Context: Jesus stays in Galilee for an undetermined amount of time before departing once again for Jerusalem for a Jewish festival. We know from John Chapter 2 his first visit was during the Passover and that his visit in Chapter 7 is the Feast of Tabernacles (or Booths), but we can’t say with certainty this particular occasion. What we do know is that Jesus did one of the only two recorded miracles he performed in Jerusalem (outside the resurrection)! The other was the healing of a blind man which we will read about in John 9. In this instance, he proceeds to the Pools of Bethesda, north of the Temple and near the Sheep Gate (see map below … can you locate the two pools?). A man who was an invalid for 38 years has an encounter with Jesus that changed his life! But since the healing took place on the Sabbath there was a VERY different response from many of the Jewish leaders.
Observations: Archaeologists have unearthed the actual Pools of Bethesda: they were side-by-side with a partition between them. How critical is it that the events in the Gospels are supported by historical facts and records? Why do you think Jesus chose to heal this man at a place where people tried but most often failed to experience healing? Re-read verse 18: What does that tell you about Jesus and man-made tradition?
Application: Is there a prayer that you have wanted answered for a very long time and it has not happened? How can you apply this story to it? What man-made traditions are you elevating to the importance of Scripture? How can you distinguish between a commandment (honor the Sabbath) and a man-made tradition (they forbid carrying even a bedroll on the Sabbath or taking an object from one house to the next)?
Prayer: Ask God to help you be true to Scriptures but flexible and adaptable when it comes to man-made traditions that Scripture does not teach authoritatively. Pray that Evergreen, like Jesus, continues to do the ‘work of the Father’ and be part of the healing and transformational process in other’s lives.