Introduction: Last week we spent time studying Jesus’ teachings on the Sabbath as found in Matthew 12. This week we continue our study of how, exactly, Jesus kept the Sabbath and what He taught about our approach to the Sabbath. Let’s dive into the Bible to learn more!

  1. At the Pool

    1. Read John 5:2-3. What is this place? A hospital? (The earliest copies of John omit John 5:4. Apparently someone copying the text knew we would wonder about the context. Thus, he added that an angel from time to time would “trouble” the water in the pool. The first to enter the pool thereafter was healed.)

      1. Does the context added by John 5:4 seem consistent with the rest of the Bible? Angels set up races to win miracles?

    2. Read John 5:5-6. This man has been waiting a very long time by the pool. Why do you think Jesus asked him this question? (I think Jesus wanted to start a dialog with him.)

    3. Read John 5:7. What do you think about this answer? (He is not answering Jesus’ question.)

      1. Why not? (The man seems more interested in explaining why he is not guilty of negligence in his own healing. He never wins the race.)

        1. Some say that this man represents Christians who limit the power of God to their own ideas. Do you agree? (It is true that the man explained why, through his own efforts, he had not been healed so far. But, I don’t think this is the point of the text since Jesus merely asked him if he wanted to be healed.)

      2. Notice that John 5:3 tells us that a “multitude of invalids” were all at this pool. Do you think they all had a similar story? (They all had some reason why they could not win the race to the pool.)

      3. If the man had spent years at the pool, and he was never able to get down first, what do you think was his current mental attitude?

    4. Read John 5:8-9. Why did Jesus heal this man and not the “multitude” of other invalids around the pool?

    5. Read John 5:10-13. Let me ask you the same question again – why did Jesus heal this man and not the rest? Note that Jesus withdraws so that He will not be healing the rest!

      1. Was Jesus teaching the man a lesson in faith? (I don’t know how that could be true since he did not even know who Jesus was.)

      2. Why does the text note that Jesus did this miracle on the Sabbath? (I think this is Jesus’ point all along. He was not coming to heal all the sick. He was not making a point about believing that He was the Messiah. He was not rebuking the idea that God is limited to our own ideas and efforts. He is making a point about healing on Sabbath.)

    6. Read John 5:14 and John 9:1-3. Why is Jesus talking to this man about sin when Jesus has previously rejected the idea that people must be ill due to sin?

      1. What do you think is going through the mind of the man when Jesus says this? Consider that the religious leaders just got through telling him that Jesus had commanded him to sin ( John 5:10-11). So a man who just told him to sin is now telling him not to sin!

      2. Let me ask a more pointed question. Has this man spent years thinking that he could earn a miracle by winning a race? Is that the sinful attitude Jesus is referring to?

    7. Let’s revisit John 5:10-12. The man makes clear to the religious leaders that he has been healed. What interests the religious leaders the most? (The sin and not the healing.)

      1. Is John making a point about our attitude toward the Sabbath?

  2. Jesus’ Defense

    1. Read John 5:15-17. The text says that Jesus “answered them,” but I don’t see any question being asked of Jesus. What question do you think Jesus is answering? (It is the greater implied question: Does Jesus deserve to be punished (persecuted) because He was “doing things” (in this case healing) on the Sabbath.)

    2. Read John 5:17 again. What kind of answer is this? Why didn’t Jesus answer that healing is not working? (This follows our discussion last week. Jesus did not deny that His disciples were breaking the Sabbath, rather He stated that the priests “profane” the Sabbath and David and his disciples broke the law. See Matthew 12:3-5. Now, Jesus flatly admits that He is working. And, He again follows the pattern of saying that other people work on the Sabbath – here the point of comparison is “My Father.”)

      1. Notice something much different than our study last week. Exodus 20:10 specifically prohibits “work” and Jesus admits He is at work. How do you explain this?

      2. Among possible explanations, I don’t think an appropriate one is that Jesus is nullifying the Fourth Commandment. If He were, He would have said it plainly because He clearly says that He is working.)

    3. Let’s skip down and read John 5:19. What authority does Jesus claim for working on the Sabbath? (Recall that in Matthew 12:8 Jesus says that He is “Lord of the Sabbath,” thus He gets to say how we should approach the Sabbath. Now Jesus says that His approach to the Sabbath is approved by God the Father!)

    4. The great issue for me at this point is the “why” of Jesus’ approach to the Sabbath. The fact that He has ultimate authority for His approach does not explain His reasoning. Without that we have no guidance about how we should approach the Sabbath. Read John 5:20-21. What does this suggest about the reasoning of God the Father and Jesus? (Their work is about “giving life.” Recall last week we learned the Sabbath was about restoration. Stop and settle in place to be refreshed – restored.)

      1. Is “giving life” the same as restoration? (That seems right to me.)

    5. Read John 5:22-23. What does this say about the religious leaders’ judgment of Jesus’ approach to the Sabbath? (It is wrong. If God the Father leaves judgment to Jesus, then Jesus’ approach to the Sabbath is above reproach. He should not be condemned for “giving life” on Sabbath.)

    6. Read John 5:24. Do you think that Jesus is speaking in general terms, or do you think that He is still talking about keeping the Sabbath? (Jesus just got through saying that the Father agrees with Him regarding Jesus’ approach to the Sabbath. I conclude that Jesus is at least talking about the Sabbath.)

      1. If I’m right about this, what does this say about judging others for their approach to the Sabbath? (If we listen to Jesus, and believe He is God, then we enter into eternal life without a judgment on our behavior. This is the error of the religious leaders, the ones who were more focused on the issue of sin than the miracle of the healing.)

      2. Notice the parallel with the sin of racing for miracles. He was healed by grace alone. We are saved by grace alone. Is this stretching things, or is it the primary point of this story?

  3. Interpreting the Sign

    1. Read Exodus 31:12-13. How important is the Sabbath? (“Above all” we should keep the Sabbath.)

      1. Why? (It is a sign that Jesus “sanctifies” us.)

      2. Is that consistent with what we have learned in John? (I think it is. Jesus gives us life when He sanctifies us. He gave the man life when He healed him.)

    2. Read Exodus 31:14-16. Recall that Jesus said in our study last week that the priests “profane” the Sabbath ( Matthew 12:5) and in this lesson we learned that God the Father and Jesus are regularly working on the Sabbath. How do you reconcile this apparent contradiction? How can both be right? (A reasonable conclusion takes the same approach as Jesus. You can violate the Sabbath and still be guiltless ( Matthew 12:5) if you are engaged in the restoration of yourself or others. Your regular secular work is barred. Your rest, your restoration, your adding to the life of others is permitted.)

    3. Friend, do you see how the Sabbath is at the center of grace? We cannot earn miracles, we cannot earn salvation, and the Sabbath is a gift to us for rest and restoration. Will you give grace an opportunity in your life and quit chasing salvation?

  4. Next week: Longing for More.