Christ is Risen!
On this fourth Sunday after Pascha the gospel, for the first time during this post Pascha period, is not about the Resurrection. It’s about the healing of a paralytic.
And chronologically speaking Jesus is in Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover (the Gospel says one of the Jewish festivals – it may have been Pentecost). This is his second time in Jerusalem during His ministry. The first was just after the Miracle at Cana. This second visit provokes the beginning of a conflict with the Jewish authorities. And his final visit one year later is the scene of the crucifixion. So we are now midway through Jesus’ ministry, the second of three years – three Passovers. At Passover or Pentecost, Jerusalem would have been crowded, and this Gospel does indeed mention the crowds.
This paralytic had been laying in the porticoes of the pool of Bethesda for years waiting for what must have seemed to him an impossible task. The important point in the Gospel reading is when we read: “Jesus saw him lying there.” This seems to be a very important word in John’s Gospel:
“Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, ‘Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!’ Nathanael said to Him, ‘How do You know me?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you’” (1:47-48).
“Now as [Jesus} passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth” (9:1).
“Therefore, when Jesus saw [Mary] weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled” (11:33).
“When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold your son!’” (11:33).
This “seeing” by Jesus seems to be an indication of the beginning of grace. It is the first step toward salvation and blessing, and God is the one who makes that first step. The important thing, therefore, is to be seen by the Lord.
But this “seeing” is assuming that there is something for God to see. The Lord knew that this paralytic “had been in that condition a long time” and it’s precisely for that reason that He asks Him the question: “Do you want to be made well?”
Christ brings salvation to the entire world and to every single person. But we have to do something, we have to work actively towards our salvation. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Jesus walks by the Pool of Bethesda where “lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water”; and the Lord only helps one person. Certainly, with a single wave of His hand He could have healed them all at once. Yet, the key is in what the Lord “saw”; or, in this case, what He didn’t see and He didn’t see this one paralytic doing anything about his condition. And so He poses the question: “Do you want to be made well?”
It is significant to note that this pool was near the Temple. Certainly there are sick everywhere but those who come to the pool of Bethesda are supposedly doing something about getting better. Similarly, we are all sinners – those who come to church and those who don’t. One would assume, however, that those who attend church services are doing something about growing in their faith.
And if they are not then this question that the Lord poses to the paralytic is also directed at them, that they too might “rise up, take their pallets and walk” and embark on that path which will lead to salvation.