Spit And Dirt... That's all Jesus had at His disposal in a key moment recorded in the gospel of John. A man who was blind begged for healing. Jesus did not have an ophthalmology clinic nearby. He wasn’t close to a surgery center or an eyeglasses store. There was no access to Walgreens or Duane Reades to have a prescription filled. A man was blind and called out to Jesus for healing, and all Jesus had was spit and dirt. So He used what He had and made a salve which He applied to the eyes of the sightless man. And soon the man’s eyes were opened, and he could see.
I don’t know what you want to do with that story or how you choose to interpret it. Some simply say that Jesus, as God incarnate, had the power to do what you and I cannot. If a miracle were needed, He was in the miracle business. In truth, that’s what I believe, but I also have no problem with other folks who aren’t as comfortable with miracles that seem to transgress science. Many of them say the story is metaphor, that the blindness symbolizes our inability or unwillingness to see life and people as they are, and that Jesus has the power to wipe all that away and help us find a proper focus about things. Fine, that makes sense, too. I’ve even heard people propose that Jesus’ saliva possessed healing chemicals based on His diet and water and salt content, etc., and that it was like a mama’s spit that can heal cuts and clean stains. That supposition doesn’t do much for me, but if it scratches where you itch, go for it.
Whatever we choose to do with the science/miracle aspect of the story, to me one primary lesson the story teaches is simply to use what you have to do what needs to be done. How simple is that? And yet, it is at the heart of this wonderful gospel story.
When you don't have much, use what you have. Jesus had very little to draw on in this lesson, but there was a need that had to be met. So, He used what little He did have to meet the need. I heard a man interviewed on radio recently. He has been retired several years. He spoke of how he was concerned for at-risk children who have few things and often not enough adult role models. He said he had a deep desire to help, but limited financial resources. So he told the interviewer: “I decided what I do have is time. In retirement, I have more of that than I’ve ever had before. So I volunteer weekdays at an elementary school in one of the poorer districts of our city. I tutor children in Math and English. Maybe just as importantly, I listen to them and tell them about values and ethics and how smart and capable I think they are. I don’t have money, so I use my time for them instead,” he said.
When you can't do much, do what you can. In a church I served years ago was a woman named Edna who was a greeter. I never knew if she were exceedingly humble or actually had low self-esteem, but Edna was always the first to tell you how she envied everyone else for their talents. “I wish I could preach like you,” she would say to me. “I wish I could sing like you,” she would tell the choir members. “I wish I could play the organ like you.” “I wish I could teach small groups like you.” And often she would add, “I’m still looking for my talent.” But everyone else recognized it. Her gift was hospitality. No one could enter or exit the front door of the church on Sundays without seeing her smile, feeling her handshake, and receiving her warm and sincere word of welcome. Across the years there, I consistently heard: “You know what kept bringing me back to this church after my first visit? It was that sweet woman at the door who made me feel like I was wanted here.” Edna thought she couldn’t do much, but in many ways she did as much or more than any of us.
When you can't give much, give what you can. A poor widow in the synagogue put two small coins in the offering. It seemed almost insignificant to those who observed. But, do you remember what Jesus said of her? “She has given more than all the others who were here today, for out of her poverty, she has given all that she possessed.” It doesn’t matter if your contributions can match those of someone else. Every contribution, large or small, helps and heals and makes a difference to someone. Therefore, in God’s eyes, every gift is a large gift.
The same Christ Who used spit and dirt to work a miracle can use whatever you are and whatever you have to work miracles still.