THE STIRRING UP OF THE WATER
The stirring up of the water is also a sign. This is a sign of traditional religious practices to make people perfect. The stirring up of the water to make people well signifies the traditional practices of religion that attempt to make people perfect. We should not put our trust in any traditional practices. It is possible to have such practices even in the church life. In your church life you may depend on a particular practice to “stir up the water,” with the thought that this practice will make you perfect. Actually, no practice can help us to be perfect. The only One who can perfect us is Christ, the living Son of God, who enlivens us.
John 5:10 says, “The Jews then said to the one who was healed, It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to pick up your bed.” The Sabbath is a sign of the religious way of rest. The Sabbath, a day of rest, is surely something good. But for the man who had been impotent for thirty-eight years, there was no rest, not even on the Sabbath. Who could give him rest and be his real Sabbath? The only One who could give him this rest is the living Son of God.
It is significant that the Lord Jesus healed the impotent man on the Sabbath day. But the Jews told the one who had been enlivened by the living Son of God that it was not lawful for him to pick up his bed on the Sabbath. To them, it was wrong for him to do the work of carrying his bed on the Sabbath day. No doubt, the man who had been healed was happy to carry his bed. He had been carried by that bed for thirty-eight years, and now that he had been healed, he was able to carry it instead. What kind of law forbade him to carry his bed on the Sabbath? Such a law was not an enlivening law, but a killing law. The one who had been healed said to the Jews, “He who made me well, He said to me, Pick up your bed and walk” (v. 11). When they asked him who had told him to do this, he answered that he did not know who it was (vv. 12-13).
This incident shows how religion contradicts the activities of the living Son of God. Whatever the Lord Jesus Christ does is condemned by religion. The religion that condemned Him in John 5 was not a heathen religion, nor a religion of mixture such as that practiced by the Samaritans. Rather, it was the pure, typical religion practiced in Jerusalem. But even this genuine religion contradicted the living activity of the Son of God.
We should not think that, because the church life is real and genuine and not a mixture, it in itself can do something for us. Not even the church life in the Lord’s recovery in itself can do anything for us in life. Jesus Christ Himself is the only One who can do everything for us and be everything to us in life.
JOHN THE BAPTIST
After the sign of the Sabbath we have the sign of John the Baptist (vv. 33-35). We may say that John the Baptist became for the Jews a sign who was both traditional and new. The Lord said concerning John the Baptist, “He was the burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light” (v. 35). This indicates that he was their temporary religious trust. For a while, the Jews went to John the Baptist, but they would not come to the living Son of God. John the Baptist came to introduce this living One to them. Nevertheless, they stayed with John the Baptist, but they did not receive the One concerning whom he testified. This means that they took John as a replacement for Christ and accepted John, but they would not receive Christ, the real One.
In principle, a similar thing happens today when Christ is replaced. Many things that have been used by God have become replacements of Christ. This is true of persons as well as things. To some people, Christian leaders like Martin Luther and John Wesley have become a replacement for Christ. As John the Baptist was taken in place of Christ by the Jews, so today certain Christian leaders are taken by Christians as replacements of Christ Himself.
(The Fulfillment of the Tabernacle and the Offerings in the Writings of John, Chapter 17, by Witness Lee)