|35 - FOURTH SUNDAY OF PASCHA. HEALING ON THE SABBATH, May 15, 2022|
Acts 9.32 – 42
John 5.1 – 15
The LORD heals the man by the pool, it says, on the Sabbath. The healing is the exact image of Gen 2.1-7. God rests on the Sabbath from all the works He had begun to do, it says in the Septuagint (Gn 2.1-3); and from within His Sabbath Rest—if we read the text as it is given—He fashions Adam from the dust of the ground and breathes into him the breath of life so that he becomes a ‘living soul.’ (Gn 2.7) But the healing is also the exact image of the LORD rising from His Sabbath Rest in the Tomb and, from within the mystery of His Sabbath Rest, He finds Adam in Hades, as the LORD finds this man by the pool, and He raises Adam from death to life as He raised this man from his bed of sickness.
All the healings the LORD Jesus performs on the Sabbath reveal the true meaning of God’s Sabbath Rest. In the flesh He received from the Most Blessed Virgin, He became a partaker of our flesh and blood (Heb 2.14) so that we could become partakers of His divine nature (2 Pt 1.4). And in His death and burial, He became completely one with us in our death so that by the power of the LORD’s Holy Spirit working within us (Phil 2.12-13), we could ‘take up our bed and walk’ in the newness of Life that now flows through our nature, like the Mighty snow-melt River of Ezekiel’s vision (Eze 47.1-12), and follow Jesus, the King of creation, into His heavenly Kingdom in the deep, beyond all things.
In the Light of this biblical doctrine of the Church, then, let’s take a closer look at the healing in this morning’s Gospel.
Let us understand that we were raised up into this newness of life when we were raised from the waters of the Church’s Baptismal Font. We were given this newness of life as our food and drink in the Church’s Holy Eucharist. This newness of life that we receive in the Church that is truly the Body of Christ is not a mere ‘attitudinal shift’—as I have seen it described in a Greek lexicon of the NT governed by Protestant theology. This newness of life that we are raised up into in the Church is the living flesh and blood of God in which the only-begotten God Himself, ‘He Who Is’ the Radiant Brilliance of the Father’s Glory (Heb 1.3), ‘He Who is’ in the bosom of the Father (Jn 1.18) as He is in the ‘Burning Bush’ of the Virgin Theotokos (Ex 3.14), this God was crucified, dead and buried and rose again on the Third Day from the Tomb of His Sabbath Rest. And it His flesh and blood that has destroyed death and given life to those in the tombs that we receive as our food and drink in the Holy Eucharist of the Church, of Christ’s Body that is the fullness of Him who fills all in all (Eph 1.23). This is why we call the Holy Eucharist of the Church the ‘medicine of immortality!’
If this healing took place on the Sabbath, then it took place in the mystery of God’s death, His Sabbath Rest in the Tomb. But that means that this healing took place in the mystery of our death. It took place in the ‘dust’ of the ground, in the ‘dust of death’ (Ps 22.15). It took place in the dust from which we were fashioned by God in the beginning, and to which He commanded us to return when we fell into death through the sin of Adam. And if the dust is that from which we came and to which we return, then can you see that this healing took place in that point where we begin and end? It took place in our ‘heart’, our ‘spirit’, in the root, the core of our being where we are ‘deep, beyond all things’ (Jer 17.9 LXX), where we open out beyond ourselves and into the eternal.
The Day of your Baptism, the Day you were united to Christ in the likeness of His death, was the Day you were ‘placed’ in the Tomb of God’s Sabbath Rest and the Day you were ‘placed’ in the Garden to the East (Gn 2.8) and in the likeness of the New Adam’s Resurrection from the Tomb. Can you see, then, that in the healing of this morning’s Gospel, you are looking into a mirror, an icon, of the healing that took place in you, in the deep of your heart, in that point where you begin and end, when you ‘put on Christ’ in Holy Baptism and you were ‘placed’ in the mystery of His Sabbath Rest in the Tomb—His Sabbath Rest in your heart?
It says that there were beside this Sheep’s Pool a multitude of sick people: blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the water to move. All of these sicknesses are the symptoms of idolatry, which is the heart giving her erotic desire to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life. We fall into the sicknesses of idolatry when we choose to deny God and not ourselves, when we seek to save our life for our own sake, and not to lose it for the LORD’s sake.
At the heart of the LORD healing us of our spiritual blindness and paralysis, and our inner brokenness, is the LORD healing of our will that has been crippled by our choosing to deny God and not ourselves, to save our life rather than to lose it for the LORD’s sake that we may find it, not in this world rooted in the dust, but in the Tomb of the LORD and in the ‘dust’ of His Body that has destroyed death by His death and given life to those in the tombs. For the LORD, by His will, became one with us, and by His death, He destroyed our death so that sin and death need not reign in us anymore. So what remains for the healing of our soul and body from death is our decision, willfully and freely, to do as the LORD commands us: to ‘take up our bed and walk.’
Do you recognize this command? It is an abbreviation of the LORD’s command to all who would be His disciples: ‘Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me. Lose your life for my sake and you will find it.’ (Mk 8.37ff.) But in fact, it is the same command the LORD gave to Adam and Eve: ‘Do not eat from the tree of learning good and evil, for on the day you eat of it, you will surely die.’ We therefore can see that the commandment of the LORD means to lead us back into Paradise by learning obedience to Christ in our union with Christ, and learning to love Him with all our heart by practicing obedience to His commandment to deny ourselves and to lose our life for His sake, to take up our bed and walk in the newness of life we were raised up into in our Baptism, and that we ate as our food and drink in Holy Eucharist.
Don’t make this into some esoteric teaching. We experience the reality of the LORD’s command every day of our life, in the ‘sweetness’ of disobedience, the sweetness of denying God that presents itself to us in the ‘sweetness’ of the passions. I practice the commandment of God in ‘real’ terms when a passion presents itself to me, —say the passion of lust—and I choose ‘to deny myself’ rather than the commandment of God; I choose to ‘lose my life’ rather than the life of Christ that is living in me, and I choose to refuse to eat the sweetness of the lust for the sake of Christ. Now, in this everyday moment, when I choose to present myself to the LORD in prayer—say the prayer of the heart—and not to the dark spirit of the passion, I am ‘taking up my bed and walking’ in the newness of life that suffused my body and soul when I was immersed in the living waters of the Font, and when I received the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Eucharist as my food and drink. Now I am choosing to unite my will to the LORD Jesus Christ who is working in me with His Father, even up to now, to destroy my death by His death, so that the day I die and return to the dust will be the Day that I enter into the LORD’s Sabbath Rest to come out with Him into the Garden as a new creation in the Life of Christ’s Heavenly Kingdom where there is neither sickness nor sighing nor sorrow but life everlasting. Amen!