By John Sanidopoulos
"For I do not wish you to be ignorant, brethren, of this mystery - that you may not be wise in your own conceits - that hardness in part to Israel has happened till the fullness of the nations may come in, and so all Israel will be saved" (Rom. 11:25).
Beyond the historical interpretation of the healing of the Paralytic at the Pool of Bethesda by Jesus, St. Cyril of Alexandria, in his Commentary on the Gospel of John (Bk. 2, Ch. 5), offers a most interesting spiritual interpretation of this healing to lay out in the open a hidden and deeper truth of these verses in John 5:1-15.
To understand the prophetic significance of the healing of the Paralytic as described in John 5:1-15, one must understand the context of these verses in light of the previous verses. The healing of the Paralytic took place on Pentecost in the city of Jerusalem. We are previously told that Jesus was in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover fifty days prior, at which time He was met by a few faithful Jews, yet for the most part the Jews were stubborn and He was not received by them. In grief, Jesus departed Jerusalem and went to Samaria and Galilee, where He was well received by the Samaritans and Gentiles of Galilee. Having fulfilled His mission to the Samaritans and Galileans, Jesus returned to Jerusalem for their next big feast - Pentecost. He goes to the healing waters of Bethesda, where there is a paralytic who was for a "long time" sick, thirty-eight years in fact, and Jesus heals Him.
St. Cyril carefully explains that when Jesus left Jerusalem in grief after Passover, and went to Samaria and Galilee to preach to them the word of salvation, this signifies His withdrawal from the Jews after His Crucifixion and Resurrection, at which time He fully gave Himself to the Gentiles and non-Jews. But His return again to Jerusalem after the fulfillment of the weeks of Pentecost, "signifies as it were in types darkly, that there will be of His loving-kindness a return of our Savior to the Jews in the last ages of the present world, wherein they who have been saved through faith in Him, shall celebrate the all-holy feasts of the saving Passion."
This is further illustrated in the number of years the Paralytic has been ill. That he was paralyzed for thirty-eight years, according to Cyril, indicates "that he had not yet attained to the perfect number of the Law, I speak of four times ten, or forty." Cyril goes on to explain: "That the Paralytic is healed before the full time of the Law, signifies again by a corresponding type, that Israel having blasphemously raged against Christ, will be infirm and paralytic and spend a long time in doing nothing; yet will not depart to complete punishment, but will have some visitation from the Savior, and will himself too be healed at the pool by obedience and faith. But that the number forty is perfect according to the Divine Law, will be by no means hard to learn by them who have once read the Divine Scriptures. 'Jesus said unto him, do you want to be whole?'"
Therefore, the healing of the Paralytic, according to St. Cyril of Alexandria, prophetically signifies the end times, when the fulfillment of the time of the Gentiles has come to pass, according to the Apostle Paul, and the Jews will receive Jesus "by obedience and faith" before His glorious Second Coming, and thus will be made "whole".