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Lesson 6: Putting the Past Behind You *

Introduction: People often ask me to pray for them to be healed or helped. Some who I pray for are healed. Others are not. On what basis does God choose who to heal? John 5 gives us some insights into this issue and into the power of God. Let's jump into our study and see what we can learn!

  1. Unexpected Joy

    1. Read John 5:1. Jesus is back in Jerusalem. Why did He return to Jerusalem? (It was for a religious festival. We don't know which one.)

    2. Read John 5:2. What is a "covered colonnade?" (These are covered porches or platforms. My bet is that this was a pretty place. A pool surrounded by covered porches creates a nice picture in my mind.)

    3. Read John 5:3. As a practical matter was it a pretty place? Would you want to just hang around the pool? (No. If you were out for a stroll to take in beauty, you would want to avoid this place because it was filled with suffering people. Imagine walking through a hospital for fun.)

    4. You may notice that the NIV, along with some other translations, omits the last part of verse 3 and all of verse 4 that is found in the King James and other translations. That omission is because the earliest, most reliable manuscripts do not contain this language. How would you explain John 5:7 without the explanation in verse 4? (That is probably why some scribe added this language - to explain the tradition at Bethesda.)

      1. From time to time I get "beat up" about the fact the NIV "left out part of the Bible!" Consider the theology of what has been "left out." Is it consistent with God's character to heal only the most nimble of the disabled?

    5. Read John 5:5-7. Put yourself in this man's place.

      1. What hope does he have for the future? (If he can get into the water before anyone else when it is (v.7) "stirred," he believes he can be healed. However, his odds of getting in first are nil.)

      2. What kind of a support system does he have? (None.)

      3. What kind of mental attitude does he have?

        1. When you are sick, how do you like hanging around with other sick people?

    1. Let's focus on Jesus' question in verse 6. On the surface, the question seems pretty dumb to me. On the assumption that Jesus does not ask dumb questions, and dumb questions do not get recorded in the Bible, how do you explain this question? (Jesus wanted to focus this fellow's attention on being healed.)

      1. Is verse 7 an answer to Jesus' question? (No. Jesus asked the man what he wanted. The man replied with what was possible.)

    2. Read John 5:8-9a. This ties up some loose ends in our discussion so far. Let's go through those points.

      1. We see God in action here. Has Jesus picked the most nimble to heal? (No. The suggestion in verse 4 (the omitted language) is directly contradicted by Jesus' actions in verses 8-9. Jesus has picked the most hopeless person to heal. The fact that some scribe meant well by adding a note to the manuscript is no reason for us to accept "junk theology." Something was going on at that pool, but it is doubtful God was doing it.)

      2. Jesus asked the man what he wanted and he responded with what was possible. What was possible? (The possible was beyond his imagination.)

        1. Are you like that man? Does Jesus offer great things to you and you respond with your limited view of what is possible?

      3. Isn't faith necessary for healing? (In Matthew 9:22 we hear Jesus saying to the woman He has healed, "your faith has healed you.")

        1. What faith do we see in this fellow?

  1. The Sabbath Violation?

    1. Read John 5:9b-10, 16-18. The man had been sick for 38 years. Healing him was not exactly a national emergency. Why did Jesus heal him on the Sabbath? Why did Jesus tell him to carry his mat on Sabbath? (Of course, none of this was necessary on the Sabbath. Jesus must have been making a point about the Sabbath.)

      1. What point is that? What is Jesus teaching us in John 5:17? (At a minimum, Jesus is teaching us that the Jewish leaders did not have a correct view of the Sabbath. Doing good on the Sabbath was completely consistent with the spirit of the day. Jesus says that His Father and He are always working on Sabbath. The fact that this is a "God-thing" does not explain why the healed guy was carrying his mat. The lesson for us goes beyond what is appropriate for God.)

        1. Compare Genesis 2:2-3 with John 5:17. Does God the Father not keep the Sabbath? Did He previously keep the Sabbath, but gave it up? (Actually, God does not keep the Sabbath - at least at some level. God still gives us life, holds the planets in orbit, powers the universe and pays attention to us seven days a week. If we are sick or injured, our bodies continue to heal through the power of God on the Sabbath. What Jesus did, according to George MacDonald, was to do instantly on Sabbath what His Father is always doing at a slower pace. I think the lesson in comparing Genesis 2 and John 5 is the point made in Mark 2:27: the Sabbath was made for man.)

    2. Why did Jesus heal only one person out of this entire group of disabled people? He could have had a field day doing good work on the Sabbath! Why miss out? (E.G. White's book, The Desire of Ages (p.201), suggests that healing everyone on Sabbath would have so incensed the Jewish leaders that Jesus' work would have been cut short.)

      1. If this is true, what does it teach us about God? What does it teach us about ourselves? (God is pragmatic. He considers the "big picture" and makes decisions based on it. Perhaps the most important lesson is to disabuse you of your view that everything is "about you." Some may say, "Healing people is the most important thing." But this is not true. God's plans and purposes are the most important thing. "Everything" is about God and His plans, and not about us.)

  2. Stop Sinning!

    1. Read John 5:11-14. What does this suggest was the source of the man's health problems? (His actions.)

      1. Jesus says to him "stop sinning." Since we all sin, what do you think Jesus meant?

        1. If you say that this man was involved in some specific sin which caused his disability, how do you explain Jesus' words in John 9:1-3 and Luke 13:1-5? (The most obvious answer is that our sins sometimes cause sickness and sometimes do not. William Barclay suggests in his commentary on John (p. 183) that the Jews believed that a person could not be cured without first being forgiven of sin. Jesus wanted this man to know that his healing did not "cure" his sin problem. Jesus warned him to be sure he understood that his sin problem had not been resolved and that he should take his sin problem seriously.)

  3. Fully God

    1. Re-read John 5:16-18. We read of uninformed people who say "I believe Jesus was a very good man." Or, "I believe in Jesus as a prophet." What did those who listened to Jesus understand Him to say about His status? (They understood Him to say He was equal with God.)

      1. If Jesus is not fully God and fully man, what is He? (This is one of those hard-edged truths. If you do not believe Jesus is God, then either you are not paying attention to what He said, or you must believe He was a liar or mentally ill. It is one or the other. Either He was right or He was a nut. Only the ignorant occupy the middle ground on this.)

    2. Read John 5:21-25. What is promised to those who hear the words of Jesus and believe that God the Father has given Jesus the power of eternal life? (They are promised eternal life.)

    3. Friend, this is what we do each week. By studying the Bible we "hear" the words of Jesus. The next step to eternal life is belief. Will you believe and thus cross over from death to life?

  4. Next Week: The Sacred and the Common.
* Copr. 2004, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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