Advent: Day 11

December 11, 2023 | Do You See Anything?

Today, we are discussing how Jesus uses spit to heal a man’s eyes. Here is how it goes down in Mark 8:

When they arrived at Bethsaida, some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. So He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village. Then He spit on the man’s eyes and placed His hands on him. Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?”

The man looked up and said, “I can see the people, but they look like trees walking around.” Once again, Jesus placed His hands on the man’s eyes, and when he opened them, his sight was restored, and he could see everything clearly. Jesus sent him home and said, “Do not go back into the village.” Mark 8:22-26

Now, this seems odd in our culture, but to better understand on a deeper level what’s going on, we need to look at a writing by a Roman writer named Pliny the Elder who, around 77AD, wrote a book called ‘The Natural History.’ In it, he was documenting the natural world and scientific thinking from around the Roman empire. If you were to read it today, you’ll find a whole chapter dedicated to the healing properties of human spit, including a section focused on healing eyes with fasting saliva. To be clear, Pliny isn’t doing research; he’s simply recording accounts he has collected from around the Roman empire.

In addition to Pliny, Tacitus wrote about Emperor Vespasian, who ruled following Nero in the early 2nd century. Nero died in 68 AD, and after a quick succession of three different Emperors, Vespasian took control of the empire and reigned for 10 years. Before taking over as emperor, he was prosecuting the war Rome had in Israel against the Jews. One time, we read that Vespasian was in Alexandria in Egypt and was approached by a blind man who begged Vespasian to ‘moisten his cheeks and eyes’ with his spit, hoping it would heal him. So, healing eyes with saliva was something the people at the time thought could happen.

We also read a story in the Jewish Talmud that is important to know. There is an account of a man approaching a Rabbi and saying, “I know this man is the firstborn.” The Rabbi asks how he knows that, and the man says, “I know because when people come before his father to obtain a cure for their ailing eyes, his father would say, ‘Go to my son, he is the firstborn, and his saliva heals this ailment’.”

The firstborn’s saliva heals eye ailments. Which makes all of this so stunning.

Especially since in Colossians 1:15 we read, that:

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation…

Jesus, the firstborn of all creation, heals a blind man with his spit, just like tradition says.

Daily Reading: Mark 8

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