To all the moms out there, Happy Mother’s Day! Are you working as hard as I am today on our special day? The laundry and meals never stop. I am dog tired after a full morning of church and cooking dinner for the family. But I got some great hugs, some crayon drawings and roses, and an awesome button-framed photo of my 9 year old.
Today is also the 4th Sunday after Pascha, the Sunday of the Paralytic in the Orthodox Church. Did anyone catch this in the Epistle reading today (Acts 9:32-42)? Sometimes you just hear things completely new and I had to try hard not to bust out laughing.
Now it came to pass, as Peter went through all parts of the country, that he also came down to the saints who dwelt in Lydda. There he found a certain man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden eight years and was paralyzed. And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus the Christ heals you. Arise and make your bed.” Then he arose immediately.
And again in the Gospel lesson (John 5:1-15):
After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 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 whoever 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. The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.” He answered them, “He who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your bed and walk.” Then they asked him, “Who is the Man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” But the one who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.
Eight years and thirty-eight years – these two guys have been layed up, paralyzed, unable to walk. Amazing cure. Total healing. And what do they have to do immediately after St. Peter or Christ performs this miracle? Go hug their families? Go to the temple and give thanks? Go shout from the rooftops? No…they have to make up their beds! It seems like a small detail that two thousand years later we’re still reflecting on. What’s the point?
St. Peter’s housekeeping instruction isn’t very clear. Maybe it’s to prove to everyone that he’s really healed. The purpose in the Gospel account is more understandable. It’s a succinct instruction that points out the Jews’ overzealousness for rules rather than gratitude and acknowledgement to God the Father for the miracle done by Christ his Son. The paralytic performs a prohibited work on the Sabbath by carrying a load and tests their willingness to recognize Christ’s divinity and the principle of love overshadowing the strict interpretation of the Law.
Both the paralytics did just as they were instructed. I can very well picture Aeneas in Lydda joyfully folding the covers, plumping his pillow; the guy at the pool whistling a tune as he rolls up his mat, glad to be doing something so normal.
Personally, it’s Mother’s Day. For just one day of the year I’d like to tell my kids to do anything as simple as ‘make your bed’ and get back a smile and a cheery “Sure Mom, whatever you say.” Swift, unquestioning obedience without eye rolling or procrastination. I guess that’s why they call these things ‘miracles’.