I'm working on some small group bible studies inspired by the messages I hear at church on Sunday mornings. Here's one I wrote based on yesterdays message - Poolside Miracle:
Read John 5:1-17 (NIV)
The Healing at the Pool
"Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, "Do you want to get well?"
"Sir," the invalid replied, "I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me."
Then Jesus said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk." At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, "It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat."
But he replied, "The man who made me well said to me, 'Pick up your mat and walk.' "
So they asked him, "Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?"
The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.
Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, "See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you." The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.
So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him. Jesus said to them, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working."
This miracle took place at a pool called Bethesda. That name, “Bethesda” means – “house of mercy” or “flowing water”, a place for receiving and caring for the sick, the name of a pool near the sheep-gate at Jerusalem, the waters of which had curative powers.
The Pool of Bethesda was located near the Sheep-gate, so named because by that way the sacrificial lambs were brought to the Temple.
Surrounding the pool, were five immense covered colonnades, in which the sick, the blind, the crippled and the paralyzed had gathered.
1. What do you suppose the atmosphere of this place might have been?
Occasionally, an angel would stir the waters in the pool and the first one to enter would be healed.
2. How do you think the people acted when they saw the waters begin to stir?
3. How do you think they felt after seeing just one person healed?
It’s hard to imagine why God would stir the waters occasionally and then only heal one person. Perhaps His purpose wasn’t to bring healing to just one individual, but to use this as an illustration – a picture of what happens when people sense God stirring their hearts to come to Him and they take that step of faith into a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ, who is the Living Water.
4. How eager do you think these people were to be healed? To have their lives changed?
Those gathered around the pool recognized their physical infirmities. They were blind, crippled and paralyzed. And knew they needed a touch from God to be healed.
Often we fail to recognize our infirmities, but we are blinded, crippled and paralyzed by them just the same. How are we...
The man who received his miracle that day had suffered with his infirmity for 38 years.
5. What happens when a person has suffered for a long period of time?
Jesus asks this man, “Do you want to be well?”
This seems like a ridiculous question. Our first response is, “Of course, he wants to be well!” but Jesus is really probing a little deeper here.
Healing means change and change can be difficult for some people. Sometimes we have become so familiar with the situation, so tolerant of the pain and so depleted of hope that we need to ask ourselves if we really want to be healed.
6. Is there a situation in your life that is hard, but you have lived with it so long that you have just accepted it? Name that situation.
7. Do you want to be well?
The man answered with an implied yes, but then proceeded to tell Jesus why that would be impossible.
8. Are you feeling like this man felt? You want to be well, you want God to touch your life, but many reasons why that isn’t likely to happen pop into your head? What are some of the excuses that come to mind?
Jesus then told the man to stand up, pick up his mat and walk. What an incredible thing to do! To some it would appear insensitive; to ask a cripple to get up and do the impossible, but sometimes God asks us to take what seems to be an impossible step.
It was at the point of obedience that this man experienced his miracle. He heard the voice of Jesus command him to take a step of faith, he responded in faith and as he did, the mighty healing power of God flooded into his body and brought about the healing he had waited on for 38 years.
9. When you think about your need, is there an impossible first step you feel God asking you to take? If so, what is it?
It’s interesting to note that this healing took place on the Sabbath. According to Jewish tradition, this was not the right time, nor the right way to be healed. They were angry with Jesus for violating their religious rules.
So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him. Jesus said to them, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working." John 5:17
Those at the Pool of Bethesda had to wait for the occasional stirring of the water, but Jesus tells us that God is always at work…to this very day.
10. Do you want to be healed?
God is ready. In John 14:6, Jesus says,
…"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
God has provided your healing through faith (belief) in Jesus Christ. Today, He is stirring the waters. He wants to work in your life, but He will not barge in. He is waiting for you to make a move toward Him. He’s waiting for you to step into the waters, to invite Jesus in, to surrender you hurts, habits and hang-ups to Him so that He can begin to bring healing to your life.
11. Are you willing to place your faith in Christ and step into the water? Are you ready to take what might seem to be an impossible first step?
Most of the blind, crippled and paralyzed that surrounded the Pool of Bethesda had friends and family with them to help them into the waters when they were stirred. You have friends surrounding you right now in your small group, willing to help you take that first step toward Jesus.
If you’re ready to be healed, if you want Jesus to step into your life and change things, your friends want to help. Let them know right now that you are taking that step and ask them to pray with you.
12. Did you take that step? Have you invited Jesus to come into your life and circumstances?
The Bible says that later, Jesus found the man at the Temple and gave him further instructions.
Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, "See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you." John 5:14
This should be our intention – to live a life that pleases God, to stop sinning. In reality, we are imperfect and will never be completely free from sin, but God is concerned with the intentions of our hearts. We are to do our best to live a life that brings honor to God and demonstrates an attitude of gratitude for what He has done for us. When we fall short of that, we are to go to Him in repentance, seeking His forgiveness, then continue on with living a life that honors Him.
Refusing to do so will find us in a much worse place then we were before we experienced His work in our lives.
13. Is it your intention to live a life that honors God?
Your small group family is ready to help you do that. They are on the same journey – a journey of spiritual growth in Jesus Christ. We are here to encourage and assist one another as we do life together.
Small groups: Develop an atmosphere of mutual support and togetherness in your meetings. Make them a Bethesda a “house of mercy”, a safe place to share the struggles we all go through in life. We are the body of Christ, let’s display his love as we minister to one another in love.
(Copyright © 2009 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)
I would love your feedback on this study. Did it benefit you personally? Do you think it would work well in a small group setting? Any suggestions for improvement? Please leave a comment with your thoughts on this study. Thanks!