In chapter three John gives us the illustration of Nicodemus. For the fulfilling of the tabernacle and the offerings, even such a good man as Nicodemus needed to be terminated and buried and then germinated by the Spirit and with the Spirit. This was the reason the Lord said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (3:5). Although Nicodemus was a good man, he nevertheless had the serpentine nature. That was the reason he needed to be terminated and buried. After termination is germination. To be germinated is to be regenerated of the Spirit in order to become part of the increase of Christ. The thought here is extremely high.
I am sad that some Christians have lowered the significance of John 3:14-16. Yes, they regard John 3:16 as a golden verse; however, they do not appreciate this verse in the highest way. They may not see that even the best ones among the human race need to be regenerated. Our old nature needs to be terminated, our old man needs to be buried, and our spirit needs to be regenerated. Then we shall be a new man as part of the increase of the all-inclusive Christ.
In chapter four we have another illustration, that of the Samaritan woman, an immoral woman who was seeking satisfaction in her life. In her seeking, she pretended to be concerned about the worship of God. What a pretense! What a mixture! In chapter three we do not see mixture—we see the serpentine nature. But in chapter four we have the matter of mixture. The source of the Samaritan woman’s satisfaction in her human life needed to be replaced, and the source of her worship of God needed to be changed.
John’s Gospel was written not according to historical sequence but according to spiritual significance. This means that John selected a number of things the Lord Jesus did and used them to compose his Gospel. John 20:30 and 31 say, “Many other signs therefore Jesus did before His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”
John selected the cases of Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman as two illustrations. The case of Nicodemus illustrates the fact that although we may be good, our nature nonetheless is serpentine, and we need to be terminated, buried, and germinated. But we also are like the immoral Samaritan woman. There is no satisfaction in our living, and with us there is no worship that can satisfy God. Therefore, we need Christ to be our satisfaction and also to be the One who can satisfy God in our worship of Him.
A FEAST OF THE JEWS
The Feast of Purim
Now we come to the case of the impotent man in John 5. This case is quite complicated and involves a number of points. The first point concerns a feast of the Jews. John 5:1 says, “After these things there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.” There has been argument among Bible teachers concerning which feast is referred to in this verse. Before we consider this matter, I would like to point out that the Gospel of John is a book of feasts. Much more is said regarding feasts in John’s Gospel than in the synoptic Gospels. According to Leviticus 23, the children of Israel had seven annual feasts: Passover, unleavened bread, firstfruits, Pentecost, trumpets, Atonement, and tabernacles. In the Gospel of John the feast of Passover is mentioned at least three times (2:13; 6:4; 12:1). Chapter seven mentions the feast of tabernacles. Then in John 10:22 we read of the feast of Dedication, a feast held in addition to the seven feasts mentioned in Leviticus 23.
Besides the seven annual feasts from Passover through tabernacles, the feasts ordained by God, the Jews added two other feasts: the feast of Purim and the feast of Dedication. The origin of the feast of Purim is recorded in the book of Esther (Esth. 9:17-28). We know from the book of Esther that Haman, an enemy of the Jews who was next in power to the king of Persia, plotted to exterminate all the Jews. In the first month of the year Haman cast lots in order to choose a date on which the Jews would be exterminated: “In the first month, that is, the month Nisan, in the twelfth year of king Ahasuerus, they cast Pur, that is, the lot, before Haman from day to day, and from month to month, to the twelfth month, that is, the month Adar” (Esth. 3:7). Eventually, by lot they selected the twelfth month, the last month of the year, called Adar. The Passover is on the fourteenth day of the first month, and the day chosen for the destruction of the Jews was the thirteenth day of the last month. However, Haman’s plot against the Jews did not succeed. Haman’s evil intention was exposed, and he and his sons were hanged. Then on the very day the Jews would have been put to death, instead they gained the victory over their enemies (Esth. 9:1-5). Then it was established that the Jews “should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same, yearly, as the days wherein the Jews rested from their enemies, and the month which was turned unto them from sorrow to joy, and from mourning into a good day: that they should make them days of feasting and joy, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor” (Esth. 9:21-22). Those days were called days of lots or Purim. The word “Purim” means lots, the word “Pur” being the singular form for the word for lot (Esth. 3:7; 9:26). “Wherefore they called these days Purim after the name of Pur” (Esth. 9:26).
For the Jews, the days of sorrow became days of joy. We may also say that the days of death became the days of life, because the Jews passed out of death into life. That was the origin of the feast of Purim. The Jews used the word Purim in an ironic way. Haman had plotted to kill them, but instead he was the one who was executed.
We have indicated that the other additional feast was the feast of Dedication. That feast commemorated the cleansing and recovering of the temple by Judas Maccabaeus, approximately one hundred sixty years before Christ.
After much study I have come to believe, along with others, that the feast in John 5:1 is the feast of Purim. Modern chronologists have concluded that, according to the chronology in the Bible, the feast of the Jews here must be the feast of Purim. According to the record of the four Gospels, we know that the ministry of the Lord Jesus lasted for more than three years. This can be determined by studying those verses in the Gospels that mention the feasts. The record of the feasts is more clear in the Gospel of John than in the synoptic Gospels.
(The Fulfillment of the Tabernacle and the Offerings in the Writings of John, Chapter 16, by Witness Lee)