Sunday of the Paralytic (2012)

John 5:1-15

After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Hebrew called Bethzatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay a multitude of invalids, blind, lame, paralyzed. One man was there, who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew that he had been lying there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is troubled, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your pallet, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his pallet and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who was cured, “It is the   Sabbath, it is not lawful for you to carry your pallet.” But he answered them, “The man who healed me said to me, ‘Take up your pallet, and walk.'” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your pallet, and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place.  Afterward, Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse befall you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him.

In this Gospel Lesson, we are given by our Lord Jesus an example of how to deal with the problems of the world – one at a time.   We are supposed to imitate Christ, but most of us would say but we are not gifted to heal people like He did.  True enough, but we can read this Gospel lesson and understand it offers some very concrete guidance in dealing with problems.  Jesus walks by the Sheep Gate, right into a place which is known to be full of problems – multitudes of “invalids, blind, lame, paralyzed.”  Obviously since so many of the sick found their way there, the place was well known in its day.   So I would think Jesus went there intentionally.  He didn’t avoid a place full of problems, sickness, suffering, stench and death.  We can imitate Christ in also not making ourselves blind to the suffering of others in the world.  We can go to places where people are impoverished and hungry and ill and in need of relief of all kinds rather than hiding in our suburbs.  We ought not pretend they don’t exist if we don’t see them.

And then Christ sets an example we all can follow.  He does not heal everyone there, nor even most, nor even a few.  He heals but one person.   His miraculous behavior is not inimitable.  He sets an example for us to follow.  We need only help one person, like Christ did.  There are a multitude of needs and problems in the world.  We also don’t have to go very far- there are individuals in our towns, in our neighborhoods, in our families and in our homes who are in serious need of help.  It might be within our power to help them on the road to recovery, to health, to repentance, to the Kingdom of God.  We have to open our eyes to see, and then be willing to use the gifts and resources given to us to help these others.

Christ does His good deed anonymously.  This too we can imitate.  Notice the man he healed didn’t even know Jesus’ name.  He doesn’t know where Jesus is or how to find him.  Christ helps the man and then disappears.  We certainly can imitate Christ in this way of well-doing.  We don’t need immediate rewards and recognition for the good deeds we do.  We need only imitate Christ our Lord.

The example Christ sets in this Gospel lesson is something we can follow.  We can be Christ-like, Christian, in helping one other person in a sea of suffering.  We don’t have to end world poverty, we need only help feed one person  a meal.

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Bethzatha and Baptism

John 5:1-15

After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Hebrew called Bethzatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay a multitude of invalids, blind, lame, paralyzed. One man was there, who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew that he had been lying there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is troubled, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your pallet, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his pallet and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who was cured, “It is the   Sabbath, it is not lawful for you to carry your pallet.” But he answered them, “The man who healed me said to me, ‘Take up your pallet, and walk.'” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your pallet, and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place.  Afterward, Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse befall you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him.

St. John Chrysostom writes about the Paralytic being healed, and refers to the healing of soul that takes place at baptism.  Like the paralytic we too may have long been suffering from the effects of our sin and had no one to help us.  No matter the sin or how long its effects had controlled our lives, in Christ our soul is healed and forgiven.  God who created the world out of nothing is able to restore a soul reduced to ashes.  At baptism we are lowered into those healing waters, over which we have prayed and upon which God has bestowed His Holy Spirit, transforming them into the waters of the Jordan in which Christ was baptized and upon which He left His divine grace.

“Now, an angel came down and stirred the water, and put the power of healing in it, in order that the Jews might learn that the Lord of angels is much more able to heal the diseases of the soul. However, just as here it was not merely the nature of the water that healed (if it were, surely this healing would have occurred every time), but water supplemented by the power of the angel, so in our case: it is not merely the water that acts, but, when it has received the grace of the Spirit, then it frees us from every sin. Around this pool ‘were lying a great multitude of the sick, blind, lame, and those with shriveled limbs, waiting for the moving of the water.’ At that time, however, sickness was an impediment to him who wished to be healed; now, on the contrary, each one is capable of approaching of himself. It is not an angel who now stirs the water, but the Lord of the angels who does everything. And it is not possible for the sick man to say: ‘I have no one’; he cannot say: ‘While I am coming to go down, another steps down before me.’ But, even if the whole world should come, grace is not used up, nor is the power diminished; it remains the same, now, still what it was before. And just as sunbeams give light every day and do not dwindle in size, nor does their light become less because of its lavish spending, so it is much more true that the power of the Spirit is not lessened by the number of those who receive its benefit.”   (St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on St. John 1-47, pgs. 352-352)