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BACKGROUND: This passage deals with the first dispute over the Sabbath between Jesus and the Jews. The Sabbath was the holy day of rest for the Jews. According to their beliefs, the Messiah would not come until the whole nation had kept one Sabbath. Archeological excavations in Jerusalem have revealed the pool of Bethesda with its colonnades.
  1. Imagine what kind of life this man had led under the colonnades of Bethesda for 38 years.
    • The Greek word astheneia in verse 5 can mean an illness, but more often it only means “a weakness”. Think of various alternatives. What was ailing this man?
    • How did the first 10 years of illness perhaps differ from the final 10?
  2. Why didn’t his relatives take care of him (verse7)? (What was perhaps his own fault, what may have been the fault of others?)
    • What impression do you get concerning the character of this man? Look at his words in verse 7.
  3. What was the relationship probably like between the sick people who were waiting to get healed?
    • Why didn’t others let this poor man enter the pool first, even though he had been there longer than them?
  4. What was actually this man’s object of faith? (Where did he expect to get help from?)
    • What kind of strange “remedies” do sick people rely on in our own day?
    • What was the sin of this man which Jesus referred to in verse 14?
  5. Why do you think Jesus decided to approach this particular man, instead of some other sufferer?
    • Why did Jesus ask the man a self-evident question (verse 6)?
    • Why didn’t the man answer Jesus’ question clearly (verse 7)?
    • If Jesus asked you now whether you want some burning problem of yours solved, what would you answer him?
  6. According to Jesus, what is worse than suffering that lasts thirty eight long years (verse 14)?
    • What, according to Jesus, is worse for you than your present suffering?
  7. For what purpose do you think the man went to the temple after being healed (verse 14)?
    • When did this man come to believe in Jesus (if he ever did)?
  8. Why did the healed man do as he did in verse 15? Think of various possible explanations.
    • Jesus must have known beforehand how this incident would end. Why, then, did he heal the man?

GLAD TIDINGS: In the end Jesus had to bear the same fate as the man in the text: he was abandoned by all. Jesus even had to experience something worse than an illness of thirty eight years: he was forsaken by his Heavenly Father. That is why he is now able to say to anyone who has been abandoned: “You have some one who cares for you. You have me!”

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