THEME: PRAYING, PORTRAYING AND PROCLAIMING
Amazing Grace Baptist Church, Bible Study material on John 5:1-16
This lesson focuses on the miraculous sign given to the lame man by the pool (John 5:1-16). It is the third miraculous sign which completes the three miracles that show how a person is saved. The first (water to wine) shows that salvation is through the Word of God. The second (healing the nobleman’s son) shows that salvation is through faith. This third miracle demonstrates that salvation is by grace.
A. Understanding the background
1. A pool near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem
John records that in Jerusalem there was a gate into the city called the Sheep Gate. That was the place where the sheep that were to be sacrificed in the temple were brought into the city. Nehemiah 3:1, 32; 12:39 mentions the building of this gate. It is thought to be located near the northeast corner of the city. By the Sheep Gate, there was a pool of water called in Hebrew “Bethesda.” Bethesda means a house of kindness, grace or mercy. Similarly, and allegorically, the pool and its five porches signify Grace. And so basically, it is through grace that the man was healed.
2. Healing through the moving of the water
Gathered around the pool were many people with various ailments such as the blind, crippled or lame, and those who had palsy that withered up some part of their body. This pool was supplied by water from underground springs. It was traditionally believed that an angel would come and stir up the waters. The first person who entered the pool when the waters were stirred up would be healed of their infirmities. From a scientific perspective, since there appear to be no similar events recorded in the Bible, it is claimed that the healing effect of the stirring of the water is thought to be more of a tradition than fact. The source of the tradition could have come from the waters of the pool having a mineral content with medicinal properties. The waters of the spring would be occasionally stirred to release these minerals to give healing. Most importantly, many people there believed they could be healed if they were the first into the pool after an angel stirred the water. The lame man like others was there hoping to be healed.
B. Some theological lessons from the narrative
1. A condition of life without Christ
This story demonstrates a life without Christ. This man was in a pitiable condition. For because of his past sin (verse 14), he had been afflicted for 38 years. He was surrounded by afflicted people, all of whom illustrate the sad condition of the unsaved. He was paralyzed and waiting for something to happen. He was without hope (Ephesians 2:12). If these people could get into the water when the angel came, they could be healed. But they lacked the power to get there. This is like a life without Christ today. Should a person be able to keep God’s perfect law, that person could be saved. But none can do so.
2. Saved by Grace
The narrative also throws more light on God’s grace at work. As pointed out already, “Bethesda” (verse 2) means “house of grace,” and this is what it became for this one man. What does “grace” mean? It means kindness to those who are undeserving. Although Jesus saw a multitude of sick people, yet he chose only one man and healed him. This man was no more deserving than the others, but God chose him. This is a beautiful picture of salvation. It shows how we are chosen “in Christ.” It is not because of our own merits but because of God’s grace (Ephesians 1:4). What Jesus says in 5:21 applies here: He gives life to whom he will. We cannot explain the grace of God (Romans 9:14-16), but if not for God’s grace, nobody would ever be saved (Romans 11:32-36).
3. Saved to live for Christ
Jesus, finding the man in the latter part of the story tells him that he has been made whole and that he should go and sin no more (John 5:14). This statement of Jesus addressed his spiritual condition. Thus, to Jesus, now that the man has physically been made whole, he should go and sin no more. This proves the fact that the man was spiritually made whole as well. Indeed, being lame was a terrible thing, but being spiritually dead was much worse. Sin does separate us from God.
1. What does “Bethesda” mean?
2. Is Grace fair?
3. Describe in brief, the human condition of life without Christ.
4. What does it mean to be spiritually whole?
5. In what ways can we bring healing to others?
Amazing Grace Baptist Church, Hamburg
Bible Study Material on John 4:43-54
In our previous studies, we learned about Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well which later turned out to be a great and unexpected spiritual harvest. Today’s lesson focusses on the miraculous sign given to the nobleman (John 4:43-54). This Nobleman is reported to have trusted Jesus for a new life for his son who was sick to death. This miracle is the second of the seven signs in John.
Background and significance
Allegorically, the first two signs at Cana in Galilee about turning water into wine illustrated that salvation is through the Word. The healing of the son in this chapter shows that salvation is by faith. The son lay dying in Capernaum, about 20 kilometers away from Cana. The man wanted Jesus to come with him, for he did not believe that Jesus could cure the boy of a distance (see Martha’s similar reaction in John 11:21). Jesus did not go with the man, but instead spoke the words: “You may go. Your son will live.” He believed the Word! It would have taken the man only three or four hours to get back home, yet verse 52 (“yesterday”) indicates that he remained in Cana an entire day. The boy had been cured at 1:00 pm, and the next day the father arrived home. This proves he had real faith in Jesus’ word, for he did not rush home to see what happened. This is the way we are saved – by putting our faith in the Word of God.
A prophet has no honor in his own country (John 4:43-45)
This statement of Jesus suggests that it is hard to gain acceptance and recognition in one’s own hometown. However, after making an impact in a different context and returning home people will then see you in a different light. That reflects human nature. Jesus understood that and so that explains why he went to Jerusalem. According to verse 45, his plan worked: So when he came to Galilee, he was welcomed.
Are you part of those who see signs before believing? (John 4:48)
By that statement, Jesus was not just addressing the anguished father but to the class of people to whom the father belongs. These were the special, privileged people who were, for the most part, in opposition to the work of Jesus. It is most probable that some of us are like that because many of us will really want to see miracles, exciting signs, supernatural events before we are prepared to believe who Jesus is. Jesus, in verse 48, gives the basic reason why people will not believe for they want to see signs and experience wonders. Keep in mind that Satan is able to perform signs and wonders to deceive (2 Thessalonians 2:9-10). In relation to salvation, it is worth noting that if one’s salvation is based on feelings, dreams, visions, voices, or any other fleshly evidence, then one is treading on a dangerous ground. It is faith in the Word alone that gives us the assurance of eternal life (1 John 5:9-13).
Believing in God whose ways are higher than ours
The nobleman apparently stayed in Cana, took care of some business and then went home the next day. He had joy and peace because his trust was in the Jesus’ word alone (Romans 15:13). He was not surprised when his servants told him that “his boy was living.” He merely asked them when the cure took place and verified that it was the very hour that Jesus spoke the word. The result was that his whole family trusted Jesus. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17).
Jesus is described as the originator and the completer of faith. The story of the nobleman also tells us that we are in the hands of the one who does not always answer our prayers the way we expect him to do. Instead, he answers us in his ways that lift us to a higher awareness of his authority and power in the world and in life. As a result, our faith becomes stronger, purer and truer. Jesus is indeed the author and perfecter of our faith.
1. With reference to Jesus’ statement that a “prophet is not without honour except in his own country (John 4:43-45), to what extent can familiarity serve as an obstacle to encountering God’s grace?
2. What does it mean to “take Jesus by his word?”
3. How can we trust God in new ways that are beyond our usual perspective?