Meeting God in the Dirt: Toward a Biblical Theology of Jesus and Dirt

Genesis 32:24 And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day.

The Hebrew word אָבָק (abaq), translated ‘wrestled,’ literally means to ‘get dusty.’ When you wrestle you roll around in the dirt. In order for the sun to rise on Jacob (Gen. 32:31) he had to have a true, heart-changing meeting with the living God. Such meetings with God only occur if God chooses to condescend to man – God must get dirty.

Man is made of dirt:

  • Genesis 3:19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

God became a man, and therefore took on a body made of dirt:

  • John 1:14 ¶ And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

He was born in a dirty place (caves/barns are dirty):

  • Luke 2:7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

He did the dirty work of a carpenter:

  • Mark 6:3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

As he writes the law in the human soul, he wrote in the dirt with his finger:

  • John 8:6 This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.

He spit on the ground and made a mud pie to heal a blind man:

  • John 9:6 Having said these things, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud…

His feet needed washing:

  • John 12:3 Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

He washed the feet of others:

  • John 13:14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.

He embraces you, as dirt, by taking your literal dirt (flesh) upon himself and by taking your spiritual dirt (sin) upon himself on the cross:

  • 2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

When he rejects your dirt, he is rejecting your form of sinful humanity:

  • Luke 10:11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’

He gets dirty so that you, as dirt, can be clean dirt. He loves our dirt, that is our humanity, but rejects our spiritual filth that ruins our humanity.

C.S. Lewis said that Aslan was not a tame lion. We might say that Jesus is no clean God. He is clean in the sense that he is pure, and perfect, and holy to be sure. But he’s not afraid to roll around in the dirt. He touches the dirt and he sanctifies it. Rather than it polluting him, he purifies it. That’s why you’re a Christian.

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