“Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews.
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.” (John 3:1 – 2)
If one went back to the Greek, as I did, one would see the connection between verse 2 and verse 3 . . .
“Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” (Verse 3)
I was not sure what the connection was between the two verses; over the years of biblical and exegetical study this passage had garnered much discussion. But how, I thought, does the passage connect from one statement to the next? Jesus is actually telling Nicodemus (at least this is my interpretation) that it is significant that he recognizes that Jesus is from God. But Nicodemus does not understand the way Jesus is phrasing the transformation that Jesus states Nicodemus under went.
“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?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (Verses 4 – 6)
We (meaning us modern Christian folk) that the Spirit of God informs us and transforms us so we can understand belief, faith, spirituality and the other components of Christianity – each person being given/gifted with their own insight.
“Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ “ (Verse 7)
Then comes the next verse, that is not as often given spot light and consideration.
“The 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.” (Verse 8)
While many people share a common belief and a common faith, allowing them to gather together to worship, study, praise & honor God – each person has their own relationship to/with God, and that relationship forms their understanding and distinct faith system. That is why it is so important to recognize and respect authentic faith, even though it may not conform to what we understand authentic faith to be.
“Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” (Verse 9)
This is the question of many good intentioned (and not so good intentioned) people – how can another Christian’s faith (or other believer in/of the Divine) look so different than my faith?
“Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?” (Verses 10)
That is the answer that I think Jesus and our Lord God gives us – you are believers in me, the Diverse, Divine, and Almighty God, and you cannot understand this and take it on faith?
“Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.” (Verses 10 – 13)
Again, only my supposition, but I think what the writer of John is trying to convey is that Jesus is really the only one who has full knowledge of the things in heaven. Then, the passage goes in a different direction and starts to speak about what Jesus’ ultimate destiny is. That Jesus, who knows all the things of heaven, will need to be made to atone for all the ways humanity has gone the wrong direction.
“And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” (Verse 15)
Here comes the famous verse, often quoted and used . . .
“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.” (Verse 16)
Even though Jesus Christ knew all, all that is on earth and in heaven, he sacrificed himself for us. And God and Christ does not hold our lack of knowledge and understanding against us.
“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.” (Verses 17)
We may not know all that there is to know, or understand all that there is to understand. But we have been found worthy of Christ’s sacrifice. Selah!