About Jesus - Steve Sweetman
context of what we read here in John 3 is in
verse 1 John tells us that Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a member of the
ruling council, or the Sanhedrin. These
men were the rulers of the Jews, although their power was limited
because the real rulers were the Romans. There
were seventy men in the Sanhedrin, some were Pharisees and others were
Sadducees, and still others consisted of smaller sects.
Both the Pharisees and the Sadducees were religious leaders with
different view points concerning the Law of Moses.
There were also lawyers and teachers of the Law in the Sanhedrin.
is interesting to note that Nicodemus was a Jew with a Roman name.
tells us that Nicodemus came to Jesus at night, most likely in secret.
This is especially important because the Jewish leaders are very
angry with Jesus. He had
just disrupted their commerce at the temple.
There would be no way that Nicodemus would want to be seen in
public with Jesus at this point.
verse 2 Nicodemus calls
Jesus Rabbi. This tells us
that he believed; at least to some degree that Jesus was a legitimate
teacher. Robbie means
teacher. That being said,
because of the Greek construction of this verse, and Nicodemus'
statement, it appears he had some doubt about Jesus and thus the reason
for his visit.
had apparently seen many of the miracles that Jesus had been performing
while at the Passover in Jerusalem. Because of these miracles
he would have found himself in a dilemma.
Performing such miracles would have normally had told him the
Jesus was sent from God, maybe that prophet that Moses predicted would
come in Deuteronomy 18:18. On
the other hand, seeing what Jesus just did at the temple would cause him
to question that Jesus was sent by God.
and others called the miracles of Jesus signs because they were a sign,
pointing the way to Jesus and who He was.
Nicodemus saw the signs and wanted to believe so he came to Jesus
to get more understanding. He
would have been a well educated man and therefore had some important
questions that needed answers. His
response to Jesus was not simply an emotional response as a result of
the miracles. Nicodemus
needed understanding, and there is nothing wrong with that.
donít know if Nicodemus said anything else.
There is a good chance that he did, but whether he did or not,
Jesus replied in verse 3. "No
one can see the Kingdom
unless he is born again. We
donít know if Nicodemus asked Jesus about the
important question is, "What did Jesus mean by these words?"
Nicodemus had the same question.
What Jesus said puzzled him.
How could a man be born again from his mother?
This is a complete impossibility, so he asked Jesus to explain
what he said.
of all we need to ask; "What is meant by the term "Kingdom
to add another thought. You
might debate whether there are two different kingdoms or just two
aspects of the same kingdom. To
be precise, the latter is probably more correct.
words "you must be born again" are a Greek aorist passive
verb. This means the
experience of being born again is a one time experience and is made
possible from an outside agent, who is God through the Holy Spirit.
We are born again when the Holy Spirit enters our very being.
is right when in verse 4 he said that a man can't go back into his
mother and be born a second time.
first said that you can't even see the Kingdom unless you are born
again. We need the Holy
Spirit to even know there is a Kingdom
to enter. There's a
progression in Jesus' words. He
first speaks in terms of seeing the kingdom, and now in verse 5 He
speaks in terms of entering the kingdom.
clarity sake, in verse 5 Jesus then said; "No man can enter the Kingdom
put, one cannot either enter, or even see Godís kingdom accept through
the Holy Spirit who comes to reside within that person.
When we give our lives to Jesus and receive His salvation, part
of what happens to us is that we actually receive the Spirit into our
very being. When this
happens, we are born again, and in my thinking, this is just as a
dramatic experience as being born the first time.
I go any further, I should note that the term "born again" can
also be translated as "born from above," meaning, born from
God in Heaven.
it comes to the words "water and spirit" I believe the word
"water" refers to natural birth since the woman's water bursts
at child-birth. Being born
of the Spirit is therefore the second birth at salvation.
I believe Jesus is comparing the natural with the spiritual here.
I think this is confirmed in verse 6 when Jesus says that which
is born of flesh is flesh and that which is born of spirit is spirit.
I don't believe Jesus is speaking of here is Christian water baptism as
some suggest. I don't
believe the context suggests this and I think it's bad hermeneutics to
impose a Christian era baptism into the pre-Christian era.
is interesting to note that in Ezekiel 36:25 to 27 the words "water
and spirit" are used in terms of the New Covenant and man's new
relationship with God. Nicodemus
would have known this passage and maybe that is why Jesus is using this
verse 7 Jesus told Nicodemus that he shouldnít be surprised at what He
was saying. Most likely
Jesus said this because Nicodemus acted surprised, even confused.
You and I would not be any different if we were in Jesusí
presence hearing the same words, and especially so if we had Nicodemus'
thinking processes, his education, and cultural background.
verse 8 Jesus gives a little analogy to help Nicodemus understand what
He is saying. He says that
the "wind blows where it wants to."
One doesnít quite know where the wind came from or exactly
where it is going. Yes, you
might know the general direction of the wind, but to be sure where it
originated and where it will end up is pretty impossible.
Jesus says, "So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."
It is not that people who are born of the Spirit are flaky or
weird, not knowing where theyíve come from or where theyíre going.
Spirit born people donít bounce around in uncertainty.
Jesusí point is that in the same way people cannot understand
the wind, they cannot understand Spirit born people.
They only see the effect of the Spirit born person, as they see
the effect of the wind. The
non-Christian has a hard time understanding where the Christian is
coming from and where he is going. That's
the way it was with Nicodemus.
verse 9 Nicodemus answers Jesus by saying, "How can this be?"
He still doesnít understand what Jesus is saying.
There is a need for us to understand, yet at the same time we
need a balance. Sometimes
our understanding canít understand the things of God.
I do believe what Jesus is telling Nicodemus here is
understandable to a degree, but without the help of the Holy Spirit,
there is no real understanding of these things.
Sometimes, maybe more often than not, we need to experience
something before we can understand it.
seems just as much surprised at Nicodemus as Nicodemus is with Jesus.
In verse 10 Jesus states that Nicodemus is a teacher in
verse 11 Jesus seems to be a bit irritated when He tells Nicodemus the
we speak and testify to that which we know.
Why does Jesus use the pronoun "we"? Who is the "we" that He is referring too?
Some suggest that we refer to Jesus and His disciples but I'm not
sure His disciples really did understand what Jesus was saying to them
at this point. Others
suggest that Jesus might be referring to Him and His Father, and there
might be some validity on that point.
One thing we know and that is Jesus is clear that He knows what
He is talking about.
Pharisees are very much like some religious leaders today. They have
grown cold in their hearts and in their understanding have strayed so
far from Godís thinking that they just donít get the truth when it
is presented to them. In
many respects, like the Pharisees in Jesus' day, Christians today are so
far removed from the truths of Scripture that they don't know they are
removed from the truths of Scripture.
verse 11 Jesus continues by saying, "Still you people do not accept
our testimony." You
people refers to the Jews and especially to the Jewish leaders.
It is interesting that Jesus uses the term "you
people." The "you
people" that He was talking about were Jews, Jewish leaders to be
specific. When using the
words "you people", Jesus was separating Himself from the
Jewish leadership. That must
have been sad for Jesus since Jesus was a Jew Himself.
As John said in chapter 1, Jesus came unto His own people, and
they didn't receive Him, and now we see this separation between Jesus
and His own people taking place.
verse 12 Jesus concludes that if He speaks to the Jews of earthly things
and they canít understand them, how will they ever understand if He
speaks of Heavenly things. Once
again, this is true. Worldly
people just have a hard time understanding Heavenly concepts and truths.
This was no surprise to Jesus.
Even His disciples struggled with what He was saying, but, all
that would end when they received the Holy Spirit as they did in Acts 2.
In verse 13 Jesus says that "No one has ever gone into Heaven accept the One who has came from Heaven." No man has entered Heaven, but Jesus has come to earth from Heaven to show God to man. Even at this early point in Jesusí ministry He is suggesting that He is more than a man, more than a teacher, more than a prophet. He is saying that He actually came from Heaven. These words may not specifically suggest deity, but I believe they do, especially when Jesus adds the words "son of Man", which is a Messianic term.
understand verse 14 you need to know a little Old Testament history.
In the days of Moses, after he led the Jews out of
Jesus proceeds to tell Nicodemus that in like fashion the Son of Man,
that is Jesus, would be lifted up. I
think that most people understand this lifting up of Jesus to be the
lifting Him up on the cross, and that might well be the case.
However, the Greek words translated as "lifted up" here
is translated in other places in the New Testament as
"exalted." If then
we should understand lifted up as being exalted, then Jesus might not be
speaking of the cross. He
might actually be speaking of His ascension back into Heaven.
I remind you the term Son of Man might well be in reference to Daniel
7:13 where Daniel predicts the coming of one like the Son of Man.
verse 15 Jesus said that anyone who believes in Him, that is, the Son of
Man, will have eternal life. John,
more than the other three gospel writers, speaks of eternal life.
Salvation can be viewed from a number of different perspectives.
Eternal life is just one of these perspectives.
analogy concerning the snake is the backdrop to one of the most well
known verses in the Bible. It's
John 3:16. "God so
loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son."
God loving all humans in the world is the basis for salvation.
We must understand that Jesus' existence on earth was driven out
of love for humanity on the part of God.
The love of God, that we sing about so often, can never be
properly understood by humanity, at least not in this life.
God's love is a sacrificial love.
It's called "agape" love.
The Greek word "agape" had grown out of style in the
like to make two points. One
point is concerning the word "believe" here in verses 15 and
16. To believe is not to
just give mental ascent to the truth.
Simply agreeing with the truth is not the New Testament
definition of believe. When
people speak of believing in the New Testament they speak of giving
oneís life to the truth. This
is a far cry from simply agreeing with the truth.
This is an often neglected point in our modern gospel preaching
that has very serious consequences concerning oneís salvation.
Greek word translated as "believe" here and throughout the New
Testament is the word "pisteu.o" As I've said in the last
paragraph, this Greek word means "to trust or to give", as in,
"give one's life to Jesus, or, trust your life with Him."
In this particular case, "pisteuo" is what is called in
Greek a "present active participle."
Present means that the believing, or giving of one's life to
Jesus, must be in the present tense; in the present real time.
It can't be a thing of the past.
Active means that whosoever will trust His life to Jesus must be
the ones actively believing. A
participle is a half verb and half noun.
Participles place the emphasis on the action part of the word not
the noun part of the word. This
all means that a believer is one who actually and actively believes in
the present tense. The
emphasis is on the action of believing or trusting, not merely the state
of one being a believer. What
Jesus is saying here is that the giving you life to Him in a meaningful
relationship must be ongoing. Only
to those who have an ongoing relationship with Jesus will have eternal
second point is that Jesus said that those who give their lives to the
truth of the gospel, or give their lives to Him, would not perish.
We must understand that there is life after death for everyone.
It is my understanding that the lost soul will be eternally
perishing. They will not
simply perish away to nothing, as you might imply from this verse.
Those who are lost will be always be in the process of perishing,
always in the process of being wasted away to nothing, but never finding
the end of their lives, although wishing for it.
often quote John 3:16, but verses 17 and 18 are just as important.
John tells us that God did not send His Son into the world to
condemn it but to save it. Jesusí
mission was to provide salvation for everyone, yet, it is interesting to
see who does condemn us. John
says that "whosoever does not believe is condemned already."
Jesus does not condemn us. We
condemn ourselves by our unbelief. We
will not be condemned in the future.
We, if we are presently living in unbelief are already condemned.
We donít have to wait for the future to be condemned.
We are already at this present time.
When we give our lives to Jesus we leave this state of
condemnation and enter into a state of peace with God. This is what the
Apostle Paul calls justification in the book of Romans.
For those who have condemned themselves through unbelief, only
God's judgment and proclamation of the
Revelation 20:11 and following we see that the books are open at what we
call the Great White Throne Judgment.
Those whose names are not written in the books will be thrown
In verse 19 John says that "this is the verdict." This is a legal term. We should know that God is the supreme and ultimate judge, thus, the legal term used here. The verdict is plain and clear. "Light has come into the world." This light is Jesus. We saw this in the first few verses of John 1. Light may suggests a number of things. It could be the light of understanding of God and His ways, but here, it's used differently.
light exposes people's sins. John
tells us that evil people run from the light so their evil ways will not
be exposed for what they are. The
light of God's justice shines in the dark corners of our sinful lives.
This is true of the people of the world we associate with.
Unless the Holy Spirit brings conviction to their hearts and they
decide to repent, they will run from the truth and not want anything to
do with the truth and with those of the truth.
On the other hand, in verse 21, John says that those "who live by the truthĒ come into the light and the things he does are good things because of this light. Men will see these good things. They may not give themselves to the light themselves, but they will at least see the good fruit of those who give themselves to the truth, and this will be a testimony to the truth.
John speaks here of loving the truth. Of course, that's the truth associated with God and Jesus. Christians must give themselves to the pursuit of truth. That is not always the case in our world today. Christians are destroyed for a lack of the knowledge of the truth. It's that simple.