Author: Fr George Dimopoulos
Source: Orthodox Sermons for all the Sundays of the Year – Volume I
Publisher: Christian Orthodox Editions
“Lord, I don’t have anybody to put me in into the pool when the water is stirred. And while I’m trying to get there, somebody else steps in ahead of me” (John 5:1-15).
This Sunday, dearly beloved, is known in the Church as the Sunday of the Paralytic, for today’s Gospel Lesson refers to the miraculous healing of Bethesda by the Lord Jesus Christ.
St John the Evangelist tells us that on this particular day (perhaps it was the feast of Pentecost) Jesus was visiting the city of Jerusalem. One of the sites He visited there was the pool of Bethesda, which had five great porticoes, or porches. The pool was located outside of the walls of Jerusalem. Its Hebrew name means “House of Mercy”. It was so named because, as our Gospel Lesson informs us, there were always a large number of unfortunate people there such as cripples and blind folk. At certain times an angel would come down to the pool, making small waves in the water. When this occurred, the first person into the water was healed of whatever malady he was afflicted with. Naturally, such a miracle defies the explanations of science, just as do modern miracles, such as those which occur on the island of Tinos, a part of Greece. Although we cannot explain these miracles, we nevertheless believe in them.
Now, had there been at Bethesda a guest register of sorts, we would find recorded therein that the man in our Gospel Lesson this morning had lain there longer than 38 years. The best years of his youth had been spent there, waiting for the rippling of the water in the pool. Yet he had no one – no parent, no relative, no friend, who would help him. Everyone at Bethesda was concerned with his own problems; everyone was selfish. So, the story was always the same, year after year. The water would be troubled, and before the lame man could get there some newcomer was already in the pool. Imagine, 38 long years without laughter, without friendship, without joy, and, certainly towards the end, without hope.
One day, the lame man heard someone speaking to him. That in itself was strange. No one ever spoke to him. It must have taken the man a while to realise that Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth, was talking to him. Even then, it’s very likely that he didn’t even know who Jesus was. Jesus asked the man, “Would you like to get well?” What a question, after 38 years. Yet, the man patiently explained to the Son of God why it was that he could not get rid of his paralysis. He had no one – no one in the world who cared about him. It’s not very pleasant to be alone in the world, is it? The world can be a pretty frightening place when you’re on your own – no one to care, no one to help. Imagine the man’s reaction when Jesus said to him, “Get up”. Get up! Was He trying to be cruel? Did He enjoy tormenting cripples? But wait! Those eyes! That compassionate voice! He cares! He cares about me! The man leaped to his feet, healed instantly by the incarnate Son of God.
The world has not changed a whole lot in 2000 years, brethren. That is, people haven’t changed a whole lot. In many ways, the world is a much lonelier place in which to live than it was in the time of Christ. Consider New York City. Millions of people crowded into a tiny area. And yet the people – many of them – are terribly lonely. And it’s not only New York. There are many people in the world this morning whose desperate, muffled cry, “I have no one – no one!”
We have a lot of things today they didn’t have in Jesus’ day: huge hospitals, trained specialists, insurance policies, and church- and state-related welfare programmes. But for human loneliness there is no cure, or so it would seem. We don’t like to trouble ourselves with the problems of others. There is a Greek proverb which says, “Remove the evil – out of my sight”. We like to forget unpleasantness. Suffering people annoy us – we who are supposed to be Orthodox Christians. And perhaps we who are clergymen are more guilty than anyone else.
The urgent, pressing duty of the Church, dearly beloved, is to go out after these lonely, suffering people, to bring to them the love of Christ, and to bring to them our love as well – not our pity, but our genuine love and concern. There is a way, some way, in which each one of us can help.
The good news of this hour is that everyone has Someone. The Lord Jesus Christ died for your sins. He died for many sins. He died for the sins of all men. And He loves us with a love that we cannot begin to understand. This must be our faith, our conviction, our message of reconciliation, which we must bring to all the world, beginning next door. God help us to do so. Amen.