1Now there was a prominent religious leader among the Jews named Nicodemus, # 3:1 Nicodemus means “conqueror.” Here we see a distinguished and moral man speaking with Jesus. In the next chapter, we will see an immoral woman coming to know Jesus, the woman at Jacob’s well. who was part of the sect called the Pharisees. 2One night he discreetly came to Jesus and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one performs the miracle signs that you do, unless God’s power is with him.”
3Jesus answered, “Nicodemus, listen to this eternal truth: Before a person can even perceive God’s kingdom, they must first experience a rebirth.” # 3:3 The Greek word can be translated “born from above.” However, in the context Nicodemus understood it as a rebirth. The Aramaic word is clearly “born from the origin.” Nicodemus came seeking knowledge; Jesus offered him life.
4Nicodemus said, “Rebirth? How can a gray-headed man be reborn? It’s impossible for anyone to go back into the womb a second time and be reborn!”
5Jesus answered, “I speak an eternal truth: Unless you are born of water # 3:5 The pure water of the Word of God cleanses us and gives us life. See Eph. 5:25–26; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23. Some see in the water and Spirit analogy the creative beginning of Gen. 1, where God’s life-giving Spirit fluttered over the chaotic waters. New creation life comes the same way. Water and blood gushed from the side of our Lord Jesus. He was the last Adam who gave birth to his bride from his pierced side. and the Spirit, you will never enter God’s kingdom. 6For the natural realm only gives birth to things that are natural, but the spiritual realm gives birth to supernatural life!
7“You shouldn’t be amazed by my statement, # 3:7 Or “say to you all.” ‘You all must be born from above!’ # 3:7 A common poetic form of Hebraic teaching is to use a play on words, which Jesus utilizes in this poetic masterpiece with multiple words containing dual meanings. The word for “reborn” can also be translated “born from above.” 8For the Spirit-Wind blows as it chooses. You can hear its sound, # 3:8 The word for “blow” can also be translated “breathe.” The word for “sound” can be translated “voice.” And the same word for “Spirit” can also mean “wind.” If our new birth is so mysterious, how much more will be the ways of living each moment by the movement of the Holy Spirit? One can understand how confused Nicodemus was, for he took everything at face value and couldn’t see a deeper meaning. but you don’t know where it came from or where it’s going. So it is the same with those who are Spirit-born!” # 3:8 Or “The Spirit moves you as he chooses, and you hear his voice, but you don’t know where he came from or where he goes.” The Aramaic is so rich and multilayered in this passage. Perhaps it could be paraphrased as “The wind, the breath, and the Spirit are moved by mysterious moods and in their own wonderful ways. When you feel their touch and hear their voices, you know they are real, but you don’t understand how they flow and move over the earth. The same mysterious way is the way of everyone born by wind, breath, and Spirit.”
9Nicodemus replied, “I don’t understand; what do you mean? How does this happen?”
10Jesus answered, “Nicodemus, aren’t you the respected teacher in Israel, and yet you don’t understand this revelation? 11I speak eternal truths about things I know, things I’ve seen and experienced—and still you don’t accept what I reveal. 12If you’re unable to believe what I’ve told you about the natural realm, what will you do when I begin to unveil the heavenly realm? 13No one has risen into the heavenly realm except the Son of Man who also exists in heaven.” # 3:13 Jesus shared a mystery with Nicodemus. While he was on the earth ministering, Jesus was also in heaven in the spirit realm. Being in two places at the same time is also the privilege given to every believer. We are at the same time seated with Christ in the heavenly realm, but also living our life on earth to please him. This is what it means to be “in Christ.” See Eph. 2:6; Col. 3:1–5. In the realm of the Spirit, heaven and earth are one. Jesus was telling Nicodemus that only those who are seated in the heavenly realm will understand spiritual truths. See 1 Cor. 2:1–10. Most Greek manuscripts read “the Son of Man who came from heaven.” But the Aramaic is clearly “who is in heaven.”
God’s Love for Everyone
14“And just as Moses in the desert lifted up the brass replica of a venomous snake on a pole for all the people to see and be healed, # 3:14 See Num. 21:8–9. The brass snake symbolizes sin and disease. The Hebrew uses a word, seraph, which means a fiery one (fiery serpent). All of humanity has been bitten by the “snake of sin,” but Jesus was raised up on a cross for all people to see. We only need to look to him and believe, and we are healed and saved from sin. so the Son of Man is ready to be lifted up, 15so that those who truly believe in him # 3:15 The Aramaic participle can also be “believe on him” or “believe into him,” which could explain the variations found in the Greek text. will not perish but be given eternal life. 16For here is the way God loved the world—he gave his only, unique Son as a gift. # 3:16 Or “God proved he loved the world by giving his Son.” So now everyone who believes in him # 3:16 Or “believe into him.” Salvation and regeneration come only by faith. True faith (Gr. pistis) contains a number of components: acceptance, embracing something (someone) as truth, union with God and his Word, and an inner confidence that God alone is enough. will never perish but experience everlasting life.
17“God did not send his Son into the world to judge and condemn the world, but to be its Savior and rescue it! # 3:17 The Aramaic is “so that they shall live by his hand” (of power). 18So now there is no longer any condemnation for those who believe in him, but the unbeliever already lives under condemnation because they do not believe in the name of the only Son of God. # 3:18 Or “one and only Son.” 19And here is the basis for their judgment: The Light of God has now come into the world, but the people loved darkness more than the Light, because they want the darkness to conceal their evil. 20So the wicked hate the Light and try to hide from it, for the Light fully exposes their lives. 21But those who love the truth # 3:21 Or “practice the truth.” will come into the Light, for the Light will reveal that it was God who produced their fruitful works.” # 3:21 Some scholars believe that vv. 16–21 are explanatory material supplied by John, the author, rather than the words of Jesus.
John, Friend of the Bridegroom
22Then Jesus and his disciples left for a length of time into the Judean countryside where they baptized the people. 23At this time John was still baptizing people at Aenon, # 3:23 The Aramaic location is Ainyon, which in Aramaic means “the spring of doves,” or “dove’s eyes.” The Greek manuscripts have transliterated this to Aenon. near Salim, # 3:23 Or in Aramaic, Shalim, which means “to follow.” One ancient tradition refers to this location to be eight miles south of the town of Scythopolis, or Beit She’an. where there was plenty of water, and the people kept coming for John to baptize them. 24(This was before John was thrown into prison.)
25An argument started between John’s disciples and a particular Jewish man about baptism. # 3:25 Or “purification.” The implication is that the Jewish man was telling John’s disciples that Jesus’ baptism was better than John’s. 26So they went to John and asked him, “Teacher, are you aware that the One you told us about at the crossing place—he’s now baptizing crowds larger than yours. People are flocking to him!”
27John answered them, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless God bestows it. # 3:27 Or “No one of his own will can receive anything unless it comes to him from heaven.” 28You’ve heard me tell you that I am not the Messiah, but certainly I am the messenger sent ahead of him. 29He is the Bridegroom, # 3:29 See Isa. 62:5; Rev. 21:9. and the bride belongs to him. I am the friend # 3:29 Or “family member.” of the Bridegroom who stands nearby and listens with great joy to the Bridegroom’s voice. Because of his words, my joy is complete and overflows! 30It is necessary for him to increase # 3:30 The increase of Christ in v. 30 is the bride of Christ in v. 29. We are the increase of Christ as his counterpart. Just as Eve was the increase of Adam, the bride is the increase of Christ on the earth. and for me to decrease. # 3:30 Or “He is destined to become greater, and I must be pruned.” Some translations end John the Baptizer’s words here and make vv. 31–36 the words of John the apostle.
31“For the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth and speaks from the natural realm. But the One who comes from above is above everything and speaks of the highest realm of all! 32His message is about what he has seen and experienced, even though people don’t accept it. 33Yet those who embrace his message know in their hearts that it’s the truth. # 3:33 The Aramaic is “Those who accept his testimony take God’s true seal (upon them).”
34“The One whom God has sent to represent him will speak the words of God, because God has poured out upon him the fullness of the Holy Spirit without limitation. # 3:34 Or “the Spirit does not give anything in small measures.” There is some textual evidence that this verse is saying, “The Son gives the Spirit [to his people] without measure.” 35The Father loves his Son so much that he has given all things into his hands. # 3:35 The text is simply “he has given all into his hands.” The “all” can be all things, or “all authority,” but can also mean “all people.” 36Those who trust in the Son possess eternal life; those who don’t obey # 3:36 The Aramaic can be translated “those who do not cling to the Son.” the Son will not see life, and God’s anger will rise up against them.” # 3:36 As translated from the Aramaic. The Greek is “wrath rests upon them.”