Sunday of the Paralytic

Fourth Sunday 

Of Pascha

"Wilt thou be made whole (wilt thou wait for the second healing)?

John 5:1-15

After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to
Jerusalem. 2 Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which
is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. 3 In these
lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered,
waiting for the moving of the water. 4 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. 5 And a certain man was there, which had an
infirmity thirty and eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lie, and knew
that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt
thou be made whole? 7 The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man,
when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am
coming, another steppeth down before me. 8 Jesus saith unto him, Rise,
take up thy bed, and walk. 9 And immediately the man was made whole, and
took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath. 10 The
Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it
is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed. 11 He answered them, He that
made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk. 12 Then
asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed,
and walk? 13 And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had
conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place. 14 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. 15 The man
departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Christ is risen!  Truly he is risen!

Today we see a man who was healed twice, and we Orthodox Christians must
recognize how God heals us and how that obligates us. 

As Christians, we fall far short of the mark. We are very poor at giving
thanks to God, very poor at remembering His mercies, very poor at
changing our priorities, at arranging our schedules. And we fall far
short of receiving this second healing. 

Now in the case of the paralytic, he could not walk, his legs were not
strong. And he waited a long time; 38 years is taken by the fathers to
be an indication of a lifetime -- maybe not a lifetime now, but very
near a lifetime then. And that lifetime indicates everything that is
wrong with a man, all sins, all infirmities, all incompleteness,
everything that's lacking in us. Any man who has any honesty in his
heart knows that he is incomplete, and longs to be changed. 

So the first healing is bringing us into the Church in our case -- for
the paralytic, it was to make him able to stand. He didn't know anything
about Christ, didn't know who this man was who said, "Wilt thou be made
whole?", didn't know anything. But he was raised up. 

Now the second healing is where the man was enlightened by Christ. He
saw Him in the temple -- which was a good place for him to have been --
and Christ conveyed to him who He was. And He told him something very
important: "thou art made whole; sin no more, lest a worse thing befall

And we as Orthodox Christians are very poor at remembering these things
that the Lord says when He says "sin no more." Many, many times, God's
mercy is linked very strongly to our responsibility to think, to act, to
breathe as Christians. We are very poor at it. 

It is very strange that the time of the worst church attendance is after
Pascha. The time when people end up telling me in confession that the
hardly said their prayers. The most likely time for that is after
Pascha. Satan steals away grace from us like the birds steal the seed
away from the ground, because it hasn't taken root. This story really is
present at this period of the year not for this message that I'm trying
to give you now, but instead to further focus on how the resurrection
changes a man, and enlightens a man. We will see it again and again
during this Pentecostarion period, how God enlightens, and the
application of the resurrection. We see it in the paralytic, and we'll
see it especially in the blind man, in the Samaritan woman. 

But we also must see a sidebar to these healings and these
enlightenments that we will look at, even if only briefly, even if only
for a moment on a Sunday. We are obligated. We are obligated. Every year
I wrestle, and I think I lose the wrestling match every year, but my
pastoral conscience tells me that I must say, take up your bed and walk!
You must look in the mirror and judge yourself, and say, am I living as
a Christian? Am I keeping the fast? Am I coming to church when I can, or
am I only coming when it is convenient to me? Am I saying my prayers or
am I just kind-of saying a quick make the sign of the cross and rush out
and turn on the radio? 

We are obligated, brothers and sisters, and this obligation is not
because it is a rule that is bestowed with an iron fist. God wants to
give you every blessing! And I, as minister of the Gospel, am charged
with making everything possible available to you that I as a mortal, who
have been given the responsibility and the ability to deal with the
immortal, can do. But you must take it! You must grab it! You must pray.
You must fast. You must come to the services. You must take up your bed
and walk. Perhaps I'll win this wrestling match some year, and I will
only speak of the joy of Pascha, and of the enlightenment that God
gives, but so far I've lost, because my heart is heavy this time of

Take up your bed and walk! You've been healed, you've been put in the
waters of baptism -- that's what the troubling of the water means! This
theology is a lot more important than the movie of the week, you know.
We should know these things. The troubling of the water indicates
baptism, but only one man was healed a year when the Archangel Michael
went down to the water. You'd know that from the services: Archangel
Michael troubled the water. He's not mentioned in the scriptures, but he
is mentioned in the services. One man only! 

But Christ can heal the whole man, and He can heal everybody! This is
exciting news. But when the God-man says, "take up your bed and walk,"
He doesn't just tell you to do it; He gives you the ability to do it! 

And who are we to languish in inconstancy and in laziness and in falling
headlong into just sort-of the stream of life? This is very bad, to do
this. We do not recognize the mercy of God when we do this. And you miss
the grace. It streams by you, and you don't catch any of it. Or you
catch such a small amount, and still have all of your sins, and all of
your passions, and all of your problems, and it's right there for you to
be helped. You have the oasis only within a few steps, and you're
thirsting to death! The heavily-laden table, full of sweet meats, and
you're hungry! 

Take up your bed and walk! 

You still have time in this blessed period between now and Pentecost,
when God wants to really reveal, in a very significant, extreme way, His
enlightenment. This is the period of time when He really especially does
this. We've gotta be here to listen! Not just here in this building, but
in our prayers, in our reading of holy things, in all these things that
are necessary for ourselves. Not for my sake, for your sake, take up
your bed and walk! 

Now I pray that next year I will win this wrestling match and I will
speak to you about what I really want to talk to you about. Exciting
news! But this kind of news has to be shared by people who are of the
same mind, striving together. Let's be of the same mind about living the
Christian life. Struggle with me! I'm not a very good struggler, I need
a lot of help, you know. Struggle together. 

Make up your mind that you're going to fast better, you're going to say
your prayers in the morning and not just two and a half seconds worth,
or one minute worth. You're going to say your prayers! If you always
have the habit of listening to Paul Harvey at twelve o'clock noon -- you
can always remember that, and that's five minutes of your day -- you can
remember five minutes of prayer in the morning, or fifteen. Let's start
with five, and five at night, and to read holy things together. 

If you do this, you'll expand. God will fill you with knowledge, and
some of the problems that have been assailing you will start to be
washed away. It will happen. It will happen! The process is agonizingly
slow for most Christians, and they see barely any progress at all,
because they've not added enough effort to God's grace. So may we take
up our bed and walk. To the ability that we can, add to this grace. Some
of us can run, some of us can fly like eagles, some of us can only
crawl. I can only crawl, but let's crawl, together. 

May God help us to take up our bed and walk, to struggle with all the
things in the Christian life for our benefit. God has much to give us,
and we don't see it. It's right here! 

Do you realize that the angels are present right now? They're right
here! Do we see any of them? No, because our eyes have scales on them.
We do not see what God wants to give us. This is a tragedy, that we
don't see the angels. A tragedy, that we don't feel the fullness of
what's happening right now. 

May God enlighten us, a little bit at a time, a little step at a time.
He's not asking you to pray in the air tomorrow; He's asking you to
respond to His grace like a flower responds to the sun, like a child to
his mother's embrace. This is the way we must live. The flower never
turns away from the sun, and yet the Christian does. Let us not be like
the world. Let us focus our lives on what matters, on the salvation of
our souls, so that we can see what God wants to tell us. This is
exciting news; it truly is incredible news, what He 43has in store for
us. May God bless you and help you. Amen.