|35 - FOURTH SUNDAY OF PASCHA. INTO GALILEE. May 23, 2021|
There are many details in the Gospels whose meaning is closed to me. For example, this morning there are five porches at the pool. We’ll learn next Sunday that Photini, the Samaritan woman, had five husbands. There must be something to the number five, but I don’t know what it is. But then, quoting St John Chrysostom: “It is not possible to exhaust the mind of the Scriptures. It is a well that has no bottom. How many do you suppose have spoken on the Gospels? And yet all have spoken in a way that was new and fresh. The more we dwell on them, the more insight we acquire, the more we behold the pure light…”
I think this morning’s Gospel may be tied to what the angel said to the myrrhbearers in last Sunday’s Gospel: “Go tell His disciples that He goes before them into Galilee.” In the Paschal setting of this morning’s Gospel, this is the risen Jesus coming to the paralytic this morning at the Sheep Gate Pool—and there’s probably meaning in the name of the pool, too! He comes to him in Jerusalem on the Sabbath, and so He is coming from His Tomb where He destroys death by His death to the paralytic in his tomb, the tomb of his heart. I wonder if the word of the angel to the myrrhbearers—'He goes before you into Galilee’—explains the theology of the Gospels over the remaining Sundays of Pascha. And, in these remaining Sundays of Pascha, we’re seeing what “He goes before you into Galilee” means.
For, in His Resurrection, He goes into Galilee from His Tomb, from His Sabbath Rest. And wherever He goes, He is destroying death by His death. Either He is healing someone, as He is this morning, as He will the blind man two Sundays from now (both paralysis and blindness are images in the prophets of idolatry), or He is healing someone’s soul, as He will next Sunday with Photini (whose many husbands also are a prophetic image of idolatry).
In the Paschal setting of this morning’s Gospel, we see Jesus coming forth from the Tomb of His Sabbath Rest in His Resurrection, healing the paralytic at the Sheep Pool. This Paschal movement of the risen Jesus takes us, in fact, to Ezekiel’s vision of the ‘snow-melt’ river issuing from the East Gate of the Temple. The snow-melt issues from the temple as a tiny stream. It increases in volume, depth and strength as it goes from the East Gate of the Temple into Galilee, and from there into the Arabah, Arabia, the desert, all the way to the outlet of the sea (Eze 47.2-9). And wherever it goes, Ezekiel saw it healing and making to live every creature it touched.
This Temple that Ezekiel sees in his vision is the Temple of the Last Day, in fact. It is not the Temple of Jerusalem. It is therefore the mystery of the Virgin, the Living Temple, from whom God the WORD issues forth in the body He received from her as a little Child, as a small snow-melt river that increases in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man (Lk 2.52), and then goes forth into Galilee, healing everyone that comes to Him all the way to the outlet of the sea (the Dead Sea?), that is, all the way to the Tomb of His Sabbath Rest.
And the body of flesh and blood He receives from the Virgin is the Heavenly Temple which, as He tells the Jews, He will raise up in three days when they destroy it [Jn 2.19-21]. This Heavenly Temple of His risen Body is surely what Moses saw on Sinai. It was the pattern or the Icon of which the tabernacle and worship of Israel that God revealed to Moses was a copy. (Ex 25. 9 & 40, Heb 8.5 & 10.1) That means that somehow, this Pool of the Sheep Gate with its healing powers, was also a copy of Jesus in the risen body of His Resurrection. That is, the waters of the Sheep’s Pool were a copy of the Living Waters of the Holy Spirit in whom Jesus was born of the Virgin and came forth from the Tomb in His Resurrection.
With this, I follow my theological instinct and take a leap to assert that the Sheep’s Pool represents the waters of creation. He goes before you into Galilee would then come into view as the risen Jesus going forth in His Holy Spirit into the whole of creation as He went forth into Galilee, healing and making to live everything He touches by His Holy Spirit. He goes forth into all of creation, Galilee, into the Arabah, the desert of our death, all the way to the outlet of the [Dead?] Sea, an image of our estrangement from God?
He comes forth on the Sabbath Day. We are in the Sabbath Day, the Last Day of creation. The Sabbath Day of creation began on Great and Holy Friday when they crucified the LORD of Glory. The Sabbath Day, this Last Day of creation, is the mystery of death, for as we can see for ourselves, everything in this creation is rooted in death and corruption. Everything is like this paralytic—an image of a living corpse—unable to get up and walk beyond the tomb to the garden on the other side, imprisoned in death as in a prison house from which there is no escape.
But we see in our Gospel this morning that the resurrected Jesus is ‘in our midst’ in that Heavenly Temple of His resurrected Body that Moses saw on Sinai, of which the whole worship of Israel and indeed, the whole of creation, is the copy! We see Him coming into Jerusalem, the heart of creation where we are dead in our sins and trespasses, paralyzed, unable to rise above our death and corruption to worship God in Spirit and in Truth. He comes to the paralytic we may now take to mean that He comes to us in our heart wherever we are in Galilee or in space-time!
The question He poses to the paralytic this morning, then, He is posing to all of us: “Do you want to be made well?” Do you want to be healed of your paralysis, your death and corruption? Do you want to have life and have it more abundantly?
What, then, should we make of the LORD’s command to the paralytic? “Rise! Take up your bed and walk!” I hear the LORD telling the paralytic how he may enter into His Resurrection precisely because it is now the Sabbath Day and the tomb of this creation, by the Savior’s death and burial and resurrection, has now been transfigured into the place no longer of the dead but of the living! We are now in the mystical Sabbath Day of which Moses spoke in Gen 2 of which the weekly Sabbath Day was but a copy. We are now in the true Sabbath, the Last Day of creation in which, as we see in Gen 2, God rises from His rest to re-fashion Adam from the dust of the ground; that is, from the blood and water of His own Body, the Heavenly Temple, that He fashioned in the womb of His Holy Mother, the Sanctuary of the Living Temple of the OT!
The command to the paralytic, then, is to rise in the LORD’s resurrection, and begin making our way into the Heavenly Temple of Jesus’ crucified and risen Body, in which the stone that cut us off from the Garden on the other side, has been rolled away, so that if we would, we can begin making our ascent into the Heavenly Church on high!
So, could, “Take up your bed and walk” be taken to mean, as the LORD took up His Cross voluntarily, so you voluntarily take up the paralysis you were resting in before involuntarily? That paralysis would be whatever form of idolatry or disobedience you have been ‘resting’ in and that had power over you. If the LORD is now commanding us to rise, take up our bed and walk, it means that we have the power, now, if we would act on it, to do just that. The LORD by His command, sows the seed of the power of His Holy Spirit in us, by whom He was raised from the dead. That power of the Spirit is the talent which, if we work it, grows in us. That is, our will becomes stronger as we strive to walk in obedience to the LORD’s command.
So, what is the ‘idolatry’ you find yourself resting in? Lust, Anger, Greed, Envy, Vanity? Take it up. You carry it; don’t let it carry you anymore. Of course, you will still experience its power, but by the LORD’s command, it no longer has the power to overcome you. You have the power to overcome it as you exercise your will in obedience to the LORD’s command and begin to walk, by your own will, in the commandments of the LORD; as you begin to ‘rest’, let’s say, in obedience to the LORD’s command and no longer in the passion or the idolatry that before held you in its grip. And as you exercise your will, the passion will lose its grip on you, and as it does, your inner man will be transformed and you will begin to be transformed into the New Creation of the LORD’s Holy Pascha that has been sown in you and in all the world by His coming forth from the Sabbath Rest of the Tomb all the way into Galilee and into the desert and to the outlet of the sea, healing and making to live every living creature that comes to Him and is touched by Him. And if we should sin and fall, as we invariably will, for if we say we have no sin, we make God a liar and the truth is not in us—if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins not with the blood of bulls and goats that cannot cleanse us from death but by His own blood by which He has destroyed death by His death. Amen!