Hands On

Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing (John 9:6, esv).

The call to live for Christ is a call to action.

More than simply sitting back and expecting God to do all the hard work, the right response to what He’s done for us is to roll up our sleeves and become actively involved with Him. This same challenge goes for the one who wants to get better at serving others, as well as the one who’s in need and asking for help. And each of us as Christians, at one time or another—sometimes all in one day—can find ourselves in both situations.

Jesus’ healing of a blind man in John 9 reveals these two corresponding aspects. First, we see Him spitting in the dirt, moistening it into a sandy paste, and caking it over the man’s eyes. We might call this method unorthodox. We might also call it gross. And seemingly unnecessary. I mean, couldn’t Jesus have merely spoken a word and the man’s blindness would’ve instantly vanished, without all the unsightly dirt and grime?

Biblical commentators continue to weigh in on why He would choose this hands-on approach to healing. Some of their opinions make sense; some make wild use of their spiritual imaginations. For me, I simply look at the context of the event. Jesus had just been talking with His disciples about how “we must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work” (John 9:4). I believe His use of the mud pack was His way of telling them to get their hands dirty—to expect to get messy when serving others.

Ministry is messy. It just is. Choosing to be up-close and intimate with others’ sin, as sinners ourselves, makes for some hard, ugly, uncomfortable experiences. But this is how we’re called to serve—not by staying above the fray and unpleasantness but by getting in the dirt and helping people work their way through to something better.

This leads to the second point, where Jesus also demanded action on the part of the blind man. Going to wash his eyes in a nearby pool required asking for help to get there, then bending down to cup the water in his hands and washing away the film to reveal his sight.

I’ve learned in ministry that the people being helped need to engage in the process. If we want their healing for them more than they want it for themselves, the results aren’t likely to go anywhere good.

Praise God we are not required to work for our salvation; otherwise we’d never be able to put in enough overtime to get the job done. And yet the walk of Christian service, as well as the walk of Christian growth, come with work opportunities that open our eyes to what God is doing.

And to do that work, sometimes you’ll need to get your hands in the dirt. Just like Jesus.


  • What was a time in your life when someone was willing to do hard, sacrificial work to help you?
  • Where do you sense God inviting you to work for Him, even if it’s messy?

Lord God, thank You for Your great wisdom as you deal with me like a loving Father, always knowing what is best. Thank You for the privilege of rolling up my sleeves in the most important work I could be doing, helping those within my reach feel the touch of Your hand on their lives. I’m ready to dive in, to get up and do something that could have repercussions that will last forever. Show me where, and I will follow, in the name and for the sake of Jesus, amen.