Pericope: John 3:1-17
Focus Statment: Jesus came to bring about a change in the hearts and lives of everyone in the world; not to judge but to save.
There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a Jewish leader. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one could do these miraculous signs that you do unless God is with him.”
3 Jesus answered, “I assure you, unless someone is born anew, it’s not possible to see God’s kingdom.”
4 Nicodemus asked, “How is it possible for an adult to be born? It’s impossible to enter the mother’s womb for a second time and be born, isn’t it?”
5 Jesus answered, “I assure you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom. 6 Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Don’t be surprised that I said to you, ‘You must be born anew.’ 8 God’s Spirit[b] blows wherever it wishes. You hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. It’s the same with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
9 Nicodemus said, “How are these things possible?”
10 “Jesus answered, “You are a teacher of Israel and you don’t know these things?
11 I assure you that we speak about what we know and testify about what we have seen, but you don’t receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you about earthly things and you don’t believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has gone up to heaven except the one who came down from heaven, the Human One.[c] 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so must the Human One[d] be lifted up 15 so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life. 16 God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life. 17 God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him.
Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 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.”
3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
4 “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!”
5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit[b] gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You[c] must be born again.’ 8 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.”[d]
9 “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.[e] 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,[f] 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”[g]
16 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.
Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2 He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”
4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.[c] 7 Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You[d] must be born from above.’[e] 8 The wind[f] blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?
11 “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you[g] do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.[i]
16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
- In verses 3 and 5, we see a phrase translated three different ways. CEB, "born anew," NIV "born again," NRSV, "born from above." Which is it? As with most of these word choices, the meaning is yes, all of them. This phrase is a two word phrase.
- γεννάω ghen-nah'-o; from a variation of G1085; to procreate (properly, of the father, but by extension of the mother); figuratively, to regenerate:—bear, beget, be born, bring forth, conceive, be delivered of, gender, make, spring.
- ἄνωθεν G507; from above; by analogy, from the first; by implication, anew:—from above, again, from the beginning (very first), the top. an'-o-then; from
- In other words, I interpret this to mean that we must start life over with a new focul point; one towards Godly things. We must become a new person, more like Christ.
- In verse 13, we have another familiar phrase. CEB, "Human One," or NIV, NRSV, "Son of Man." Again, two word phrase.
- υἱός hwee-os'; apparently a primary word; a "son" (sometimes of animals), used very widely of immediate, remote or figuratively, kinship:—child, foal, son.
- ἄνθρωπος G435 and ὤψ ṓps (the countenance; from G3700); man-faced, i.e. a human being:—certain, man. anth'-ro-pos; from
- Also, 1. universally, with reference to the genus or nature, without distinction of sex, John 16:21. And in this sense a. with the article, generically, so as to include all human individuals: Matthew 4:4 ( ); Matthew 12:35 ( every good person); Matthew 15:11, 18; Mark 2:27; Mark 7:15, 18, 20; Luke 4:4; John 2:25 ( 's Grammar, § 18, 8); John 7:51; Romans 7:1, etc. :
- In other words I interpret this to be child of humanity. I think it is important to note that even though anthropos is often translated as "man," it is generally gender nutral.
- This scene takes place in Jerusalem, not long after Jesus turns the tables over at the temple. In John's gospel, Jesus turns the tables over at the beginning of the gospel, where the synoptics turn the tables over at the end.
- V. 1. Nicodemus was a Jewish leader and Pharisee.
- According to the CEB Bible Dictionary, "The Pharisees were a Jewish sect in the time of the NT; Paul was a Pharisee. The Pharisee's are repeatedly described as people who trasmit, preserve, and develop the tradition of the Instruction in the written and oral form." pg. 300
- V. 2. Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night. I have heard some suggest this is because he didn't want to be seen. I think it is interesting that Nicodemus says, "we know." Does this mean he is speaking on behalf of the other Pharisee's? I am not sure if his praise of Jesus is honest or flattery intended to get Jesus to speak honestly in the hopes of trapping him into saying something that could get him arrested.
- V. 3. Jesus says that we must be changed into something completely knew if we are ever going to enter God's kingdom. Since God is love, and God's reign is built on who God is, then our sinful, selfish, and unloving character (see 2:24-25), would need to change if we were to be compatible with the world God is in charge of.
- V. 4. Nicodemus takes Jesus' words literally and doesn't understand what Jesus is getting at.
- V. 5. Jesus trys again. But this time says born of water and Spirit. Maybe this is alluding to baptism and the manner in which we are reborn. We are not reborn through human flesh, but through the work of God's Spirit.
- V. 6. Flesh of flesh and Spirit of Spirit. Where your heart is, is where your life will follow. If you are of the flesh (of this world), then your actions will follow suit. If you are of the Spirit, then your actions will follow those of God.
- V. 8. Not sure what this means.
- VV. 9-10. Nicodemus is confused, and Jesus seems to chastise him. As a leader of the faith and keeper of tradition, Jesus believes he should know these things.
- VV. 13-15. Jesus seems to be suggesting here that he must be the one whom we look to as an example for our lives.
- V. 16. Jesus came for a specific purpose. That we will have eternal life thorugh him.
- V. 17. Judgment is not his purpose, but salvation and life.
Commentary on John 3:1-17
by: Judith Jones
Jones, Judith. “Commentary on John 3:1-17.” Working Preacher. Accessed May 22, 2018. http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3673.
- "in this encounter Jesus challenges Nicodemus to move from theory to practice, from knowledge to faith, from curiosity to commitment."
- "The narrator portrays Nicodemus as a learned man with impressive credentials, describing him not only as a Pharisee but as “a ruler of the Jews.” Jesus refers to him as “the teacher of Israel” (verse 10)."
- "By speaking in the first person plural (“Rabbi, we know…”), Nicodemus presents himself as a representative of the religious leaders."
- "Jesus seems to acknowledge Nicodemus’ representative status as well, telling him, “we testify to what we have seen; yet you (plural) do not receive our testimony” (verse 11)."
- "Lacking both courage and commitment, he has come to visit Jesus by night. Far from being a follower of Jesus, he is unwilling even to be seen with him."
- "Jesus’ response to Nicodemus’ opening statement cuts straight to the heart of the matter: no one can see God’s reign without being born again/from above (the Greek word anothen means both “again” and “from above,” and both senses are important here). Unless Nicodemus allows God to change his whole way of being in the world, he will not be able to perceive God at work."
- "God sends the Son not to condemn the world and its inhabitants, but to rescue and restore them (the Greek word translated as “save” or “saved” in John 3:17 is sozo, which means save in the sense of rescue, heal, and make whole)."
- "Like the serpent that Moses lifted up in the wilderness (see Numbers 21:4–9), Jesus will be lifted up both to expose human sinfulness and to save people from its deadly effects."
- "Like the breath of God in Genesis 2, the Spirit gives life to believers."
- "Like the wind, God’s Spirit blows wherever it wishes, and though observers may perceive its presence, they neither comprehend it nor control it. Strikingly, Jesus says that those who are born of the Spirit share in the Spirit’s mysterious freedom (John 3:8)."
- "Jesus refers to God’s gift of new life both as eternal life (John 3:15, 16) and as the kingdom of God (John 3:3, 5 -- the only occurrences in John of a term that is central to Jesus’ teaching in the Synoptic Gospels). Both phrases refer to the same reality, though they emphasize different aspects of it. Eternal life is life shaped by and utterly dependent on God’s love. It is not simply life in heaven after death. It begins now, in the moment that believers entrust their lives to Jesus. When believers receive eternal life, they enter into God’s reign in the here and now."
- "Believers are reborn into God’s new family."
- "Rebirth into God’s reign comes not by knowledge or doctrine, but by faith."
- We must experience God through action inorder tounderstand God's reign. Knowledge isn't enough.
Lent 2(A): Push Through the Pain
by Dani Scoville
Scoville, Dani. “Lent 2(A): Push Through the Pain.” Modern Metanoia. Accessed May 22, 2018. https://modernmetanoia.org/2017/02/27/lent-2a-push-through-the-pain/.
- "I used to think of being born of the Spirit as “born again” — my beginning evangelical theology where praying a prayer made the soul cross some mystical threshold from “not saved” into “saved.” A one and done kind of transformation"
- "When I think of birth, actual childbirth, I think of incredible pain and then joy, hope, and possibility of new life. Contractions and ripping, blood and piss, and then this tiny being who arrives, the epitome of beginning. So what if being born of the Spirit is something more like that? But not just one and done. In my experience, being born anew—the pain and the beginning—is an ongoing series of births: repeatedly over the years, multiple instances of ripping pain and rushes of joy, hope, and possibility."
- "My “wanting to know and understand it all right now” ego is frustrated by Jesus saying “[t]he wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Being born of the Spirit is a liminal space — something is forming, but until it bursts into the world, it remains something of a mystery."
Author: Scott Hoezee
Hoezee, Scott. “John 3:1-17.” Center for Excellence in Preaching. May 21, 2018. http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/sermon-starters/trinity-sunday-b-2/?type=the_lectionary_gospel.
- "Today people parade John 3:16 around as though it were some kind of a magic formula, the mere sight of which printed on a bedsheet and displayed at a baseball game, affixed to a car via a bumper sticker, or posted on a front yard billboard will lead to some kind of conversion"
- "The real spiritual re-birth of which Jesus spoke requires far more effort on God’s part. It requires a person to come to see the world in the upside-down terms Jesus always used when he talked about his kingdom. A person had to be re-born to the idea that humility and kindness are far more valuable than pride and brazen efforts to promote oneself, that the meek and lowly and quiet of the earth are of far more value than the bold and the lofty and the noisy of the earth."
- "Above all one had to come to the insight—and it is not an insight human logic could ever manufacture—that when God came to save this world, he did so by depositing a humble little baby into an animal’s feedbunk out on the edge of nowhere in this world."
- "Just as the Israelites had to look at a bronze image of what ailed them to get healed, so all people would have to look at a bloody instrument of execution to find eternal life."
MIXED SIGNALS: NICODEMUS IN THE FOURTH GOSPEL
by: JOUETTE M. BASSLER
Bassler, Jouette M. "Mixed signals: Nicodemus in the Fourth Gospel." Journal Of Biblical Literature 108, no. 4 (Wint 1989): 635-646. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed May 22, 2018).
- "Nicodemus is a puzzling, enigmatic figure. He appears early in the Gospel with a profession of faith on his lips (3:1-21), but he is quickly reduced to con fused silence by Jesus' surprisingly acerbic response. At his second appear ance (7:45-52) he defends Jesus before his fellow Pharisees (albeit rather tentatively) and receives from them a stinging rebuke. Finally, he appears at Jesus' tomb in the familiar but (in the Johannine context) somewhat ambiva lent company of Joseph of Arimathea, saying nothing but bearing a truly extraordinary quantity of burial spices (19:38-42)."
- "Indeed, Nicodemus's words contain a key insight that is missing from the other professions of faith: that Jesus has "come from God.""
Feasting On the Word
Bartlett, David Lyon, and Barbara Brown Taylor. Feasting On the Word. Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008-2011. http://catdir.loc.gov/catdir/toc/ecip085/2007047534.html.
David Lyon Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, Feasting On the Word, Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008-2011), 1, http://catdir.loc.gov/catdir/toc/ecip085/2007047534.html.
- "Hence Nicodemus is a complex figure who may not be reduced to a hypocritical believer or an admirer, but may rather be seen as a work in progress, on his way from being intrigued by Jesus to believing in Jesus."
- "However, the point at issue in this passage has to do with the way Nicodemus and the Sanhedrin know that Jesus is a teacher who has come from God, namely, by fitting Jesus into what they already know from their interpretation of the Law of Moses."
- "Jesus does not have his origin as teacher from Moses, but from God, for he has descended from God in order to declare what he knows of God, before he returns to God (3:11–13). Jesus therefore responds to Nicodemus by telling him that he cannot see the kingdom of God without being born again, without being born from on high."
- "Contrary to Nicodemus’s attempt to fit Jesus into his previous understanding of the world, the birth from above is beyond anyone’s control and is subject to the mysterious freedom of the Spirit. Those who think in earthly categories do not know where the lives of those born from above come from or where they go, even as Nicodemus does not see Jesus as the teacher who has come from God in order to return to."
- "The description of the new birth as “of water and Spirit” has been interpreted by the church to mean baptism. However, as Zwingli rightly pointed out, this would actually frustrate the whole point that Jesus is making, namely, that the new birth of the Spirit is not subject to human control and cannot be coordinated with the rest of what we know of this world."
- "Thus the birth from above will take place by faith in the death of the Son of Man, which is even more paradoxical than birth by the freely given wind of the Spirit. Faith receives eternal life from the death of the Son of Man, because in it is found the self-giving love of God for the world."
- "Like Nicodemus, we discover that some of our most profound understandings about life come from conversations and consultations with people we talk to “at night,” people we are often afraid to be seen associating with."
- Who are we afraid to be seen with?
- "Rebirth is a spiritual experience available to all, but perhaps most needed by religious people who might think they do not need it."
- "Christ descends from above to bring the truth from heaven to humankind. He is indeed truth incarnate. He comes to be a source of healing and salvation, much as Moses’s bronze serpent, lifted up on a pole in the wilderness (Num. 21:8–9), brings healing to anyone who looks up at it in faith. Jesus too is to be lifted up on the cross, so that whoever looks up at him in believing faith will be saved. This is no coincidence. It is in the will and purpose of the loving God who wishes all to have eternal life."
- "God’s desire in sending God’s Son is not condemnatory. Rather, it is redemptive. The whole mission and purpose of God in Christ is to rescue and recover humanity, from being deeply embedded in self-defeating pursuits in a physically absorbed life."
- "Today’s Gospel story presents Nicodemus as one who is trying to make up his mind about Jesus."
- "In John, Nicodemus comes to Jesus near the beginning of his ministry, defends him in the middle, and is with him at the end. Is this not what a disciple would do?"
- "For John, Jesus affirms that entering into God’s reign is not a manipulation of the flesh (i.e., of humans shaping forms of religious experience). It is a gift of God’s Spirit, unshaped by human hands but “blowing” where it will “from above.”"
- "In John, “eternal life” is not only a quantity of life beyond death, but a quality of life already lived out of God’s gift of love."
- "God’s intention is never to condemn but to save, that is, to make life whole. Salvation language is health language, God’s health for all the world in all of life’s relationships. That love is ever constant, but never coercive. It is invitational and hopes for a response, to complete the circle of love and share in the interconnectedness of the creating, liberating, healing Holy Trinity."
- "The kingdom of God is not some far-off goal to be attained, for there is nothing we can do to attain it. The kingdom is present now, as a gift from God. Only God can gift us, can beget us as a totally new being in a new world."