Review: Chapter 2 showed Jesus turn water into wine and clear the temple during the passover. The Lamb of God came to the temple to see who were seeking God for the new life He offers. His disciples had been looking and recognized Him when the saw Him (Chapter 1). Those who do likewise will behold his glory, even now. “What was in man” is pride, greed and hypocrisy—a self-sufficient and self-gratifying life. Those who recognize Jesus as Son of Man (everlasting dominion) and Lamb of God (atonement for sins) leave their old, worthless life behind.
John 3: 1-21
vs. 1-2…Nicodemus, a “ruler of the Jews”—a Pharisee—came to Jesus at night.
-He addresses Jesus as “Rabbi,” that is, teacher, and acknowledges that he is sent from God. He is wondering what Jesus is teaching, having observed the signs (ch. 2).
vs. 3…Jesus tells Nicodemus the whole message of His ministry in a simple statement: “unless one is born again he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”
vs. 4…Nicodemus doesn’t understand the statement. Natural birth is what came to his mind.
vs. 5…Jesus clarifies—must be born “of water and Spirit” to enter kingdom of God.
vs. 6…that which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of Spirit is spirit. Two different births beget different types of people.
vs. 7…”do not be amazed” implies that Nicodemus was amazed.
vs. 8…Just like they could not understand the path of the wind, so the one born of the Spirit also cannot be understood.
vs. 9-11…Nicodemus doubts, and Jesus points out Nicodemus’s rejection of the “testimony.”
vs. 12…How will you believe heavenly teaching if you don’t believe earthly teaching?
vs. 13…Jesus once again claiming the title “Son of Man” and pointing out that He is the only man on earth who has been in heaven.
vs. 14-15…As Moses lifted up the serpent, so the Son of Man must be lifted up to give eternal life to whoever believes.
vs. 16…God in his love has made eternal life available to the whole world.
vs. 17…The Son was not sent to judge the world but to save it.
vs. 18…Those who believe are not judged. Those who do not believe in the name of the only begotten Son of God are already judged.
vs. 19…the judgement is that men loved darkness rather than the Light. Evidence of that is that “their deeds were evil.”
vs. 20…those who do evil hate the Light because they don’t want to be proven they are evil.
vs. 21…Those who practice truth come to the Light. The purpose
Interpretation / Correlation
vs. 1-2…Nicodemus was somewhat ashamed/proud (came at night), yet showed more humility than other Pharisees. He wants to be taught, so he came to Jesus.
vs. 3…The first birth does not make one worthy. Nothing you can do—you need a new life
vs. 4…We don’t have understanding of new life apart from Jesus explaining to us.
vs. 5-6…Born of water refers to natural birth (amniotic fluid). Can’t be spiritual if you have only experienced natural birth.
vs. 7…Nicodemus was amazed at the spiritual nature of the message of the kingdom.
vs. 8…I won’t understand my own life—“where it comes from or where it is going.” Only God knows.
vs. 9-11…Jesus interpretation of Israel’s history—and the history of creation—is different than Nicodemus.’ Jesus pointed out Nicodemus’ hardness of heart. The “testimony” is that of John the Baptist: God is making this message of true LIFE available to all, which John was to share with his life (ch. 1:6-8).
vs. 12…There is a greater meaning beyond even what Jesus has taught regarding being born of the Spirit. The “earthly things” are the taking away of the sin of the world. They did not see Jesus as the one who could be the once-for-all sacrifice as the Lamb of God. The “heavenly things” are the experience of eternal life through the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This goes beyond the mere Jewish understanding of the Messiah who would be a natural king to establish an everlasting earthly kingdom. They had no concept of the Messiah as being God Himself.
vs. 13…Like Jesus alluded to in ch. 1:51, Jesus claiming the title “Son of Man”—the one with everlasting dominion (see Daniel 7)—and the fact that he is the one who offers direct access to God. This also reminds us of his humility in becoming like us (man) —See Phil. 2:5-11. GOD ALMIGHTY MADE HIMSELF NOTHING FOR US.
vs. 14…”As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness” is an allusion to Numbers 21:5-9…The people spoke against God, complaining about no food or water despite God’s miraculous deliverance from their enemies and provision of manna. What God provided for them was not good enough. The fiery serpents were a picture of the peoples’ nature—like satan. The serpent on a standard was a picture for them: put your natural desires and rebellious nature to death and be healed. To look upon it was to see one’s own condition. Similarly, we look to Christ.
-The Son of Man must be lifted up…Jesus is interpreting “Son of Man” (Daniel 7:13-18). The Jewish understanding was one of a conquering king whose victory they would share in. This would have turned Nicodemus’ understanding upside down. Jesus not only made Himself a man, but made himself the object of God’s wrath to bind forever the work of satan.
vs. 15…Eternal life is available to “whoever believes.” To believe in Christ, in the context, means that I accept He is the one who took the punishment I deserve so I can escape God’s wrath. I recognize His authority in giving access to God and his everlasting dominion to which all nations will be held accountable. The eternal life is experienced through being born again—or baptized—by the Holy Spirit.
vs. 16…This is all an act of God’s love. The snake on a stick foreshadowed Jesus on the cross. The snake healed the disease, but the fiery serpents were still present. They had to continue to look to the snake; likewise, we must continue to look to Jesus to overcome. This is available to anyone in the world, not just Israel.
vs. 17…The time for judgement had not come, accept a choice to accept the offer of eternal life
vs. 18…The name of the only begotten Son of God is the Word, The Lamb of God, the Son of Man. Those who do not repent of their way of life and accept Jesus as divine revelation, atoning sacrifice and the everlasting ruler of creation are judged already.
vs. 19…The “evil deeds” are the way of life exposed by the Light which is in complete opposition to the life God is offering. In other words, there is nothing good in a person.
vs. 20…People don’t want to admit they need to change. Again, “what was in a man” is pride, greed and hypocrisy (chapter 1 and 2).
vs. 21…”Practicing the truth” is sharing in the eternal life by the power of the Spirit in the present time. This starts by coming to Jesus and recognizing the need for a new life. God will accomplish His work in those who recognize this need. Those people desire to see God glorified in this. The question left with Nicodemus is, “now that you know the truth, what are you going to do with it?” Will you practice the truth by letting the Light search you and have His way?
There is nothing good in a person, but God in His love has made it possible to have eternal life now in which we witness His working in us. This experience is one we will not fully understand as we simply fix our eyes on Christ; therefore, we are dependent on Him.
Practice the truth that only Christ in you is good.
Prayer: “Lord search my heart because I don’t even know what is in there!”
Do I think more highly of myself than I ought?
Do I think I lack something?
Am I okay with not understanding the course of my life as I trust Jesus to do HIS work?
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This is the blog of Tyler Shepard, the Associate Pastor for Centre Union Church in Yeagertown, PA.
I hope you are encouraged and challenged to walk more closely with Jesus Christ!