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John 2:23 - 3:21

John 2:23-25 Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name. 24 But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. 25 He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person.

So He’s doing miracles at this point. And although many people in Jerusalem believed in Jesus because of this, they really looked no further than the signs He did. They failed to look at His unique identity, to which the signs pointed.

Jesus of course knew their hearts and He knew their future. They were believing in Him for the wrong reasons.

John 3:1-2 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.

The Gospel stresses that Nicodemus came privately at night. He was a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council. He’d heard, of course, everything going on about Jesus and it seems like he was on the fence about what to believe or not. And he didn’t want to compromise his position by being seen with Jesus. OR he MIGHT have wanted a long uninterrupted session with Jesus (?) We don’t really know.

But it’s often been pointed out that he came in the darkness to the light!

Beneath Nicodemus’ first statement lies a basic question: Who is Jesus? Although Jesus lacked the formal education, Nicodemus gave Him the title Rabbi. He sincerely believed Jesus to be a teacher from God. He didn’t deny the miracles as signs of God’s power given to Jesus.

Jesus didn’t answer Nicodemus’ words but his thoughts. Nicodemus seemed to think Jesus would simply lead him further along in his good religious life, yet Nicodemus lacked spiritual life. All his knowledge, morality and social position were inadequate. Nicodemus could not even “see the kingdom of God” much less enter it. But he had never questioned whether he had a place in the kingdom of God! He was Jewish! A Jewish leader!

The Greek word Jesus used for born again means to change so completely that it’s a new birth. You are created all over again. Only God can do this.

John 3:4-8 How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

Nicodemus could have either been asking about the physical impossibility of being born again or perhaps his question hinted at years of regrets. You can almost picture him saying, “How can I change the habits of a lifetime?” Or “If only I COULD start over from the beginning!”
But he didn’t simply need a second beginning: he needed a DIFFERENT beginning. Birth by the Holy Spirit.

Jesus said he must be born of water and the Spirit. Water often pictures the cleansing, life-giving power of God’s Word. Jesus told the disciples they were clean because of the word He had spoken to them. Paul said that Christ gave Himself up for the church, “to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word.”

Jesus’ words are a call to turn from sin and receive life from the Spirit. God, the Father of all who believe, gives spiritual life through His Word and the mysterious workings of the Holy Spirit.
The word flesh here is first of all the physical body, subject to weakness and death. The same word was used to describe Jesus’ coming to earth. “The Word became flesh”. But it also speaks to what a person is naturally apart from God – sinful.

Once we are born again we have a new attitude, new emotions, things in the Bible we didn’t understand before now make sense. Ones we didn’t like before we like now! 

Not only do we see the kingdom of God we become aware God has rescued us and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves. We belong to Him and commit to live joyfully with Him and for Him.

John 3:9-15 How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.
10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

With all Nicodemus’ knowledge of the Old Testament: scripture about new birth and the gift of the Holy Spirit should have been on his mind. But instead he asked, “How can this be?” And Jesus expressed amazement that “Israel’s teacher” failed to understand what Scripture plainly promised.
I’m not going to read all of them, but some of those verses would be: Isaiah 44:3-5, Jeremiah 31:31-33, Ezekiel 36:16-17 and 37:1-10. Jesus wasn’t saying anything different than what was in the Bible.
Peter, James and John were unschooled and they confessed Jesus as the Messiah the first time they talked to Him!

Yet here was a leader in Israel, privileged to study the Old Testament, who was ignorant about the Holy Spirit. He couldn’t grasp the illustration Jesus gave him.

Or could he, but didn’t want to? Jesus rebuked him because he rejected the witness of truth.
Jesus used “we” and “our testimony” probably including not only Himself and God, but also John the Baptist and anyone else who recognized who Jesus was.

And He challenged him to go beyond calling Him a “teacher sent by God” to acknowledge Jesus’ divine authority. It’s authoritative because He’s the only man who has been in heaven and come down to earth.

Then Jesus prepared Nicodemus to understand how Jesus’ death on the cross would bring salvation and eternal life. He referred to a well-know Bible story from the book of Numbers about when God brought a plague of poisonous snakes on the entire nation when they had rebelled against Him in the wilderness. In answer to their repentance and prayer, God delivered them through a symbol that pointed to Jesus’ death on the cross. God commanded Moses to make a snake of brass as a picture of the sting of sin and death. Then, a pole with the brass snake on it was lifted up. God promised to heal anyone bitten by a snake who looked up at the brass snake.

They would be healed by doing this because God told them that’s what they needed to do to be healed. Just like He tells us that our being saved from our sins is to believe Christ’s sacrifice – taking our sin on Himself – is what we need to do.

They weren’t saved because a snake was hanging on a pole, or Jesus was hanging on a cross. They were saved because they believed God when He said that it would save them.

Jesus is the only way to eternal life with God – because God said so!

John 3:16 – 17  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Out of His great love, God chose to save us. Hell is real and it takes God sacrificing His only Son to keep us from there! Jesus warned of hell more than He talked about heaven!
A lot of people today don’t take it seriously. Some even joke about hell. Or say “go to hell” to people they’re mad at. We need to take it seriously. Hell is eternal too – just like Heaven! But we don’t have to go there! Nobody HAS to. It’s an individual’s choice.

John 3:18-21 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

This passage closes with the personal responsibility each human has. We have to “believe and receive God’s gift” means deliverance from all condemnation. To choose not to believe means to live underHis condemnation.

He says that people who don’t come to Jesus don’t want their sin exposed. They don’t want Jesus to change them.

This Gospel bluntly says that when people do not come to Jesus or make time for the Bible or prayer, it’s because they are determined to continue going their own way. God calls this unbelief “darkness.”  The attitude of unbelief is seen by God as disobedience. Unbelief is the choice to refuse Jesus as Savior, Lord and God.

But these verses are full of encouragement for all people, whatever their failings, who come to Jesus. Nicodemus left the darkness and came to the light seeking answers.

This post first appeared on What I Learned Teaching Sunday School, please read the originial post: here

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John 2:23 - 3:21


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