John 3:1-15 | Jesus and Nicodemus
Nicodemus was a Pharisee who studied the law, and he was also a teacher. John chapter 2 ended with John stating “Jesus himself knew what was in men”.
vv. 1-2 Nicodemus coming to Jesus has some connotation that he is still in the darkness and that he was afraid of people to see him with Jesus. In the Gospel of John, days and nights, dark and light are mentioned a lot and we need to notice it here.
vv. 3-6 “born again” was taken by Nicodemus as a second physical birth, where “again” in Greek could mean “above”, thus born from above. Since he could not understand Jesus explained him what he meant by born again. This means not the amendment of a part but the renewal of the whole nature – as in your mind, thoughts, and actions. The phrase 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 is it likely that it refers to baptism. The background is probably Ezekiel 25-27 where God promises, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean. … And I will give you a new heart. … And I will put my Spirit within you.” So this phrase should not taken out of context to discuss about only baptized people are saved. Although in one sense, baptism is a public display your faith in Jesus Christ, so you are showing that you are a believer (in this case, Nicodemus came during the night because he is afraid to be seen with Jesus). We really cannot judge who is saved or not, so let us not do that! Also, the focus here is the Holy Spirit because from now on Jesus is explaining about being born in Spirit. Therefore let us go to the Holy Spirit for a new kind of birth.
vv. 7-10 Wind and Spirit translate the same Greek and Hebrew words. Nicodemus should have got what Jesus is talking about by now because it was all in the Old Testament, and it was depicted well in Ezekiel.
vv. 11-15 Jesus is talking Nicodemus’ language (the OT) to help him understand here about Moses and the snake. “You” here in 11 is plural as in the Israelites and we as in the prophets and people who have gone before Jesus to proclaim repentance for the nation. Nicodemus could not understand the earthly examples and he could not possible have understood the deeper knowledge of heavenly realm and heavenly kingdom. Jesus was the only one who had gone to heaven because He is God. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man ebe lifted up” to be lifted up in John’s language is literally to be lifted up to death on the cross.
Summary – we cannot really know who Jesus is without being born of the Holy Spirit. Nicodemus would have know the Old Testament so well, but he just couldn’t understand Jesus, the Son of God. Being born again does not mean that our actions change, but our whole identity is changed. Don’t just assume that people are already saved because they talk well and speak well, and that they are beyond the Gospel. That’s why I would want every sermon to be somehow filled with the Gospel, because that is the beginning of our life and that is the only good news we can give to one another. No other message is stronger than the Son of God himself being lifted up on the shameful cross to save the humanity, who are blinded by sins.