My beloved brothers and sisters in Our Risen Lord, God, and Savior JESUS CHRIST,
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN! ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ! ΑΛΗΘΩΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ!
SUNDAY OF THE PARALYTIC (John 5:1-15)
Resurrectional Apolytikion. Mode 3
Let the heavens be glad. Let the earth rejoice
exceedingly. For the Lord has shown strength
with his arm. He trampled death by death. He
became the first-born of the dead. Out of the
belly of Hades, He has rescued us, and to the
world, He has granted the Great Mercy.
Kontakion hymn of Pascha. Mode pl. 4.
Though Thou went down into the tomb, O
Immortal One, yet Thou brought down the
Dominion of Hades; and Thou rose as the
Victor, O Christ our God; and Thou called
out "Rejoice" to the Myrrh-bearing women,
and gave peace to Thine Apostles, O Lord
Who to the fallen grant resurrection.
CONCERNING THE PARLYTIC WHO WAS INFIRM FOR THIRTY-EIGHT YEARS.
"After this, there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now
there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew
tongue Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent
folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. For an Angel went
down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then
first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever
disease he had."
According to Saint Theophylact "went up" to Jerusalem on the Jewish feast of Pentecost. The Lord went up on this feast for two reasons. First, to celebrate with the others, lst His absence be interpreted as opposition to the law. Second, to use the occasion of the feast to draw more people to Himself by His signs and teaching, especially from among the guileless multitude, such as the farmers and the city craftsmen, who on other days were occupied with their work. The pool was called Sheep’s Pool because the sheep intended for the temple sacrifices were brought there and their entrails were washed in its water. It was the common belief that the washing of the sacrificial entrails imparted divine power to the water and that after washing an Angel would descend to the water to work a miracle. Here divine providence is plainly evident, guiding the Jews of ancient times towards faith in Christ by preordaining this miracle of the pool. God intended in due time to bestow Baptism, the greatest of gifts, MAKING IT FULL OF POWER TO WASH AWAY SINS AND BRING SOULS TO LIFE. Therefore, He PREFIGURED BAPTISM in the Judaic practices of the Old Covenant by directing the Jews to use water for cleansing from defilement. This water did not cleanse the fundamental stain of sin. It merely granted them purification from the pollution they believed occurred on various occasions in the course of everyday life, such as contact with a leper or a corpse. Similarly, God worked this miracle at the pool to prepare the Jews to receive the grace of Baptism. An Angel would come down at certain times to trouble the water and infuse it with HEALING POWER. Water itself has no power to heal — if it did, it would heal everywhere and on every occasion. This miracle was accomplished entirely BY THE ACTIVITY AND DIVINE ENERGY OF THE ANGEL. Likewise with us. IN BAPTISM, ORDINARY WATER BY THE DIVINE INVOCATIONS RECEIVES THE GRACE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT AND CLEANSES US FROM SPIRITUAL DISEASE. THE WATER OF BAPTISM HEALS ALL: the "BLIND," whose spiritual eyes are darkened and cannot distinguish good from evil; the "LAME," who are paralyzed and neither practice virtue nor make any spiritual progress; and the "WITHERED," who are in complete despair because of their inability to accomplish anything good. In former times infirmity prevented many from being healed in the waters of the pool, and only one was made whole. But now, what hinders any man from being baptized? If the whole world approached at once for Baptism, ITS GRACE WOULD NOT BE DIMINISHED.
"And a certain man was there, who had an infirmity thirty and eight years…"
For thirty-eight years he lay there waiting, each year hoping to be healed. But every time, those who were stronger and quicker got to the water before him. Yet HE NEVER DESPAIRED. The only purpose of the Lord’s question–"Wilt thou be made whole?" –was TO REVEAL THE PARALYTIC’S PATIENT AND STEADFAST ENDURANCE. What sick man would not want to be healed? And indeed, the paralytic answers GENTLY AND HUMBLY: "Yes, Lord, I wish to be healed, but I have no man who can put me into the water." He DOES NOT BLASPHEME; HE DOES NOT REBUKE CHRIST FOR ASKING A STUPID QUESTION; HE DOES NOT CURSE THE DAY OF HIS BIRTH AS WE OFTEN DO, FAINTHEARTED AS WE ARE, WHEN SUBJECT TO A MUCH SLIGHTER AFFLICTION THAN THIS. He answers MEEKLY, having no idea to Whom he was speaking, but hoping that Jesus would help hm into the waters. Note well that the Lord asked, "Wilt thou be made whole?" and not, "Will thou that I make thee whole?" He posed the question as He did to AVOID ANY APPEARANCE OF BOASTFULNESS.
"Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.."
Jesus commands the paralytic to pick up his bed IN ORDER TO CONFIRM THAT THE MIRACLE WAS NO ILLUSION. Unless the limbs were truly firm and strong, the man would not have been able to carry his bed. The Lord DID NOT REQUIRE, as He did with many others, that the paralytic show faith before he was healed, for the man, had never seen Christ work a sign. Whenever the Lord did require faith of those He was about to heal, He had already performed other miracles in their presence. See how the paralytic believed as soon as he heard Jesus’ word. He did not hesitate and think, "He is mad! I have been here thirty-eight years without being made whole, and now all at once He commands me to stand." Instead, HE BELIEVED — AND ROSE TO HIS FEET. The Lord heals on the Sabbath TO TEACH MEN TO SEE THE OBSERVANCE OF THE LAW IS A NEW LIGHT: THAT THEY HONOR THE SABBATH BY REFRAINING FROM EVIL, NOT BY RESTING. How could the law forbid one from doing good on the Sabbath, when the law comes from God, Who is CEASELESS IN DOING GOOD?
"Who is it that said unto thee, Take up thy bed and walk?" The Jews blinded themselves TO THE MIRACLE and were obsessed by what they considered a transgression of the Sabbath. Jesus "conveyed Himself away" for two reasons. First, with the healer absent, the Jews would be more likely to believe the man’s testimony, because it would seem that he was simply telling what happened, and not attributing the miracle to Jesus. Second, the Lord withdrew so as not to provoke the Jews any further. He knew the mere sight of the object of envy is enough to ignite the flame of spite. He wanted the deed to be assessed calmly, on its own merit alone. And truly, the more the Jews accuse, interrogate, and examine, the more swiftly travels word of the miracle.
"Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee…"
The Lord’s words to the paralytic, "Behold, thou art made whole, sin no more." confirm the truth of these two doctrines — ILLNESS IN MAN STEMS FROM SIN, and the punishment in hell is eternal. No one can now say, "I fornicated only for an hour; my punishment cannot last forever." Behold this man: his years of sin were far fewer than the many years of his punishment, which lasted almost a lifetime. Sin IS NOT JUDGED BY HOW LONG IT TOOK TO COMMIT BUT BY THE GRAVITY OF THE TRANSGRESSION. We also learn from the Lord’s words that even though we have already paid a harsh penalty for sins IF WE DEFILE OURSELVES AGAIN WITH THE SAME TRANSGRESSIONS, WE WILL BE PUNISHED MORE SEVERELY THAN BEFORE–and rightly so. If a man does not correct his ways after his first punishment, IT SHOWS HE IS INSENSIBLE AND CONTEMPTUOUS AND MUST BE DEALT WITH MORE HARSHLY. But why are not all punished in this manner? Man of the wicked are healthy and energetic and seem to pass their days merrily. But this absence of suffering in the present life becomes the grounds for even greater punishment in the next. Saint Paul confirms this: "But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world" (1 Corinthians 11:32), that is in the next life. The chastisements we receive in this life are mere admonitions, in the next life, THEY ARE TRUE PUNISHMENTS.
When He became man, He healed OUR NATURE and commanded us to "take up our bed." This means we must lift up from the earth our body — weighed down by the flesh and earthly cares — and make it light and free. We must rouse it from slothfulness so that it can "walk," that is to say, be active in doing good. The troubling of the water in the pool denotes the evil spirits stirred up in the waters of Baptism and then crushed and drowned by the grace of the Holy Spirit. Like the paralytic, we too are in need of healing, for we are paralyzed and inert in doing good. We also "have no man," that is, no rational thought proper to man, that would distinguish us from the irrational beasts and bring us to the pool OF TEARS AND REPENTANCE. In this pool, the first to enter is healed: if he procrastinates and does not swiftly REPENT, he obtains NO HEALING. Be quick to enter, lest death overtakes you. Again, there is an Angel which troubles this pool of repentance–the Angel of Great Counsel of the Father [see Isaiah 9:6], Christ the Savior. Unless the Divine Logos/Word touches our heart and troubles it with the thought of torments in the age to come, this pool will not be made active by divine power [ούκ ενεργηθήσεται], and there will be no healing for the paralyzed soul. The POOL OF REPENTANCE may rightly be called the Sheep’s Pool: THE POOL IN WHICH THE INWARD PARTS AND THOUGHTS OF THE SAINTS, LIKE THE SHEEP’S ENTRAILS, ARE WASHED. CLEANSED IN IT, THAT IS, RENDERED INNOCENT AND GUILELESS, THE SAINTS ARE MDE READY TO BECOME A LIVING SACRIFICE PLEASING TO GOD. May we also obtain healing, and afterward may the Lord ever find us in the temple, unstained by evil thoughts, "lest a worse thing" eternal punishment, "come unto us." [Source: The Explanation of the Holy Gospel according to John by Saint Theophylact).
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape In His Divine and Glorious Resurrection,
The sinner and unworthy servants of God