John 3:1–16comment (0)
September 19, 2013
By Jay T. Robertsn
Related Scripture: John 3:1–16
Explore the Bible
Assistant Professor of Christian Ministries, University of Mobile
Are You Interested? (1–3)
Nicodemus is a man of the Pharisees and a member of the Jewish governing body called the Sanhedrin. He comes to Jesus “by night.” In his Gospel, John uses the word “night” to refer to moral and spiritual darkness. Nicodemus approaches Jesus at night, but his own “night” is blacker than he knew.
It is the evidence of the miraculous signs that convinces Nicodemus that Jesus is no ordinary teacher. He must be “a teacher come from God.” This assessment of Jesus is disappointing. Nicodemus does not suggest that Jesus is a prophet or the Messiah but simply a teacher mightily endowed with God’s power. He is obviously curious about Jesus, but he still falls a long way short of confession that he is the uniquely Promised One.
Nicodemus has not yet asked Jesus anything formally, though the implied question is something like: “Who are you? Are you a prophet? Are you the Messiah?” But Jesus’ words are more than a response to a merely implied question. Nicodemus, like other Jews, wants to set up criteria by which to assess who Jesus is. Jesus rejects the priority of Nicodemus and radically questions his qualifications for sorting out heavenly things. Nicodemus claims he can see something of who Jesus is in the miracles. However Jesus insists no one can see the saving reign of God at all unless he is born again. To be “born again” is to be transformed in the core of your being by new, spiritual life that results from the intervention of the Holy Spirit.
Do You Have Questions? (4–9)
Nicodemus does not understand. At this point he could not believe that new birth is a requirement for entrance into the Kingdom. Jesus sets out to restate His challenge in a slightly different form. Jesus says: “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Born of water and the Spirit refers to spiritual birth, which cleanses from sin and brings spiritual transformation and renewal. Water here does not refer to the water of physical birth nor baptism. The background is probably Ezekiel 36:25–27.
In verse 7 Jesus says: “Do not marvel that I said to you (singular), ‘You (plural) must be born again.’” The plural “you” includes Nicodemus, all the members of the Sanhedrin and the entire human race. For anyone to receive eternal life and be welcomed into the kingdom of God, he must be born again.
Just as you cannot see the wind but only its effects, so it is with the Spirit of God. No one can control the Holy Spirit, but when He works the effects are undeniable and unmistakable.
Do You Know the Truth? (10–12)
Nicodemus refuses to believe Jesus’ teaching about the new birth. Jesus asks him, “You are the Reverend Professor Doctor, and you do not understand these things?” As a prominent teacher, Nicodemus should have understood Jesus’ teaching about the new birth. This new life is like the resurrection depicted in Ezekiel 37 and the new heart in Jeremiah 31:33 and Ezekiel 36:26.
Jesus’ teaching is “earthly” in that it takes place on earth when people are born again. More importantly, Jesus’ teaching on new birth is elementary. Jesus says entrance into the Kingdom depends absolutely on new birth. If Nicodemus stumbles over this elementary teaching, then what is the use of going on to explain more of the details of life in the Kingdom?
Will You Believe? (13–16)
Jesus identifies Himself as the uniquely Promised One come down from heaven who will die for the sins of the world. John 3:16 presents the most famous gospel summary in the entire Bible. You do not have to die in your sins. Jesus lived the life you could not live and He died the death that you deserve so you can receive the gift of eternal life. Will you trust Jesus today? Christian, will you tell an unsaved person about Jesus?