God of Miracles – Week Five – Leaders’ Guide
VIDEO: Show tonight’s video here: Group Video Week 5
ICEBREAKER: During this series, what image or images has been the most captivating for you? The rogue wave from the sea of Galilee? The Mount of Beatitudes? Peter’s house? Share with your group.
[Q] Briefly discuss the message from Sunday.
[Q] Name one thing that stood out to you from Sunday’s message.
[Q] Is there one question from Sunday’s message that you would like to ask or discuss?
[Q] What distractions do you need to push past to get to Jesus?
[Q] Where do you need courageous faith in your life?
APPLY THE BIBLE:
[Leader’s Background and Tip] Before the study, take time to read the whole chapter to get the breadth and scope of this passage. In fact, if you have time this week, try to listen to the gospel of John in the car. Listening to large sections of Scripture will actually help you see themes and other connections to the passage you are about to study. Bible apps like Youversion have audio Bibles.
In today’s lesson, we will be looking at John 5:1-15, however, it is very helpful to read the chapters before – and after – to be sure you are getting the full context of the passage. While we are looking at the miracle in John 5: 1-15, there is a larger theme we should recognize regarding Jesus’ authority to heal. As we will see, this story ends with the Jewish leaders opposing Jesus over the Sabbath and questioning His authority. Today we’ll be traveling to the pool of Bethesda. Remember the details that Pastor Tim shared in his video to help shed some light on what’s going on in this story.
Background on John 5: 1-15
Jesus has just healed the official’s son in Capernaum (John 4). He’s left Capernaum and is now in Jerusalem. He is at the Sheep Gate which is near the Temple and He is at the pool called Bethesda (House of Mercy). Read through John 5: 1-15 to yourselves quietly. Then have one person in your group read the passage slowly and clearly in a gentle voice out loud.
Leader’s Tip – To change up the way to approach Scripture to keep it from getting stale, have your group read the passage by themselves, then as a group together. Have someone with the best reading voice (you know who that is, maybe reach out to them before the group so they can practice or you can find an audio file of this story to play for your group). Have your group imagine the scene. Imagine being at the pool of Bethesda. What would that scene look like? What would it sound like? What would it smell like considering it is a place with hundreds of invalids, who had been there for decades or more. Imagine being the man, stuck in the same positions for decades. Imagine seeing the water stir, and creeping towards it with all of the hundreds of others, pushing, shoving and crawling over others to get into the water, knowing that there will only be one winner. The more you can make your group feel like they are there, the more they can actually enter into the story and see it from different angles and perspectives.
[Q] How did it feel reading this passage? Did you see or feel anything differently than you normally have? Share with your group.
[Q] Describe the location John details in verses 1-3.
- Near the sheep gate (Nehemiah 3:1, 32; 12:39).
- 5 covered colonnades.
- Great number of disabled people that are there. The blind, lame and paralyzed.
- Called Bethesda.
[Q] John is the only one in the entire New Testament to share the detail that Jesus was by the sheep gate. Do you think there is significance to that?
The sheep that were used for the Temple sacrifices came in through the sheep gate. It is significant because Jesus is the Lamb of God who will give His life for the sins of the world. John is hinting, even this early into the gospel, what Jesus’ mission will be. It is to give His life for the healing of sin in the world.
You may have noticed that vs. 4 is missing from your Bible (or it’s in brackets). Why is that? When scholars put together our English translations they have thousands and thousands of Greek manuscripts that they go through to get the most accurate translation. Since we no longer have the originals, we have copies of copies of copies. The earlier the manuscripts the more accurate to the originals (it should encourage you know that we have more manuscript evidence for the New Testament than any other ancient documents. This means that our English translations are 99.9% accurate to the originals).
The earliest manuscripts of John 5 do not contain vs. 4, but some of the later manuscripts do. The reason the earlier ones do not is because most people reading in the first century would know the legend about the angel stirring the waters. The later manuscripts had to explain it for more non-Jewish people coming to Christ who were reading the Scriptures. Verse 4 was added later as a z commentary note to help people fully understand this passage. It is important to remember that how the pool worked is not essential to the story. The fact that Jesus worked is essential to the story.
[Q] Why were the multitudes of disabled people there?
They wanted to be healed. The healing was random and depended on the condition of the water. These people were so sick and had no other sense of hope that they had to turn to this way to find some sort of healing.
[Q] In verse 5, the story focuses on one particular invalid. How long had the man been laying there? What kept him in that place? What status did he have in this culture as an invalid?
It says that he laid there for about 38 years. He tells Jesus that there is no one to help him into the pool. This man was physically stuck, but was also relationally stuck because no one was there to care for him long term. While he may have found a way to get to the pool, whoever helped didn’t stick around to help.
[Q] This is one of the few miracles where Jesus actually initiates the healing. Jesus asks him if he wants to be well. Why do you think Jesus asks Him that? What would it mean if he became well?
Jesus asks him this question because not everyone who is ill wants to be well. When you’ve been ill for 38 years, your sickness can become your identity. You’ve found a way to survive (somehow this man has been able to eat and find some sort of way to live), a way to relate to people and the world around you. If this man became well, he would have to return to his community and be a functioning part of it. He’d have to work, pay taxes, and take care of himself rather than having others take care of him.
The same can be true for us. We can accept a dysfunctional pattern of behavior, or way we respond to situations and circumstances as who we are. Like having issues with anger where we lose our tempers without thinking about it, constant focus on negativity or any time we start to have the attitude like, “that’s just the way I am.” If we find ourselves thinking that way, then we may be making our brokenness part of our identity.
[Q] If you experienced God healing you, what would have to change about your life? What would living like a healthy person look like?
Assuming that there are those in your group who feel like the invalid in the way that they could be stuck in a relationship status that they do not want to be in. Or that they have a health condition that they are stuck in, or in a job situation where they are struggling, imagine that Jesus magically heals, unsticks, and just makes a way through the hard situations. What would the new normal look like? How would they have to live differently?For instance, if someone in your group is single and they meet their spouse they would have a new set of challenges, e.g., earning to live together, learning to sacrifice and put the needs of the other person ahead of their own, managing schedules, etc. This question is to help your group think through the reality that if Jesus does what we ask it would bring about a whole new way to interact with the world and others that can be intimidating. This is often why many people prefer to stay in their “stuck” identities rather than pursue healing, it is comfortable, known, versus a new way of living or even people expecting new things from us which can be very scary. Gently probe the members of your Group to see if you can help them see the places where they may be ‘stuck,’ and need a touch from Jesus. .
The Pool of Bethesda was not a “Jewish” healing pool. NT Wright, a prominent New Testament scholar sheds some light on this:
The pool of Bethesda was a well-known place of healing. It was in Jerusalem itself, just to the north of the Temple Mount area. The original site has been excavated by archaeologists, and if you go to Jerusalem you can see it for yourself. But it wasn’t just a Jewish healing place. The evidence suggests that pagans, too, regarded it as a sacred site. At one stage it was dedicated to the healing god Asclepius. – NT Wright John for Everyone
Asclepius was the god of healing and medicine. He is often depicted carrying a staff with a snake on it. Asclepius’ Temples were known for their healing pools that people would go to in order to receive healing. The pool in John 5 was most likely an Asclepian Healing Temple. The Jewish leaders condemned people from going there, but when people are desperate, they go to great extremes to find healing and relief.
We know that the invalid that Jesus is speaking to is Jewish (John 6: 14). Therefore, by the very act of being at the pool he is looking outside the God of Israel for healing. And this is where Jesus finds him. Jesus was just in the Temple, but now He leaves there so that He can go to those who are far from Him. Jesus is on a mission to bring those that are far away back to Himself. Jesus is about to show this man that He is more powerful than the healing waters.
[Q] Like this man, when we are in pain it is easier to go for relief to other sources rather than Jesus. Share with your group other ways people find relief from pain? What sources do you go to?
In order to get your Group talking, you may want to read some of the examples below so that people can make the connection between themselves and their own behaviors. Remember, we are often blind to our own behaviors, especially negative ones. We need the Holy Spirit to help us see clearly.
There are a lot of ways we seek relief from pain. Some are benign, while others can be dangerous.
- When we are feeling down or depressed it can be easy to go to Netflix and binge watch for hours.
- For some people it’s easier to go to food or drink for comfort.Others go to relationships. They have to be in some kind of relationship so that they don’t have to be alone. Because when they are alone that is when the pain, insecurity and fear resurface.
- Rather than turning to Jesus, some people work too much to escape their pain.
- For others its turning to sin like pornography as a release and escape. Some turn to adultery or illicit relationships which can cause greater pain.
- Drugs and alcohol are another source that people will go to in order to deal with pain rather than bringing it to Jesus.
All of these different sources the Bible calls idols. They offer us false relief and false worship.
This Jewish man, who was seeking a superstitious healing has just encountered Jesus. What is unique in this story is that this man was not seeking Jesus. In fact, he may not have even heard about Jesus. It seems the element that is missing here is faith. This man does not seem to come to Jesus in faith, nor is his response a response of faith (John 5: 7), unlike blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10: 52).
[Q] How do you reconcile this man’s lack of faith, and Jesus healing him?
In almost all the healings recorded in scripture. Jesus heals in response to faith. Yet here, the man does not seem to respond in faith at all, but Jesus still heals Him. The story is a reminder that our faith is ALWAYS imperfect, but Jesus IS perfect. Therefore, Jesus’ healing is not always contingent on our faith, but His compassion (Matthew 5: 45).
Does this means we shouldn’t come to Jesus in faith? No, because coming to Jesus in faith is essential to please God (Hebrews 11:6). We see later that this man is NOT commended by Jesus, but rather warned (John 5: 15) even after his healing. Healing, in this sense is a sign that points to who Jesus is, not to the goodness of this man.
[Q] As asked above, this man was paralyzed in a variety of ways: spiritually, physically and relationally. Can you relate to this man at all? Are you paralyzed in any way in your life right now? Would you share with your Group?
Paralysis happens for all us in different ways. In the book Find Your Miracle, we find four ways we could be paralyzed:
- Relationally paralyzed – People who keep getting into relationships with the wrong type of people. They can’t break the cycle.
- Emotionally paralyzed – Struggles with emotions like fear or anxiety. These emotions can be paralyzing.
- Financially paralyzed – For those who consistently live outside their means and they are constantly in debt and living hand to mouth. This could also be in the area of work, they may be in a job that is difficult that is causing some of the stress.
- Spiritually paralyzed – People who struggle with some aspect of faith. It could be doubting God’s existence, stagnated time with God in prayer, Scripture reading, going to church or being with God.
Help your group identify where they are paralyzed in their lives right now. If none of these fit, ask more about where they feel stuck or stagnant in life.
[Q] In the story Jesus commands the man to stand, and in response, he stands up! Is there an area of your life where Jesus is asking you to stand? What keeps you from getting up?
After identifying what is causing paralysis, the answer may be something that is obvious but will take courage and effort. If someone admits that they are paralyzed financially, they may need to decide to get on a budget and pay down their debt. That is how they respond to Jesus telling them to stand. Go around and ask your group where Jesus is challenging them to stand.
[Q] Read vs. 10-12. What was the objection that the Jews had to the man who had been healed?
He had been carrying his mat on the Sabbath. Biblical Sabbath (see Digging Deeper) was about resting in response to God resting on the 7th day. However, throughout the centuries, Jews started to add more rules to make sure that the Sabbath was not broken. The Mishnah (Commentary written by the ancient Rabbis on the first 5 books of the Bible called the Torah) lists the following prohibitions on the Sabbath:
The main classes of work are forty save one: sowing, ploughing, reaping, binding sheaves, threshing, winnowing, cleansing crops, grinding, sifting, kneading, baking, shearing wool, washing or beating or dyeing it, spinning, weaving, making two loops, weaving two threads, separating two threads, tying [a knot], loosening [a knot], sewing two stitches, tearing in order to sew two stitches, hunting a gazelle, slaughtering or flaying or salting it or curing its skin, scraping it or cutting it up, writing two letters, erasing in order to write two letters, building, pulling down, putting out a fire, lighting a fire, striking with a hammer and taking out aught from one domain to another. These are the main classes of work: forty save one. (Šabbat 7:2) from C.G. Kruse John: an introduction and commentary
As you can see, many of these laws are menial and arbitrary. Jesus, who was the Lord of the Sabbath was about the challenge the religious leaders.
[Q] Why do the Jews want to know who told this man to pick up his mat?
For the Jews, the man-made laws about the Sabbath were just as sacred as the Law itself. If there is someone that is teaching people to break the law, they wanted to know who this person was so that they could stop them.
[Q] Read verses 13-15. What do you think Jesus means when he says, “Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”
Jesus is making a connection between this man’s sin and his sickness, indicating that the reason he was sick was because of sin. James 5:16 reminds us that when we come forward for healing that part of that should actually be taking time to confess our sins to God and others. We need to be VERY careful here. Jesus is diagnosing THIS particular man’s sin-sickness connection. In fact, Jesus says later in John 9:1-3, some disabilities are from living in a broken world. Here we see that some sickness can be connected to our sin. The Bible does not teach us to diagnose others, but rather, as it says in James, to offer the opportunity to care for others who are sick holistically. So if someone is sick, don’t just pray for them physically, but pray for them spiritually as well. Jesus knew that we have been created as composite beings, which means that we are body, soul and spirit and if one part of us is sick it affects all aspects of us.
Jesus, in healing this man’s body, saw that there was still spiritual sickness that was not being addressed. Jesus was warning him that if he does not get that part submitted to God he will be far worse than before.
[Q] In his video, Pastor Tim talked about bringing your need to Jesus. How can you bring the need to Jesus holistically? Think about what you feel stuck in? This could be spiritually, relationally, physically or financially?
While this seems like a similar discussion to above, there is a nuance to this — we may be seeking a physical healing, but we also may need to confess our sin to Him as well. Or if we are looking for a breakthrough in our relationships, we may need to examine our hearts to see if we are fully surrendered to Christ. We may be willing to trust and wait for our spouse, but not willing to surrender our desire for a spouse which may or may not be God’s will for us. Help your group look beneath the need that physical or relational to get to the spiritual part of it.
[Q] If you could share in a tweet what God taught you, challenged you or inspired in this study what would it be?
This is a question to help your group reflect on what God has been teaching them as a group. If you can verbalize your takeaway in a tweet, around 2-3 sentences then it can be lived out in your Group member’s life. As the Leader, you should go first. That way, you can actually model for your group what authentic sharing looks like and how they can take what they have studied and put it into place for their lives.
After you’ve shared the area where you are looking for a healing touch with God, make time to pray for one another. We’ve been talking about taking things to Jesus, here is your chance to actually take it to Christ! In your group, have people break up into pairs so that everyone can receive prayer and care.
CHANCE TO SERVE:
Are you part of our Sunday Dream Team? There are many opportunities for you to get involved every week. Check out the Dream Team page on our Website and encourage one another to use your spiritual gifts to help others draw closer to Jesus Christ!
Jesus is often accused of breaking the Sabbath throughout his ministry. However, we know that Jesus is the sinless Son of God. He did not break the Sabbath, but He honored it with His life. In this section, we are going to look at what a Biblical Sabbath is and how we can practice these principles in our own busy, 21st century lives.
[Q] In Genesis, what do we see God doing after He created the universe?
God completed creating the universe and then He rested on the 7th day and He blessed it as a day of rest.
[Q] In Exodus, how is the 7th day, or Sabbath day to be set apart?
On that day, there is to be no work to be done. It is meant to be completely set-aside for the Lord.
[Q] Deuteronomy is the second reading of the Law of Moses. In many ways it repeats Exodus, but there is a crucial difference in how it explains this command. Why were the Jews to observe the Sabbath?
Deuteronomy makes the connection that we must keep the Sabbath because the Jews were once slaves. As a slave, you worked all the time, but God’s people were no longer slaves but were rather free! The Sabbath was a reminder that they were not slaves to work, but that they belonged to God.
The word “sabbath” comes from the Hebrew shabbat, meaning “to cease” or “desist.” The primary meaning is that of cessation from all work. Some persons have traced the origin of the concept to the Babylonian calendar that contained certain days, corresponding to phases of the moon, in which kings and priests could not perform their official functions. Such days bore an evil connotation, and work performed on them would have harmful effects. The 15th of the month, the time of the full moon in their lunar calendar, was shapattu, the “day of pacifying the heart” (of the god) by certain ceremonies.
Although one can show similarities to the Babylonian concept, the Hebrew Sabbath did not follow a lunar cycle. It was celebrated every seven days and became basic to the recognition and worship of the God of creation and redemption. Regulations concerning the Sabbath are a main feature of the Mosaic laws. Both reports of the Ten Commandments stated that the Sabbath belonged to the Lord. On six days the Israelites should work, but on the seventh, they, as well as all slaves, foreigners, and beasts, must rest. Two reasons are given. The first is that God rested on the seventh day after creation, thereby making the day holy (Exod. 20:8–11). The second was a reminder of their redemption from slavery in Egypt (Deut. 5:12–15).
The day became a time for sacred assembly and worship (Lev. 23:1–3), a token of their covenant with God (Exod. 31:12–17; Ezek. 20:12–20). Death was the penalty for desecration (Exod. 35:1–3). The true observance of not following one’s own pursuits on that day would lift a person to God’s holy mountain and bring spiritual nourishment (Isa. 56:1–7; 58:13–14), but failure to keep the Sabbath would bring destruction to their earthly kingdom (Neh. 13:15–22; Jer. 17:21–27). – Barbara J Bruce Sabbath
In the Old Testament, the Sabbath was something that marked God’s people as different then the people of the world. In fact, by them not working all 7 days it declared their radical trust in God’s provision, protection and care. The Sabbath was taken very seriously. However, between the testaments the Rabbi’s started to add more and more laws and rules to it. They wanted to be completely clear that they did not break Sabbath nor lead others to as well. However, these man made laws became sacred and the Pharisees and Jewish leaders put the laws as more important than people.
Read Mark 2: 23-28. Mark is showing us one of Jesus’ many conflicts with the Pharisees (Mark 3:1–6; Luke 13:10–17; John 5:1–18). For Jews in the first century, keeping the Sabbath was a mark of Jewishness. It had become twisted into something that it was never meant to be. For Pharisees the stakes were even higher. If God’s people would keep His laws then God would bring back Messiah. But if they did not keep the laws, then Messiah wouldn’t come. So keeping the Sabbath was linked to their coming Messiah. Yet, it was the true Messiah that was breaking their Sabbath customs trying to show them that He was the fulfillment of the Law.
[Q] In verses 23-24. What do you think the problem the Pharisees had with Jesus’ disciples?
The disciples were being accused of several things. Picking up the heads of grain was reaping, grinding them in their hands as well as walking in the field were all part of the Mishnah added rules (see above).
Jesus, like any good teacher responds with Scripture. Jesus references 1 Samuel 21: 1-5. Where David, one of the heroes of the Jews is breaking the ceremonial laws (laws that are specific to the nation of Israel but not beyond that) of the Sabbath so that he can fulfill the law of need. This is an example for us that whenever we are faced with any decisions to do what Jesus does, and go to Scripture for the answer to the best we can.
[Q] What do you think Jesus means when He says, “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath….”
The purpose of the Sabbath (Deuteronomy 5:15) was a reminder that they were no longer slaves in the land and were free people that belonged to God. Therefore, filling the Sabbath with all sorts of rules and regulations that were a burden actually had the opposite effect which is to free up people rather than give rest. The Sabbath was a provision for us, not to become a burden. Therefore, Jesus is taking back the Sabbath. Taking it back for people rather than making people fit into the mold of the rule laden Sabbath.
[Q] Jesus came to fulfill the law not abolish it. This includes the Sabbath. Some scholars have stated that not keeping the Sabbath is the command we brag about breaking. What do you think are the benefits of keeping biblical Sabbath in your life?
This could be different for your group. For some, the benefits of practicing a day of rest could be to replenish your emotions. It could also be to spend time with your family and friends. It could also be beneficial to have permission knowing that God wants you to stop and rest in Him.
Pastor Pete Scazzero says that there are four parts to a true Biblical Sabbath. He lists them as follows:
- Stop. Sabbath is first and foremost a day when we cease all work — paid and unpaid. On the Sabbath we embrace our limits. We let go of the illusion that we are indispensable to the running of the world. We recognize we will never finish all our goals and projects, and that God is on the throne, managing quite well in ruling the universe without our help.
- Rest. Once we stop, we accept God’s invitation to rest. God rested after his work of creation. Every seventh day, we are to do the same (Genesis 2:1 – 4). We engage in activities that restore and replenish us — from napping, hiking, reading, and eating good food to enjoying hobbies and playing sports.
Resting from unpaid work, however, requires advance planning. If I am to have any hope of enjoying a Sabbath rest, I need to set aside time during the week to attend to the routine tasks of life I won’t do on Sabbath — paying bills, cleaning or fixing something around the house, etc.
- Delight. After finishing his work in creation, God pronounced it “very good” (Genesis 1:31). This was not an anemic afterthought — Oh, well, it’s nice to be done with that — but a joyful recognition and celebration of accomplishment. As part of observing Sabbath, God invites us to join in the celebration, to enjoy and delight in his creation and all the gifts he offers us in it. These innumerable gifts come to us in many forms, including people, places, and things.
As part of preparing to practice the Sabbath, one of the most important questions to consider is, “What gives me joy and delight?” This will differ for each of us, but part of the Sabbath invitation is to enjoy and delight in creation and her gifts. Geri and I both delight in the beauty and grandeur of nature — the ocean, lakes, beaches, mountains, and star-filled skies. Geri is a “foodie,” so tasting, smelling, and savoring the gift of food is a high priority for us. I delight in libraries and bookstores. Geri loves cooking a fresh meal. Through any and every means possible, on Sabbath we seek to feast on the miracle of life with our senses.
- Contemplate. Pondering the love of God is the central focus of our Sabbaths. What makes a Sabbath a biblical Sabbath is that it is “holy to the Lord.” We are not taking time off from God; we are drawing closer to him. Sabbath is an invitation to see the invisible in the visible — to recognize the hidden ways God’s goodness is at work in our lives. It does not mean we necessarily spend the entire day in prayer or studying Scripture, though those activities may be part of a Sabbath day. Instead, contemplation means we are acutely focused on those aspects of God’s love that come to us through so many gifts from his hand. Scripture affirms that all creation declares his glory (see Psalm 19:1). On Sabbath, we intentionally look for his grandeur in everything from people, food, and art to babies, sports, hobbies, and music. In this sense, contemplation is an extension of delight — we are intentional about looking for the evidence of God’s love in all of the things he has given us to enjoy.
[Q] Look at these four parts of Biblical Sabbath. Which of these do you need to implement in your life and why? What are the challenges that would come from this?
Read through the descriptions of each aspect of Sabbath. Have your group choose one out of the various categories. As the leader, feel free to share yours first. Use your imagination and think about what would have to change to make this happen. It may mean you have to do some activities earlier in the week rather than saving them to the end. It may mean that when you practice a Sabbath that not everything will get done and you’ll have to learn to be ok with that.