Ep.45: The Paralytic at Bethesda (John 5)

by 1389 on February 3, 2015

in 1389 (blog admin), Orthodox Christianity

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Published on Feb 2, 2015 by Coffee with Sr. Vassa
Subtitles: ENGLISH. A brief, weekly catechetical program hosted by Dr. Sr. Vassa Larin, a liturgiologist of the University of Vienna, Austria. This episode discusses the reading of the 5th Sunday of Pascha, of the Paralytic (in John 5) according to the Byzantine Pentecostarion.

Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then who-ever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had. Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. And that day was the Sabbath (Jn 5: 1-9).” – So the Jews said it was unlawful for the man to carry the bed. Let’s note several things about this reading. First of all, it involves the topic of water, which is closely related to thirst or desire, and these topics, of water and thirst, will repeatedly be thematized in the weeks leading up to Pentecost: on the feast of mid-Pentecost, and on the Sundays of the Samaritan Woman, the Blind Man, and the Fathers of the 1st Ecumenical Council. Because you see, in order to prepare for Pentecost, the reception of the Holy Spirit, we need to revive our sense of thirst for the Spirit; our desire for salvation. Because we easily fall into apathy or defeatism, or self-sufficiency, about our relationship with God, thus shutting the door on the grace of the Holy Spirit. We need to want His grace, to feel the need for Him, to feel our powerlessness with-out Him, for His grace to enter our lives. This is why Christ asks the man at Bethesda, Do you want to be made well? And the man‘s answer shows us that he has tried, year after year, but has also recognized his powerlessness. Because his own efforts could not bring about his healing. What he did not yet realize is, Who could restore his health – but he‘s soon to find out, now that Christ has walked into his life. Now, we don‘t know anything about this man‘s previous life and what he was like before he was paralyzed. But it evidently took 38 years of a very serious illness, for reasons known only to God, for this man fully to recognize his powerlessness and to be ready to be healed by God‘s word, telling him to take up his bed, and walk!

Just between you and me, zillions, I always found it particularly striking that Christ has the man take up his bed, and he carries it off for all to see. One might think that, having been stuck in this bed for 38 very difficult years, he would be eager to leave this reminder of his past behind. But no, Jesus tells him, take it up. Take it with you. Similarly, I think, we are also called NOT to esc-ape our past, nor shut the door on it, if we have a painful past, due to our own actions or those of others. As we experience healing, either suddenly and dramatically, as did the paralytic, or gradually, in small steps, we can actually benefit ourselves and others in different ways through our past. Because the ways in which God has healed us, or the dangerous situations in which he has steered us toward safety, or given us wisdom or courage – all this, while being part of our own cross, also bears witness to the grace of God in our lives.

And those experiences make it possible for us to have compassion for others in similar situations, and also remind ourselves to have gratitude. So, let‘s not wallow in the bed of our past, but take it up and walk, to the greater glory of God.

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