A Soul Like Clay
“‘As long as I am in the world, I Am the light of the World’ When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. And He said to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which is translated, Sent or Cast Away). So he went and washed, and came back seeing.”
For years, I wrestled with this. Why on earth would Jesus use spit to heal blindness? And why clay? Sure, the eyes make sense, even clay… but spit? Was Jesus concocting some ancient topical ointment? Or, perhaps He was making the point that “the method is irrelevant, it is the Healer that makes the difference”? After doing some poking around with what ancient culture and the scriptures had to say about spit and clay, here is what I found:
- Spit: is nearly always synonymous with shame. It is an expression of contempt being heaped upon someone as a social scorn for disgraceful behaviors.
- Clay: is what mankind was made from and it is where we will return. Clay is also represented as a very weak and fragile composite that is shapable and moldable by the potter.
- God: is represented as the potter, molding the clay, sculpting its forms.
In spitting upon the clay, Jesus was illustrating the nature of man: easily manipulated, shameful, and fragile when hardened. Stooping down, using the very source of our shame, the spittle, the Potter loosens the clay, kneading, shaping it, that it might become malleable, usable, changed into something beautiful. He then bids us, “Cleanse yourself in the pool of the the outcast (Siloam)”. As the healing water of the Spirit cleanses our shame, light pours through our cracked, squinted gaze, piercing our blindness, and, in seeing, we behold the outline of our Deliverer.