Before being accused of being a law breaker (5:16) Jesus established He was a law keeper by keeping the feast (5:1).
People go “up” to Jerusalem because it was a city on a hill (Mt.5:14), but also because it was where God lived, and when you approach God you are going up, symbolically, and when you run from Him you are going down(Jon.1:3-5)
Since the context has the Lord going to Jerusalem for a feast, we know the “sheep market” (5:2) is part of the tem-ple, a place to buy sheep for sacrifices, the place the Lord cleansed when He evicted the moneychangers. “Bethesda” means house of mercy, a fit name for the temple. The “porches” are described as part of the temple (I Kings 7).
Notice John says the pool “is” at Jerusalem, meaning these areas of the temple had not yet been destroyed, so John wrote this before 70 AD, not 90 AD as everyone thinks. Why is that significant? When John’s writings contradict Paul’s, some might think that since John’s writings were written last we should follow them, much as the latest word from a commander in the military are the most significant, especially when they contradict earlier instructions.
We know John wrote his gospel after he wrote Revelation, for the angel told John he would have to prophesy again after writing Revelation before many peoples, nations, tongues and kings (Rev.10:11). Since Revelation is a book of “prophesy” (1:3), John is being told he would have to prophesy again by writing another book of the Bible, his gospel, a gospel that has a world outlook. The word “world” appears 80 times in John (only 33 times in the other gospels put together). God intended to reach the world through Israel, a world full of peoples, nations, tongues and kings. So Revelation was written before John
In I Corinthians 15:8, Paul says he was the last to see the Lord after His resurrection, meaning the vision John had of Him in Revelation 1 came after the revelations given to Paul. So if you are going to go by who saw the Lord last, you need to follow Paul. But as a Gentile, you should follow Paul because he is your apostle (Rom.11:13).
The “impotent” folk in John 5:3 were a type of the nation of Israel, “blind” and powerless to enter the kingdom. They were “withered” because they threatened God’s prophets, like when Jeroboam threatened a prophet and God withered his hand (IKi.13:4). These folks should have been “waiting” for the Messiah to come and heal them, but instead they were waiting for the angel to stir the water (v.4). New versions omit this verse, but it is part of the Received Text. This verse is similar to II Samuel 5:22-25.
You can see yourself in a “pool” (John 5:4), so it is a type of the Law (Jas.1:22-25), a law given by angels (Acts 7:53) Men getting healed singly by the law was a type of how under the Law men were saved one at a time, but in the kingdom “all Israel” shall be saved all at once (Rom.11: 26). That’s what they should have been looking to for healing, not the pool that symbolized the Law! Nothing changed over the previous 700 years (cf. Isaiah 22:9-11).
The Lord chose “a certain man” to be healed—not because of sovereign election, but because he was afflicted 38 years (Jo.5:5). 38 years was part of Israel’s wilderness wander-ings (De.2:14), and the full forty years was a period of testing, for forty is the number of testing. Moses was on Sinai forty days, and the spies went out 40 days. All failed. Nineveh was also tested 40 days and passed (Jonah 3:4), as did the Lord (Mark 1:13). The impotent man was healed at the beginning of the Lord’s ministry, and the lame man in Acts 3 was healed at the end of it. This lame man was “above forty years old” (Acts 4:22), or 41. The difference between 38 and 41 is symbolic of the Lord’s three years ministry, a period of testing for Israel. A test they failed.
You wouldn’t think the Lord would have to ask if the man wanted to be made whole (John 5:6), but beggars who didn’t want to work preferred the bigger alms crippled men received. The Lord didn’t just enable him to get in the water first, but healed him, a type of Israel someday being saved apart from the Law, rather than through it.