Nicodemus Bites Off More Than He Can Chew
Do you believe Jesus' testimony? How about the testimony of the Hebrew prophets, which came straight from God?
Published September 29th, 2017
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Main point summary
Arc of Nicodemus
Main point summary
Do you believe Jesus' testimony? He came into the world to give eternal life, but in order to receive this eternal life, you must believe in Him and be born anew of water and the Spirit.
Arc of Nicodemus
John 3:1-21
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named h Nicodemus, i a ruler of the Jews.
This man came to Jesus 1 j by night and said to him, k “Rabbi, l we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do m unless God is with him.”
Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is n born o again 1 he cannot p see the kingdom of God.”
Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born q of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
r That which is born of the flesh is s flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 1
t Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You 1 must be born u again.’
v The wind 1 blows w where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Nicodemus said to him, x “How can these things be?”
Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel
y and yet you do not understand these things?
Truly, truly, I say to you, z we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen,
but z you 1 do not receive our testimony.
If I have told you earthly things
and you do not believe,
how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?
a No one has b ascended into heaven except c he who descended from heaven,
the Son of Man. 1
And d as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness,
so must the Son of Man e be lifted up,
that whoever believes f in him g may have eternal life. 1
“For h God so (in this way) loved i the world: 1
j that he gave his only Son,
that whoever believes in him should not k perish
but have eternal life.
For l God did not send his Son into the world m to condemn the world,
but in order that the world might be saved through him.
n Whoever believes in him is not condemned,
but whoever does not believe is condemned already,
because he has not o believed in the name of the only Son of God.
p And this is the judgment:
q the light has come into the world,
and r people loved the darkness rather than the light
because s their works were evil.
t For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light,
u lest his works should be exposed.
But whoever v does what is true
w comes to the light,
so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
We are presented Nicodemus, a Pharisee and "a ruler of the Jews." This means that he was learned in the scriptures and the law, that he was supposed to have wisdom and understanding to teach the lay people about God (as confirmed by Jesus in v10)
Jesus has only just started his public ministry, but he's already made himself an enemy of the Pharisees (honestly, it started even before, with John the Baptist). Presumably, Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night to try to hide his interest from his fellow Pharisees. He comes alone because he has some true interest or questions, not tricks to try to trap Jesus (which the Pharisees did almost every time they spoke to him).
Jesus isn't interested in niceties. He cuts to what seems like a non-sequitur, but maybe it's not, since Jesus often talked about the Kingdom of God.
Ezekiel 36:25-27 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
Ecclesiastes 11:5 As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything. Ezekiel 37:9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.”
Jesus switches from singular to plural 1st person and then back again. Who is the we? We the trinity? We Jesus and John the Baptist or the disciples? We Jesus and the prophets of old (since he just referenced them)...
Proverbs 30:4 Who has ascended to heaven and come down? Who has gathered the wind in his fists? Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is his son’s name? Surely you know! מִי עָלָה־שָׁמַיִם׀ וַיֵּרַד מִי אָסַף־רוּחַ׀ בְּחָפְנָיו מִי צָרַר־מַיִם׀ בַּשִּׂמְלָה מִי הֵקִים כָּל־אַפְסֵי־אָרֶץ מַה־שְּׁמוֹ וּמַה־שֶּׁם־בְּנוֹ כִּי תֵדָע
Isaiah 30:10 who say to the seers, “Do not see,” and to the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us what is right; speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions, Jeremiah 5:31 the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at their direction; my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes?
If I had to break this passage up into two themes, they would be, 1) The awesome, gracious plan of God for salvation, and 2) The depravity of man's willful ignorance and rejection of said plan. 1) God's plan of salvation is merciful, loving, and well testified to throughout the Tanach (Hebrew Scriptures), such that, someone studying and meditating on the Hebrew Scriptures, as King David encouraged us to do, should have such an understanding that when presented with Jesus and His teachings (either in person, as with Nicodemus, or through reading it, as today), it should all click and fall into place as clear, God-breathed, glorious Truth. Do you believe the testimony? 2) The fact that Nicodemus, here an example of the Pharisees and the Jewish leadership in general, having dedicated their lives to study of the Word and teaching, don't get it at all and willfully reject Jesus, is evidence of a morally evil ignorance. An ignorance that has no excuse before God. And they're not the only ones: Romans 1 makes it abundantly clear that all of us, from the greatest to the least, have been given enough . Enough evidence, enough testimony, enough knowledge, whether much or little, to make some kind of decision. A decision towards Truth or away from it. And the one who moves towards Truth, will be given more (Mat 13:12, Mark 4:25). No one will be able to use ignorance as an excuse before God, because all of our ignorance is willful and morally evil. Jesus points to this in verses 19-21. The people reject the light, not because they don't know, but because they "...loved the darkness...". The issue, as always, is a heart issue. What do you love?
Andy Hubert
How is vs 9-12 a Ground for what comes before and after?
Sarah Hubert
I see a sandwich where the top and bottom bread are Jesus "speak[ing] of what we know, and bear[ing] witness to what we have seen", and the middle being Jesus making that explicit and commenting that "you" (pl), the pharisees, or maybe the Jews, or humankind in general even, does not receive it. Perhaps it's more of a bilateral Id/Exp with the Id being the center and the two Ex on either side...
Mildred Queenie CS
I want to understand why it is a Bilateral Ate Sarah
Andy Hubert
Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
Many commentators take "born of water" how you are taking it, but I personally disagree. It seems to make more sense to me to let vs 6 interpret vs 5. That is, "born of water" = "born of the flesh."
Sarah Hubert
But it looks like in vs 5 that being born of water and the spirit are requirements for entering into the kingdom of God. So I guess the question is whether "water and the spirit" is one thing, or if they are two separate things and entering the kingdom is contingent on the later, as in "unless one is born of water AND the spirit, he cannot enter..."
Sarah Hubert
I don't see anything contextual to help me to know if the two are being grouped together as one or not...
Mildred Queenie CS
I agree Ate Sarah that it is a requirement to enter heaven. If we will divide v.5, i think it is a conditional. So i think born of water is something that an unregenerated person doesn’t have. I think that born of water means cleansing like in Ezekiel 36
Andy Hubert
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews
This first proposition comes across as background, before the story really gets going. Thus, I would probably have it as an Explanation of vs 2.
Sarah Hubert
Yes I agree that it's background...
Mildred Queenie CS
I agree too that it is an Id-Explanation
Disclaimer: The opinions and conclusions expressed on this page are those of the author and may or may not accord with the positions of Biblearc or Bethlehem College & Seminary.