Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Spitting, your mother told you, is gross. She may have said uncouth, but probably not. She may have told you, if you had to spit, to spit outside.

Here's a little email interchange between me and an anonymous pastor friend, I'll call him, er, say, Jesse. I had some questions for him.

ME: I've been thinking about incarnational theology again.

JESSE: An excellent pasttime.

ME: I've been wondering if you have any insight into, or can point me to

someone with insight into Jesus' acts of spitting to cure the deaf

and the blind men in Mark?

I'm thinking about it in terms of baptism and the Lord's Supper: is this somehow connected: the desire of the Lord to connect the physical world with the spiritual in forgiveness and healing? I'm thinking also about the Fall, how creation itself is broken. When Jesus spit, was part of the message that he was healing, or

promising to heal, Creation?

JESSE: I haven't seen anything about healing creation, but the connection to the means of grace is something I've used before. Asking why He healed the senses through spit is like asking why He washes sins away and bestows spiritual life with water.

ME: Well, actually, most questions from the reformed have to do with that, so I am looking to connect as broadly as possible the incarnation and the work of the Incarnation. When people say, "Oh, baptism is just symbolic", with the implication that the sign points elsewhere and therefore we shouldn't put too much emphasis on the sign, then I think, "So we shouldn't put too much emphasis on the incarnation of Christ, should we?" That often stops 'em.

As to why, not sure I care. You are right: answer one part of it, we answer it all. "why did Jesus spit?" "Why did Jesus condescend to be born a man?" There HAS to be a connection.

The fact that there are other times he doesn't use matter in healing doesn't undermine these examples, I think. But it does confuse the issue just a bit. Was it Jesus' mood at the time? :)

JESSE: Actually, I don't have a satisfying answer, unless it's satisfying to know that He has redeemed our bodies as well as our souls for eternal life. Yet that still doesn't tell us "why." Why did Naaman have to dip seven times in the Jordan? When we have the answer to one of these questions, I think we'll have the answer to all of them. Part of the problem may be the disconnect that we assume between the physical and the spiritual. There are not two creations, but one. Easily overlooked physical events may have spiritual implications, consequences, or causes: a good reason to use the liturgy and pay attention to our posture and movements in worship.

Incarnational, indeed.


If anyone has anything to add to the discussion, jump right in. Why did Jesus spit?


Cindy R. said...

I read something about this once upon a time. I think the writer made the means of grace connection, but I don't remember if there was anything else. The source of my vague memory was most likely a Cwirla sermon.

Jonathan said...

"So we shouldn't put too much emphasis on the incarnation of Christ, should we?" That often stops 'em."

Likewise, the resurrection, the miracles, or why should anything supernatural count then in generic protestant theology? It's all about personal feelings, right?

I find it funny that one of the big Baptist churches puts on a big-time-production of the nativity.

Bruce Gee said...

There is no question, Jonathan,that the saving gospel can be found in these churches. And you will find many a devout believer in many a Baptist church. Somehow, God's promises have been proclaimed and received by some.

Here's the thing, though. I keep finding this among the guys in the prison Bible studies: everything tends to get spiritualized, even though they are yearning, YEARNING for true substantial faith. Yet by their complete unfamiliarity with the sacraments, or their insistence that what we call sacraments are just symbols, they keep at arm's length the very grace that is the gift of faith. The visible Word is therefore denied them, and Lutherans ought to know how this becomes a part and portion of our lives (and why we secretly yearn for every-Lord's-Day communion). How do you explain to someone who thirsts but has never drunk that water is really a good thing? They've been told it is simply something to behold.

I'm glad that Jesus spit.