Thursday, March 16: Mud and mess

Reading: John 9:1-41

As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’ When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, ‘Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?’ Some were saying, ‘It is he.’ Others were saying, ‘No, but it is someone like him.’ He kept saying, ‘I am the man.’ But they kept asking him, ‘Then how were your eyes opened?’ He answered, ‘The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, “Go to Siloam and wash.” Then I went and washed and received my sight.’ They said to him, ‘Where is he?’ He said, ‘I do not know.’

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, ‘He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.’ Some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.’ But others said, ‘How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?’ And they were divided. So they said again to the blind man, ‘What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.’ He said, ‘He is a prophet.’

The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, ‘Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?’ His parents answered, ‘We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.’ His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, ‘He is of age; ask him.’

So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, ‘Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.’ He answered, ‘I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.’ They said to him, ‘What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?’ He answered them, ‘I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?’ Then they reviled him, saying, ‘You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.’ The man answered, ‘Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.’ They answered him, ‘You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?’ And they drove him out.

Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ He answered, ‘And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.’ He said, ‘Lord, I believe.’ And he worshipped him. Jesus said, ‘I came into this world for judgement so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.’ Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, ‘Surely we are not blind, are we?’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, “We see”, your sin remains.



Our dog Cooper loves to run in our backyard. When I get home, he whines at me until I finally listen, find a ball, and bring him outside. But unless the ground is frozen, Cooper’s outside fun seems to always come back inside with him. His muddy pawprints seem to be everywhere, and the back lawn has definitely seen better days. Mud has a way of making its presence known. It gets all over the place. Even when it dries, it’s still kind of a mess.

So when I read this story about the way Jesus heals the man born blind, it always strikes me that it’s a little bit messy. Jesus makes mud and puts it on the man’s eyes. Jesus could have healed him in any number of ways. In other stories, he heals from a great distance, or just by talking to a person, or even through the hem of his clothes. So, as someone who has to deal with a lot of muddy cleanup, I find myself wondering, “what’s with the mud?”

But then I remember that life is messy. And this whole story is messy: so many people are asking questions and saying the exact same thing. “Is this the man?” “Yep–same guy. Just new and improved.” “No, but seriously, this can’t be the same guy.” “No, it’s really him. Even his parents are vouching for him.”

It’s all so messy.

The thing that I cannot seem to shake is that Jesus shows up in everything that is messy. No matter what we have done, no matter what life has dished out, no matter how messy or complicated things are, Jesus shows up and is in the mess with us. Jesus shows up, brings healing, and makes us whole. Grace upon grace. And more grace the next day, because things will get messy again (just like my floor after Cooper’s romp in the backyard). And while I mop my floors, I’ll try to remember that if Jesus used mud for healing back then, maybe he’s using Cooper’s paws for healing now. Maybe.

–Sarah Hershberger



Gracious and loving God, thank you for being with us in the messiness of life. Thank you for the healing power of your grace. Help us to see you at work in everything messy.