He who yields to the pleasures of the body is neither diligent in virtue nor readily receptive of spiritual knowledge. For this reason he has no one–that is, no intelligent thought–to put him into the pool when the water is disturbed (John 5:7), that is, into a state of virtue capable of receiving spiritual knowledge and of healing every sickness.
On the contrary, although sick, he procrastinates because of laziness and is forestalled by someone else, who prevents him from being cured. And so he lies there with his illness for thirty-eight years.
He who does not contemplate the visible creation so as to discern God’s glory in it, and does not reverently raise his inner vision to the noetic world, quite fittingly remains ill for the number of years specified.
For the number thirty, understood with reference to nature, signifies the sensible world, while with reference to the ascetic life it signifies the practice of the virtues. The number eight, understood mystically, denotes the intelligible nature of incorporeal beings, while understood in terms of spiritual knowledge it denotes the supreme wisdom of theology.
Whoever does not advance towards God by these means remains paralyzed until the Logos (Christ Jesus) comes to teach him how he can obtain prompt healing, saying to him, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’ (John 5:8); that is to say, the Logos commands him to upraise his intellect from the love of pleasure which dominates him, to shoulder the body of the virtues and to go home, that is, to heaven.
Better that the higher should raise the lower up to virtue on the shoulders of ascetic practice than that, through soft living, the lower should drag the higher down into self-indulgence.
~St Maximos the Confessor