The Good Book Club | Week of January 19
This week: John 5—6:71

We start our reading this week with a sign only recorded in the Gospel of John—and we end with the only miracle story to be recounted in all four gospels.

Let’s dive right in to the first one: the pool-side healing of a man who has been ill for thirty-eight years. Jesus asks the man—and indeed, all of us—a critical question: “Do you want to be made well?” On the surface, it seems like an odd question, but it’s one worth asking of ourselves and of others. When we ask for help, what are we truly asking for?

Later in the day, Jesus sees the man in the crowd again. This time, he issues a warning to the man: “Do not sin any more.” Our wellness is a gift from God, but God also calls us to repentance—to turn to a different way of living, one that helps us become spiritually well.

The man doesn’t seem to like Jesus’ words, so when the religious leaders ask why he is breaking the rules of the sabbath, he throws Jesus to the wolves, basically whining, “Jesus made me do it.”

This isn’t the first or last time in scripture that Jesus verbally spars with the religious leaders over the letter of the law versus the Spirit. He turns the argument on its head with his first line: “My Father is still working, and I also am working.”

In chapter 6, we hear the beloved story of the feeding of the five thousand. This story is a favorite in the repertoire of most Sunday School programs, and deservedly so. On the face of it, Jesus sees the need, the hunger, of the people, and he responds. Further, he uses the gifts of one of the least likely, a young boy, to serve others.

Of course, this is much more than a nice story about the surprising proliferation of bread and fish. Jesus both harkens back to the story of Moses and the manna in the desert but also foreshadows important eucharistic themes. Par the course, the people want to make him king instead of understanding Jesus as the embodiment of love. So Jesus heads to the mountain, perhaps to have some (literal) one-on-one time with God the Father.

He soon returns to the sea and the shores and back to the extended metaphor of bread. Jesus says to the crowd, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” Over the next several verses, Jesus elaborates, repeats, and explains. Folks don’t seem to understand—and we can’t blame them really. Many of us struggle with this message today, and we know the whole story, including the resurrection; the people on the beach are hearing this for the first time. The disciples even tell Jesus, “This teaching is difficult.” True. But also, the Truth.

Read Week 1 , Week 2

1. Do you want to be made well? Why do you think Jesus asks this question? Why might we need to ask it today, of ourselves and of others?

2. Are there times in which you struggle with the letter of the law versus the spirit of it? In secular situations? In religious ones?

3. When did you first learn about the Feeding of the 5,000? What was your understanding of the story then? How has that changed over the course of your life?

4. When you hear Jesus say, “I am the bread of life,” what does that mean to you?
 Partner Spotlight

For six weeks this Epiphany, meet with other students from around the world for a live, online class on the Gospel of John with Vicki Garvey, a respected teacher, author, and canon for lifelong education at the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago. In this free class, Vicki will teach about the author, origin, setting, and message of the Gospel of John. Classes will meet live on Thursday nights via Zoom from January 23-March 5, and they will last an hour. Register now!

This free class is offered by ChurchNext , a ministry of Forward Movement committed to providing dynamic and accessible online Christian formation. ChurchNext offers more than 400 classes from experts across the church on topics from how to be a crazy Christian to angels in artwork.
Participant spotlight

The Rev. Charles Lane Cowen, associate rector of Trinity Parish in Wilmington, Delaware, writes, “While we have an ongoing Bible study group that meets during the lunch hour on Mondays, we use the Good Book Club as a way of engaging those who wish to have Bible study but cannot commit to a weekly, in-person class. We read through the lessons on our own, and members are encouraged to post comments, questions, and insights to our Facebook page. This has been great for elderly members who cannot drive, working parents who can read and comment in their own time, and anyone who needs flexibility. Although the group is organized by our parish, we welcome ANYONE to join our group. We even have members from Texas and Alabama. (Ok, one is my mom, but still.) We’ve found this to be an exciting way to read together and still honor our own schedules. For those who prefer in-person meetings, we have had several coffee hour conversations after Sunday worship.” Join the conversation !

A special thanks to Susan Keith of Rutherford, North Carolina, and St. Francis Episcopal Church, who felt inspired by the poetry of John to write her own poem, and was willing to share it with us:

The Word
In the beginning was Word
Not words,
But The Word. 
The Word was with God.
Of course because
The Word was God. 
When God spoke
It was with The Word.
And the Word as Love. 
God spoke Love into life.
Have you not seen it in
The beauty of flowers and trees
The playfulness of kittens
The affection of puppies
The wonder of children. 
God speaks The Word every day.
Listen for it.

How are you participating in the Good Book Club? Share your story with us (and send pictures too, if you have them!). We’ll highlight participants from across the church. Send the information to Richelle at .
Let’s learn from and be inspired by each other!