine the response of this guy when he heard that Jesus was in front of Him? This man who seemed to be performing miracles left and right was with him.
This miracle-worker, mic-dropping teacher, troublemaker guy named Jesus was there in front of him!
And then he heard Him spit? If I were him I would be thoroughly confused. And then when He started rubbing mud on his eyes - I’m surprised he didn’t start throwing punches and demanding to know what was going on!
What in the world was Jesus thinking? Spit. Mud. Eyeballs. That’s just plain weird.
But, like most things that Jesus did, He had a specific reasoning for His actions.
Jesus had just escaped a stoning for a speech He had given in which He claimed to be the Son of God. And then, as he is leaving, He comes across this man who had been blind since birth. And He uses His spit to heal the man.
Now there is a tradition within the Jewish faith, one that everyone would have been familiar with during the time in which Jesus lived because everyone there - including Jesus - were all Jews. It was a bit like a Jewish urban legend. Everyone knew it, whether or not they really believed it.
And the tradition was this: that sometimes it was debated who the “legitimate first-born heir” to a father was. At in that time period with multiple kids and multiple wives, it sometimes got confusing and hotly debated. But there was a belief that the true first-born heir was someone who could heal people with their spit - specifically eye issues.
Catch that: Healing someone with your spit was a sign that you were the legitimate first-born son of someone. (Found in Bava Batra 126b)
And who did Jesus just say He was in the chapter right before this?
He claimed to be the SON OF GOD.
He said that but the religious leaders didn’t believe Him. And then immediately after that He goes out and performs a miracle that (at least from their beliefs) proves it He is the Son of God.
Jesus made it clear that He is who He said He is.
And that is not the only claim that Jesus made during His time here on Earth. Jesus made several claims about His identity.
This Holy Week, I challenge you to:
- Pick up your Bible and read through the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Find who He claims to be for yourself.
- Pray, talk to God, and wrestle with Jesus' claims. Do you believe that Jesus is who He has claimed to be?
- If so, how does that impact your life today?
If Jesus really is the Son of God, what does that mean for you?
(Want to hear more about this miracle? You can listen to my recent sermon on this passage here.)