Of the Pharisees and Nicodemus, part 2
This is partially a recap of part 1, but has a lot of explanation that I didn’t include in part 1 and just really didn’t fit there. I’ve known people who tried to focus on John 3:3-5 or 3-8 but didn’t accept v 10-21 as part of Jesus’ explanation to Nicodemus of what He meant by the words “born again”. “Born again” simply means repenting of (turning away from) sin and turning to Jesus in faith.
Jesus didn’t change topics in John 3:1-21. He stayed on topic. He answered Nicodemus’s questions about being born again, leading in with something that would get Nicodemus’s attention and then teaching him what He meant. Jesus reminded Nicodemus of something he would be very familiar with in the Old Testament, the bronze serpent lifted up in the wilderness. Nicodemus would have remembered well that the bronze serpent was made to take away a curse–the people had complained and snakes came out and bit them. They were dying as a result. Sin also brought a curse of death every person’s life, and Nicodemus knew that well. Interestingly, there was a snake in the story of original sin too.
The snake brought a curse of death in the story of Moses and the bronze serpent. A bronze serpent was made like the serpents that were biting the people and it was hung on a pole that all who looked to it would be healed. Adam brought sin into the world through his disobedience, and Jesus came to earth as a man, died on the cross, that all who look to him would be healed–saved from sin and it’s curse (eternal death).
God told Moses to make a bronze serpent and put it on a staff, that whoever looked on the bronze serpent would be healed. Jesus compared His death on the cross to the bronze serpent–the people only looked to the serpent to be healed. They didn’t have to touch it or do anything else–just look to it. In the same way, we only have to look to Jesus to be saved.
Jesus explained, “unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of spirit is Spirit. Don’t be surprised that I say ‘You must be born again.'” This was a further explanation of what He’d just said, “You must be born of water and of spirit.” Water and spirit, of flesh and of God. “The wind blows where it will. People hear the sound of it, but they don’t know where it’s from or where it’s going. That’s how it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” Carnal people will not understand Christians. We don’t make sense to the world. They say save, we say give. They say look out for number one, we say love your neighbor as yourself…
Then Jesus said, “You’re a teacher of Israel, and you don’t understand this?” Jesus expected Nicodemus to understand what He was talking about. He wasn’t referring to some future event or passage of scripture yet unwritten, but to fundamentals of Old Testament teaching.
One of Jesus’ next statements reminds me of John 1:10-14. He told Nicodemus that God hadn’t sent Him to condemn/judge the world but that the world could be saved, that those who believe in Him are not condemned, but that those who don’t believe are already condemned because they don’t believe in God’s only Son, and that judgment had been passed: light came into the world, but men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. Evil-doers hate the light because their deeds are evil and they don’t want to be found out. But those who live by truth come into the light so that others will see clearly what they’ve done.