I’m not a scripture scholar and doubtless much has been written on the subject of the various healing miracles performed by Jesus that are recorded in the Gospels.
Today’s Gospel is one of those healing miracles – St. Mark’s account of Jesus healing a blind man. Jesus puts spittle on the man’s eyes and lays his hands on him, after which the man can “see people looking like trees and walking.” Jesus lays hands on him a second time and the man sees clearly.”
I read this and wonder, why the spittle? Why laying hands twice? Similarly, I’ve asked, why when Jesus heals the deaf mute does he stick his finger in his ear and place spittle on his tongue?
We know that Jesus can heal someone without touching him; later in Mark’s Gospel he will heal Bartimaeus without laying hands on him. Indeed, Jesus doesn’t even have to be in the same place as someone to heal him; he heals the centurian’s servant without going to the centaurian’s home.
So the answer to the question of why Jesus sometimes uses certain physical acts can’t be that they are necessary to accomplish the healing.
Perhaps a partial explanation is that the acts are for the benefit of the onlookers who view Jesus’ healings, to help them understand that it is not the method but the man. That is, using different methods makes it impossible for someone to say, “Ah, that’s the trick. It just takes some spit mixed with mud.” Instead, it is clear that it is Jesus. Sometimes he touches. Sometimes he simply speaks a few words. Sometimes he spits. The method changes; the constant is Jesus.
Maybe there are other explanations that are more sophisticated. But this is what I came up with as I reflected on the passage this morning.