The Savior attended a feast (likely the Passover) in Jerusalem and healed a feeble man at the pool of Bethesda. Jesus Christ taught that He represents Heavenly Father and explained why people need to honor the Son of God. He also described other witnesses who had testified of His divinity.
Display a picture of pieces of a broken pot or dish (or you could draw a picture of a broken dish on the board).
Ask students to raise their hands if they have ever broken something important or valuable. Explain that as children of Heavenly Father, we are important and have great worth. However, because of our choices or the challenges we face, at times we may feel broken or like we have little value.
What are some ways in which someone might feel broken spiritually, physically, or emotionally? (List students’ responses on the board.)
Invite students to look for a truth as they study John 5:1–9 that can help comfort us and give us hope when we feel broken.
Summarize John 5:1 by explaining that after Jesus Christ ministered in Galilee, He traveled to Jerusalem to observe a Jewish feast, most likely the Passover (see John 5:1, footnote a). While in Jerusalem, He went to a pool near the temple.
Invite a student to read John 5:2–4 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for who was gathered around the pool.
What kind of people gathered to the pool of Bethesda? (Point out that the words impotent, blind, halt, and withered [verse 3] describe people who were sick, feeble, or disabled in some way.)
What were these afflicted people waiting for? (Explain that there may have been a spring that occasionally flowed into the pool and caused the surface of the water to bubble, which may have provided some relief to these people’s ailments [see Bible Dictionary, “Bethesda”].)
Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“No doubt the pool of Bethesda was a mineral spring whose waters had some curative virtue. But any notion that an angel came down and troubled the waters, so that the first person thereafter entering them would be healed, was pure superstition. Healing miracles are not wrought in any such manner” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 1:188).
What did Elder McConkie teach about the belief that an angel caused the waters to heal the first person to enter them?
What do you think the scene was like at the pool, with so many people hoping to be healed by being the first to step into it?
Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from John 5:5–7. Ask the class to follow along, looking for whom the Savior saw lying near the pool.
Display the picture Christ Healing the Sick at Bethesda (Gospel Art Book , no. 42; see also LDS.org).
How do these verses describe the man the Savior saw?
Invite students to read John 5:8–9 silently, looking for the Savior’s response to the man. Ask them to report what they find. Invite them to consider marking the phrase “the man was made whole” (verse 9).
Write the word Bethesda on the board. Explain that Bethesda can be translated as “house of mercy” (Bible Dictionary, “Bethesda”). Write this definition next to Bethesda on the board. Explain that mercy is compassion or kindness. The greatest act of mercy ever performed was the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Why was Bethesda an appropriate name for this location, especially after the Savior healed this man?
In what ways might we all be like this man at the edge of the pool of Bethesda?
What truth can we learn from the Savior’s healing of this man? (Although students may state it differently, be sure to emphasize that through the power and mercy of Jesus Christ, we can be made whole.)
To help students understand this truth, invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Merrill J. Bateman, who gave this insight while serving as the Presiding Bishop. Ask the class to listen for ways in which the Savior can make us whole:
“Just as the lame man at the Pool of Bethesda needed someone stronger than himself to be healed (see John 5:1–9), so we are dependent on the miracles of Christ’s atonement if our souls are to be made whole from grief, sorrow, and sin. … Through Christ, broken hearts are mended and peace replaces anxiety and sorrow” (“The Power to Heal from Within,” Ensign, May 1995, 13).
What are some ways in which we can be made whole through the mercy of Jesus Christ and His Atonement? (You may want to explain that we may be made whole either in this life or in the next.)
What must we do to receive mercy and healing through the Savior’s Atonement?
Ask students to ponder times when they have witnessed or felt the power, mercy, or compassion of Jesus Christ help them or someone else who felt broken, whether spiritually, physically, or emotionally. Write the following incomplete statement on the board: I know the Savior is merciful and compassionate because …
Ask students to consider how they would complete this statement. Invite a few students to share their responses.
Summarize John 5:10–16 by explaining that the Savior later found the man in the temple and counseled him to “sin no more” (John 5:14). When the Jewish leaders learned that the man had been healed by Jesus on the Sabbath, they persecuted and tried to kill the Savior.
Invite a student to read John 5:17–18 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for another reason the Jewish leaders were angry with Jesus.
Explain that as recorded in verse 17, the Savior taught the Jewish leaders that by healing the man, He was doing Heavenly Father’s work. The Savior then taught about His relationship to the Father.
According to verse 18, what is another reason why the Jewish leaders were angry with Jesus? (They believed Jesus was guilty of blasphemy because He had said God was His Father and therefore claimed to be equal with God.)
Write the following question on the board: What did the Savior teach about His relationship to our Heavenly Father? Divide students into pairs. Invite each partnership to read John 5:19–22, 26–27, 30 aloud together. Invite them to look for answers to this question.
After sufficient time, invite students to report what they found. Summarize their answers to the question by writing the following truth on the board: In all He does, Jesus Christ represents Heavenly Father and seeks to obey His will. Explain that the Savior invites us to do the same.)
Why is it important to understand that in all He does, Jesus Christ stands as the perfect representative of our Father in Heaven?
Bring to class a small nut that is still in its shell (a small pea pod would also work). Hold the nut in your hand so that students cannot see it. Explain that you are holding something that has never been seen by the human eye. Ask students to raise their hands if they believe you. Invite a student who is unsure whether this is true to pick a few classmates to view the object. Show these students the object, and invite them to tell the class whether you are telling the truth.
How is the truthfulness of any claim strengthened by having more than one witness?
Show the class the nut, and explain how its interior has never been seen by the human eye.
Invite a student to read John 5:31 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Savior said about His own witness of His relationship to Heavenly Father. Ask students to report what they find.
Point out that the Joseph Smith Translation clarifies verses 31 and 32: “If I bear witness of myself, yet my witness is true. For I am not alone” (Joseph Smith Translation, John 5:32–33). Explain that the Savior was teaching the Jews that they had other witnesses in addition to His.
Write the following scripture references on the board: John 5:32–35; John 5:36; John 5:37–38; John 5:39; John 5:45–47. Assign each reference to one or more students. Ask them to read these verses and to look for other witnesses of Jesus’s divinity. Help students make a list of these witnesses by inviting them to write what they find on the board next to their assigned references.
Explain that despite having many witnesses of Jesus Christ, the Jewish leaders did not believe in Jesus’s divinity. Point out in verse 39 that as Jesus spoke of the scriptures He said, “For in them ye think ye have eternal life.”
What false belief was Jesus pointing out to the Jews? (Explain that many Jews in Jesus’s day believed that merely studying the scriptures would allow them to receive eternal life. They failed to understand that the purpose of the scriptures was to point them to Jesus Christ. He said, in essence, “You think you have eternal life, but search the scriptures, for they testify of me.”)
Invite a student to read John 5:40 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Jews needed to do to gain eternal life.
Even though the Jews studied the scriptures, what did they refuse to do that would have helped them qualify to receive eternal life?
According to the Savior’s teachings in verses 39 and 40, what must we do to receive eternal life? (Help students identify a principle similar to the following: Only by coming unto Jesus Christ can we receive eternal life. Write this principle on the board.)
Remind students that eternal life includes becoming like Heavenly Father and living forever with our worthy family members in His presence.
What does it mean to come unto Jesus Christ? (To come unto Christ is to exercise faith in Him, repent of our sins, and obey His commandments.)
Why is coming unto Jesus Christ essential to receiving eternal life?
Invite students to consider the ways in which the witnesses listed on the board can help someone come unto the Savior.
When has one of these witnesses of Jesus Christ helped you come unto Him?
Ask students to ponder what they will do to more fully come unto the Savior so that they can receive eternal life.
Conclude by testifying of the truths taught in John 5.