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Sabbath School Lessons on John
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About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 41 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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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!
- Unexpected Joy
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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
- 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.)
- 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?
- Read John 5:5-7. Put yourself in this man's place.
- 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.)
- What kind of a support system does he have? (None.)
- What kind of mental attitude does he have?
- When you are sick, how do you like hanging
around with other sick people?
- 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.)
- Is verse 7 an answer to Jesus' question? (No. Jesus
asked the man what he wanted. The man replied with
what was possible.)
- Read John 5:8-9a. This ties up some loose ends in our
discussion so far. Let's go through those points.
- 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
- Jesus asked the man what he wanted and he responded
with what was possible. What was possible? (The
possible was beyond his imagination.)
- Are you like that man? Does Jesus offer great
things to you and you respond with your limited
view of what is possible?
- 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.")
- What faith do we see in this fellow?
- The Sabbath Violation?
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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
- 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
- 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.)
- Stop Sinning!
- Read John 5:11-14. What does this suggest was the source
of the man's health problems? (His actions.)
- Jesus says to him "stop sinning." Since we all sin,
what do you think Jesus meant?
- 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.)
- Fully God
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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
- 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?
- 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.