Bible Studies for Life Sunday School Lesson for March 12

Bible Studies for Life Sunday School Lesson for March 12

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By James R. Strange, Ph.D.
Professor of biblical and religious studies, Samford University

Jesus Restored My Life 

John 5:2–11; 19–21

In John, Jesus makes four trips to Jerusalem during His ministry. Today we read about the second visit to Jerusalem but the third conversation in which Jesus talks about the eternal life available to those who believe in Him (5:24, 3:15–16, 4:14). The story of Jesus healing a sick man who lay beside a pool in Jerusalem teaches us about mutual love, especially concerning those suffering from chronic conditions. Pay attention to those who are absent.

I was desperate for help that no one could provide. (2–7)

Because they lack strong textual support, your translation probably puts verses 3b–4 in a footnote. 

John says the Sheep Gate of Jesus’s day (Neh. 3:1) was near the Pool of Bethesda. This gate probably allowed access into the northern temple precincts, where Jesus met the man a second time (v. 14). 

Jesus’ question reminds us of other encounters, including the one with Bartimaeus (Mark 10:51; Luke 18:41), but this situation is unique. Unlike Bartimaeus, this man can’t ask for what he wants.

Jesus met my need in a far greater way than I ever expected. (8–11)

We don’t know why Jesus only speaks to one of the people who need healing. Is it because this man has been unwell so long? Is it because whoever brings him leaves him there alone? Chronic illness, pain, anxiety and depression invite despair. Despite longing to be well, we can become convinced we will never recover, and friends and family don’t know how to express their care. But the man does recover. He does things his bones, muscles and sinews haven’t done for three decades: He walks and he carries. 

Thus, he stands out among the people in the crowd. It’s a Sabbath day and few others carry burdens. “The law forbids” or “prohibits” doesn’t mean the man can be arrested or fined. The healing leads to questions about Jesus’ interpretation of the Torah and His claims about Himself (vv. 17–18, Matt. 12:8, Mark 2:28, Luke 6:5). Here is a key for unlocking a meaning.

Jesus was pleased to give me life. (19–21)

We can’t say why Jesus speaks only to this man, but we see the result. The climax arrives in what Jesus says about the Son and the Father. We first hear of the Father’s love for the Son, which provides the basis for the mutual love commandment of the last supper (15:9–17). We then learn the Son does what He sees the Father do. By extension, Jesus’s actions — from singling out the man, to asking if he wants to be well, to healing him, to proclaiming the Son’s mission — reveal what the Father is doing in the world. Jesus characterizes these actions as giving life. 

The story, therefore, is about the man’s absent friends, who don’t know how to translate the Father’s love for them and their love for the man, into a patient presence assuring him they haven’t given up on him. It’s about the man’s despair yielding to a healing he no longer expects. It’s about Jesus offering eternal life to all whom He chooses, which is everyone in the world (3:16). And it’s about a life of mutual abiding love beginning now for those who believe (5:24).