A man lay impotent for 38 years at the pool called Bethesda which had five porches or porticos. It was located near the Sheep Gate on the north side of the Temple. The five porticos were places by the pool where folks could gather protected from the weather to rest, talk with friends, or simply contemplate what was on one’s mind. In a way these porticos could represent our five senses whereby we take in the world around us. We have no other means to physically know our world but through the senses of sight, hearing, touch, scent or taste that witness to us about the facts of our world.
The impotent man spiritually represents our insensitiveness to spiritual matters. Without a healing touch from Christ, we are dead to the spirit. Jesus once told the Apostles that the people in the world—all of us—are “waxed gross” (Matthew 13:15). That is, we have grown fat, thick or callous according to the meaning of the Greek word (G3975). Jesus was speaking of our spiritual sight and hearing (Matthew 13:15). Only those who have been spiritually raised from the dead (cp. Ephesians 2:1-5) are able to see what Jesus was saying and understand with our hearts (Matthew 13:16).
The man at the pool was desensitized physically for 38 years because of sin (John 5:14; cp. Ephesians 2:1). This is the spiritual condition into which we all have been born due to the sin of Adam (Romans 5:17-19). The spiritual side of our five senses is dead to the things of God, until Jesus heals us.
The scent of Jesus could fill the air (John 12:3), but we could never truly appreciate him if all we were able to value was physical principles (John 12:5). Too often Jesus is used for our own political or commercial agendas rather than appreciating him for who he truly is.
Indeed we are able even today to taste of the good word of God and know its power (but fully realized in the world to come—cp. Hebrews 6:5). This tasting would, through God’s power, bring forth fruits of blessing and goodness in our lives. The blessings brought forth in our lives would be witnessed by others for the praise of God, but without the healing of Christ, we can bring forth only that which bears thorns and briars (Hebrews 6:7-8).
Finally, we come to the sense of touch. We cannot touch the Lord (Luke 9:43-48) or be touched by him (Luke 9:49-56) without being healed. However the “laying on of hands” can be used for the praise of God (Acts 8:18; 1Timothy 4:14), or for the glory of men (Matthew 21:46; Luke 21:12). If we are sensitive to the things of God, blessing will follow; if not, all that we can know are the values we are acquainted with in this world. Everything depends upon who touches whom and for what purpose.
The Jewish authorities persecuted Jesus (John 5:16), because they were insensitive to the things of God. It didn’t have to be this way, because they had received five witnesses to Jesus’ true identity, but they rejected each one.
First they had the witness of John (John 5:33), and for awhile they were willing to receive his testimony (John 5:35), but when he pointed to Jesus (John 1:29-30), he was rejected. Secondly, the works that Jesus did—miracles that no other man could do—these witnessed that Jesus was sent by God (John 5:36), but they refused to believe. Third, they had the witness of the Father, himself (John 5:36), at Jesus’ baptism (Matthew 3:16-17), but they refused to believe this as well. Fourth, they had the witness of the Scriptures they studied so carefully, believing by them they could have eternal life (John 5:39), but though they pointed to Jesus, the Jewish authorities refused to believe that they might gain life (John 5:40). Finally, Moses, in whom they claimed to trust, pointed to Jesus (Deuteronomy 18:15-19), and if they believe him they would have believed Jesus (John 5:45-47), but they refused to believe Moses’ words.
Nevertheless, it all comes down to whether or not a man is sensitive to the things of God, because, if we are not, we shall not believe the one who comes in God’s name. On the contrary, if a man would come in his own name—for his own glory (and there are many today who do)—this one people will follow, because we do not appreciate the heart of God (John 5:43). God help us!