I do not know whether this was in John's mind, but I do see that he had a great deal in his mind which we do not always notice. What I mean is this: Why was it that when John spoke about the Pool of Bethesda he said that there were five porches there? Was it the artist giving a little touch to the picture? Well, John was an artist in words, but the Holy Spirit was writing this thing through John, and five is the number of grace. Wherever you look in the Bible five is the number of grace. You and I carry that very number on both hands and both feet, if we are normal people; and more than that, we have five physical senses. Why, we are made up of fives! God meant us to be people of grace. This poor man was in bondage to the law, but "the law was given by Moses; grace and truth came by Jesus Christ" (John 1:17). And right there, in the presence of the bondage of the law, was this testimony to the grace of God in Jesus Christ.
What is this sign, then? It is a wonderful sign! This man is a true picture and representation of what it means to be under the law. Jesus stood and cried: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden" (Matthew 11:28). What did He mean? The burden of the law was upon the people, indeed, it was a heavy burden for them. The Pharisees gave more than two thousand interpretations to the law of Moses, and said: 'The law of Moses does not mean that you have only to keep ten commandments; it means that you have to keep two thousand.' There was not a point in all their human life where this law was not applied and made their lives difficult. And all this was gathered up into the Sabbath: 'You must not make your bed on the Sabbath! You must not carry your bed on the Sabbath! You must not poke your fire on the Sabbath! You must do nothing on the Sabbath - you may not even walk more than three miles.' Two thousand regulations for their lives! The one thing that they were meeting every day, and especially on the Sabbath, was 'You may not'.
"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." (Matthew 11:28). What has happened? Jesus has appropriated the Sabbath to Himself. It is no longer a day of the week - it is a divine person. (If the Seventh Day Adventists saw that, the whole of their system would go in five minutes!) No, Jesus is God's Sabbath. He is the end of God's works, and in Him God has entered into His rest. This is the 'rest which remaineth for the children of God' - not a day of the week or on the calendar, but a divine person, the Son of God. In Him we come to rest, and that which was our bondage is now our servant. In Him that against which we were always struggling is now our victory. Oh yes, Jesus is the Sabbath, and if we live in Him we shall not spoil the Sabbath. Every day should be a day of rest to our souls. Oh, this is a mighty thing that the Lord Jesus has done!
Now note: the Lord Jesus looked upon that which He did for this man as a very great and serious thing. When He found him in the temple He said to him: "Thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing befall thee" (John 5:14). Now back to the Letter to the Galatians: "Ye were running well," said the Apostle, "who did hinder you?" (Galatians 5:7). 'You are returning, or are in danger of returning, to the old bondage. You are listening to those Judaizers who want to bring you back under the bondage of the law, and if you go back there the last state will be worse than the first. It is a worse thing to fall away from grace than never to have been in grace.' That is what the Word says - 'a worse thing'. Oh, dear friends, we have been liberated from this whole law through faith in Jesus Christ. Let us walk, and continue to walk in our liberty. "Ye were running well" - that is better than walking. Let us not stop running the race!