(Study Outline sourced from “The System Bible Study” – “The Book of Life” [Zondervan])
(9) The Interview With Nicodemus
“Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name.”
Although the Jewish leaders had great difficulty in recognizing their Messiah, many of the common people saw that Jesus was no ordinary man, they “saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed…” . Nicodemus, “a man of the Pharisees” one of the very few leaders confessed to Jesus “we know…no one could perform the miraculous signs….if God were not with him” , falling short of the actual confession that Jesus was Messiah. At this point Jesus directs the interview to the real purpose of Messiah’s first advent – that of providing a way for all mankind to enter the kingdom of God by being born again of the Spirit of God – Messiah’s purpose at that time was not in setting up His earthly kingdom, but to grant admission to His heavenly kingdom. “You are Israel’s teacher….and do you not understand these things?” was Jesus’ question to Nicodemus, and the problem that Nicodemus had in understanding spiritual things is the same that many have today – before one can understand spiritual things one must be born “of the Spirit”– or be “born again” – “how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?” if you cannot understand the “earthly things” that I have spoken of, was Jesus’ question to Nicodemus . Jesus then continues to instruct Nicodemus that to enter the kingdom of heaven mankind must be partakers of “eternal life” and gives the illustration of Moses lifting up the snake on the pole in the desert .
“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. 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.”
“For God so loved…. that he gave his one and only Son…”– that was the Messiah in the purpose of His first advent – to be lifted up on a cross so that all mankind could see and believe in Him for the salvation of their souls and to be admitted into the heavenly kingdom; this is what it really means to be “born again” and what all people need so as to understand heavenly (spiritual) things – the Pharisees needed to understand this. The Pharisees were so concerned about the keeping of the Law and had made it so difficult for everyone to truly worship God, now Jesus simplifies the process by teaching that the demands of the Law are and will be met by the fact that God had given His one and only Son so that all mankind could “have eternal life” and escape the demand of the Law that required the death of the sinner.
“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”
The “verdict” of the Law (death) is now removed from those that believe “in the name of God’s one and only Son” – mankind prefers to hide from the light of the truth of Scripture because they prefer the satisfaction of their evil deeds. So the Pharisees should cease from putting such a burden upon the people with all their additionsto the Law, because they were the ones who were hiding from the light that the Law should have given them ; “a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.” Gal.2:16 (NIV)>
The Law does not justify, it condemns!
The New Birth
“But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.”
“But Jesus….. knew all men….. for he knew what was in a man.”– Jesus, as God, knew the intent and motives of the heart . Therefore the reason for the new birth is that – “no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” – so in response to Nicodemus’ unspoken question Jesus states “You must be born again” ; He then proceeds to indicate the method of the new birth – “unless he is born of water and the Spirit” – water as used here is a reference to purification from sin similar to the ceremonial washing required by the Law . It is therefore necessaryfor all to “be born again” . God has made a provision for all mankind to be born again and is described in 3:14-19 – “the Son of Man must be lifted up….For God so loved that he gave…Whoever believes…is not condemned”. But the verdict of the Law still stands – “whoever does not believe stands condemned already….”
(10) John’s Response To The Question Of His Disciples
“They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan– the one you testified about– well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”
John, like any other human servant of God could have become jealous of Jesus seeing that now the crowds were following Him. He replies by saying that he received only what was given him which is like the purpose of the best man at a wedding – to wait for and assist the bridegroom and be joyful when the bridegroom receives his bride.
“That joy is mine, and it is now complete” says John, because Jesus “must become greater..” and John must become less visible . John’s purpose had now been served as Jesus’ forerunner and he echoes Jesus’ words to Nicodemus, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”