-Jesus encounters a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus who was a ruler of the Jews, at night presumably due to Nicodemus’ stealth in meeting with such a controversial, but intriguing, character. The curious Pharisee started by calling Him “Rabbi (Teacher),” which was a mark of respect. Then he made a comment that was exceptional, “We know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with Him.” Nicodemus was interested in where Jesus was from, but the Christ was instead interested in talking to him about where he was going. Jesus began an ultra-important dialog on the Kingdom of God and how one enters into it. He frankly told the religious leader that truly, truly unless one was “born again” that one could not “see the Kingdom of God.” This stymied the learned man initially. He was thinking purely in the physical as he remarked, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Jesus began to teach this spiritual novice about an otherworldly birth from the Father. This is a birth from the Holy Spirit, and It blows wherever It wishes with neither understanding of where It comes from or where It is going. Everyone born of the Spirit is like this. This strange phenomenon was something that Nicodemus could not wrap his mind around. Jesus then rebukes him as a leader of Israel for NOT understanding these spiritually discerned things of the LORD. He reprimanded him for not yet receiving His witness to the facts of spiritual new life and misinterpreting heavenly things. Then He confounded this intent listener by stating, “No one has ascended into Heaven, but He (referring to Himself) who descended from Heaven, even the Son of Man.” He went on to foretell of His crucifixion comparing it to Moses lifting up the serpent in the wilderness for the typological healing of the Hebrew people (Numbers 21:4-9). Then He made a vital comment concerning whoever would believe in Him, this Messiah, as inheriting eternal life. Next comes the most critical verse of Scripture in the entire Bible, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” He continued that it was not His mission at this point to judge the world, but save the world from its deserved wrath by the Father due to sin and corruption. Jesus goes go into deep and abiding theology with Nicodemus proclaiming that the one who believes in Him is not judged, but the one who does not believe has already been judged due to distrust. Jesus then summed up man’s natural condition by confirming, “And this is the judgment, that the Light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light; for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God (John 3:1-21).” By the end, thankfully, we see Nicodemus with what appears to be a new birth spiritually as he helps Joseph of Arimathea post crucifixion (John 19:38-40).
-*Application*- The gospel is about a Person. A Person who was sent from a loving God that desires every single person on this earth to know Him and live with Him eternally in His Kingdom. He does not want us to perish, but to have life. Just like Nicodemus, Jesus does not want us to be in the dark. When we expose our evil deeds before the Father and confess them in the Name of a crucified Savior who shed His blood for us to cleanse us (Hebrews 9:14), we can come into the Light and be unified with Him forever in the land of forgiveness, restoration, and completion (Revelation 1:5). This is how life was meant to be. Accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior by simply believing. It has nothing to do with our own works of goodness (Galatians 2:16).
-Now that the author has dealt with the essentials of the new birth experience, John moves on in the narrative as Jesus and His disciples came back into the land of Judea to the east close to the Jordan River area. John the Baptist was still baptizing in Aenon, near Salim, about half way between the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee. There was much water there, and people were still coming for a baptism of repentance from their sins to this revered-prophetic man. John the Baptist had not yet been thrown in prison at this juncture, and there arose a discussion on the part of John’s disciples with a certain Jew about purification. John’s disciples approached him because many were now following after Jesus, to whom John had borne witness (John 1:19-34), and He was active in baptisms now, although it was His disciples, not Him, that were baptizing people (John 4:2). John, in a brilliant act of humility and non-competitive spirit, begins to take a back seat to the Messiah’s ministry. He credits Heaven with giving Him His success. He reminded his disciples that all along he had told them that he was NOT the Christ, but only a forerunner. He simply stated that he was like a friend of the bridegroom that greatly rejoices when he hears the voice of that anointed bridegroom. He stated matter-of-factly that his joy had been made full. Then he gives us all something to think about with this poignant and prophetic statement, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Then he declared, “He who comes from above is above all, he who is of the earth is from the earth and speaks of the earth. He who comes from Heaven is above all.” He wrangled with the distortion that even though Jesus has now borne witness to Himself, “no man receives His witness.” However, he teaches them that “He who has received His witness has set his seal to this, that God is true.” At the opportune moment, John the Baptist gives the Christ His proper credence, “For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His Hand.” The chapter ends with a beautiful mix of grace, truth, and justice as John the Baptist finishes out, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him (John 3:22-36).”
*Application*- We must decrease if Christ is to increase in our lives. It is a difficult thing to give up our natural-worldly lives, but in the end, it will be resurrected into eternal-spiritual life (1 Corinthians 15). Not only that, but Christ gives us abundant life in the here and now through His Spirit that fills the believer with His grace, fruits, and power (John 10:10). Step into the Kingdom of God and enjoy His presence forever as He overwhelms and conquers all our fears, worries, and concerns (Matthew 6:33-34, 1 Peter 5:6-7, 1 John 4:16-18).
Verses to Memorize: John 3:6, 16-19, 27, 30, 36