Was Nicodemus sent by Sanhedrin to investigate Christ's claims
(cp Joh 1:19)? Note "we" of v 2, "you" (plural) of v 11.
AT NIGHT: Cp Joh 3:19. But he wished to conceal, not an
evil deed from good men, but a good deed from evil men (Plummer, WGos
WE: Implied question: 'Shall not WE, the leaders of
Israel, have a part in your kingdom?'
A TEACHER WHO HAS COME FROM GOD: As Moses had been (cp
v 14n). Here, the Coming One, one common name for the Messiah -- whom the Jews
expected at any time.
IN REPLY: Jesus immediately sweeps aside all the
courtesies and gets to the fundamentals.
NO ONE: Not even a Jew! Cp Joh 1:25. (This teaching was
too difficult for Nicodemus to accept.)
AGAIN: "Anothen" always sig "from above" in John's
writings: vv 7,31; Joh 19:11,23). Otherwise, John also speaks of birth "from
God" (Joh 1:13; 1Jo 3:9; 4:7; 5:1,4,18), which is synonymous. The word anothen
is ambiguous, and can be read either way. From the Pharisee's reply it is
evident that he chose to understand "born again". There can be little doubt,
however, that the Lord was emphasizing a new birth "from above". His words about
being "born of the Spirit" surely settle that. Indeed, it is not a little
doubtful whether "anothen" means "again" in ANY NT passage. There is no missing
the meaning in some places. The seamless robe of Jesus was "woven from the top
throughout" (Joh 19:23). The veil of the temple was rent "from the top to the
bottom" (Mat 27:51). "Every good and every perfect gift is from above" (Jam
1:17; and so also in Jam 3:15,17).
Nicodemus had difficulty distinguishing between the two poss
meanings of "anothen" (v 3). He assumes it means "again", instead of "from
"Born from above" = "born of water and the Spirit". Not a
natural birth, not by will of man but of God (John 1:12,13; Jam 1:18; 1Jo 2:29;
4:7; 5:1,4). Nicodemus' 3-fold "birth": (1) here, (2) speaking up for Christ
(Joh 7:50), and (3) at last, declaring openly (Joh 19:39). Christ's 3-fold
"birth": (1) virgin birth (Luk 1:35), (2) baptism (Mat 3:17), and (3)
resurrection (Rom 1:3,4).
OF WATER: Baptism, the ritual appointed by God as the
material element in the symbolic death and new birth: Col 2:12,13; Joh
OF THE SPIRIT: (1) Moral regeneration: Tit 3:5; 1Pe
1:23-25; Gal 4:29; Rom 8:4-9. (2) Physical change from the "natural" to the
"spiritual", at the resurrection: 1Co 15:20-23, 50-54; 2Co 5:1-4; Luk 20:36; Phi
3:21; 1Jo 3:2. Or (3) putting two elements (water AND spirit) together (as
allowed by Greek construction): "born of spiritual water", in ct "born of
Cp the "marching" in the tops of the trees: 2Sa 5:24. The
Spirit breathes where it pleases, ie Holy Spirit in conception of Jesus (Luk
1:35). His words were the words of the Holy Spirit (Joh 6:63).
SO IS EVERYONE BORN OF THE SPIRIT: A "spirit" being, a
new creation in Christ, is controlled by unseen forces and considerations (2Co
4:18-5:7). Until a man is born of this unseen force, he cannot know its cause --
only its outward effect in the lives of others.
ISRAEL'S TEACHER: The title of the president of the
Sanhedrin. But Nicodemus seems later to have been demoted to a mere member (Joh
7:50-52), perhaps due to suspected allegiance to Jesus.
WE: The disciples who, by the Holy Spirit, confirm the
words of John in this Gospel.
EARTHLY THINGS: That is, manna in wilderness, brazen
HEAVENLY THINGS: THAT IS, Christ the true manna, Christ
the uplifted serpent. Our heavenly calling (Heb 3:1), by a heavenly Father (Mat
18:35), through a heavenly word (Joh 3:12), presents to us a heavenly status
(Eph 2:6), as we await a heavenly image (1Co 15:48,49), to be a heavenly
Jerusalem (Heb 12:22), in a heavenly country (Heb 11:16), within a heavenly
kingdom (2Ti 4:18). All this constitutes Christ's brethren as a heavenly people
This v is parenthetical; John is speaking: 'No man has ever
gone to heaven -- and no man will -- until the Son of man, having ascended
there, and having been in heaven, descends to the earth again" (NR 109).
GONE INTO HEAVEN: Thus the ascension here is, from this
perspective, in the future: after death and resurrection of Jesus: Eph 4:9,10;
Psa 68:18; Rom 10:6,7; Pro 30:4.
WHO CAME FROM HEAVEN: Coming down from heaven: language
of theophany = God revealing Himself. And the end of such a theophany is "going
up to heaven": cp Num 11:24,25 -- where "the Lord came down" in the person of
the Angel of the Covenant (Exo 23:20-25). Cp also Gen 11:5; 18:21; Exo 3:7,8;
19:11,18,20; 34:5; Psa 19:8; Isa 64:1.
WHO IS IN HEAVEN: Omitted in RV mg and NIV. Should be
read as John's commentary at the time Gospel was written, not as the words of
Jesus in Joh 3. Some Jewish rabbis had taught that Moses ascended to heaven, to
receive the Law (LTJM 1:387). Poss ref to Christ's literal ascent and descent,
after resurrection but before final "ascension", is implied in Joh
Cp Num 21:9n with Joh 12:32.
FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD THAT HE GAVE HIS ONE AND ONLY
SON, THAT WHOSOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM SHALL NOT PERISH BUT HAVE ETERNAL LIFE:
"It is perhaps useful to catalogue baldly the fundamental doctrines which are
all explicitly stated or else implied in John 3:16: (1) Redemption is an act of
uncaused love on God's part. The initiative is His, not the believer's. (2)
Jesus is a unique Son of God, the 'only begotten'. (3) The sacrifice of Jesus is
the means of human redemption. (4) This salvation is for all men, without any
kind of distinction; in the true sense of the term it is 'catholic'. (5)
Justification is by faith in Christ, and by no other way. (6) This justifying
faith also unites a man to Christ in baptism. (7) By contrast with the Law's
promise of 'length of days', it also brings present and everlasting future
enjoyment of 'eternal life.' (8) The only alternative for the unbelieving sinner
is ultimate oblivion. (9) In John 3: 13, 'which is' -- Gr 'ho on' -- is the
Covenant Name of God in Exo 3:14 LXX (cp Phi 2:9)" (WGos).
The greatest reason: FOR.
The greatest lover: GOD.
The greatest degree: SO LOVED.
The greatest company: THE WORLD.
The greatest act: THAT HE GAVE.
The greatest gift: HIS ONE AND ONLY SON.
The greatest opportunity: THAT WHOEVER.
The greatest requirement: BELIEVES.
The greatest attraction: IN HIM.
The greatest promise: SHALL NOT PERISH.
The greatest difference: BUT.
The greatest certainty: HAVE.
The greatest possession: ETERNAL LIFE.
G...od so loved the world that He gave His
O...ne and only
S...on, that whoever believes in him shall not
P...erish, but have
WORLD: "Kosmos" = the system of things; in this case,
esp, the Jewish "world".
A breakdown in logic is evident in the citation of John 3:20
("For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light")
to show that "the Jews, in general, were not enlightened." Does this view of the
passage really hold up? Let us assume that an acquaintance tells us, "I hate C,
and whenever I see him, I cross the street to avoid him, because he always makes
me feel uncomfortable." Would it ever occur to us that he does not know C? No!
We would conclude that he not only knows C, but that he knows enough about him
to have developed some strong opinions. "Not enlightened"? Certainly not.
"Enlightened" more than is comfortable? "Enlightened" more than he would like to
"We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the
real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light" (Plato).
Jesus left the capital, a hotbed of nationalistic fervor (Joh
2:24,25), where men desired to make him king (Joh 6:15). This was a clear answer
to the Pharisees who, like Nicodemus, proposed a working alliance with him.
AENON: Heb "ayin": fountain, or eye.
AENON NEAR SALIM: "Fountain of peace" (cp Isa
48:21,22). Near Ziklag in southeast Judah (Jos 15:32), prob near the springs of
water Caleb gave to daughter Achsah (Jdg 1:15).
ALL MEN: That is, all kinds (classes, or races) of men.
Examples of "all" prob meaning "without distinction" rather than "without
exception": Joh 1:7,9; 5:28; 8:2; 12:32; 13:35; Rom 10:13; 1Ti 2:1,2; 4:15;
5:20; 6:17; Heb 2:9.
EVERYONE IS GOING TO HIM: That is, 'How shall we know
which of you two is teaching the correct way?'
ONLY WHAT IS GIVEN HIM FROM HEAVEN: And which remains
with him (cp Joh 1:33).
THE BRIDE: See Song 2:8,10; Isa 54:5; 61:10; Jer 3:14;
Hos 2; Eph 5; Rev 19:7,8; 21:4; 1Co 6:17; Psa 45n; Mat 9:15.
JOY: Joy in fellowship: Jer 33:11.
HE MUST BECOME GREATER; I MUST BECOME LESS: There are
few harder words to say than these.
Vv 31-36: John's commentary, an extended allusion to Moses and
episode of golden calf (Exo 32): Moses, from above (Mount Sinai), receives
authority from God. Aaron, of earth, encourages apostasy. Then Moses comes down
from heaven to testify of the divine glory which he has witnessed. Thus a
contrast between the "true God" (v 33) and the idolatrous calf. "Without limit"
(v 34) is Moses' access to God. Consider also: the futility of the Aaronic
priesthood. Demands of wealth to foster a false religion. Calf = cherubim
figures, subjects of idolatrous reverence. Moses' successful intercession for
sinners. Washing away of sin by stream from the smitten rock. (WGos 100,101).
NO ONE: That is, no one who is not born of the Spirit
Note //s to Joh 1:6: God has "sent" many men who did not
preexist in heaven!
THE SPIRIT WITHOUT LIMIT: God gives more than just
enough. An allusion to Mal 3:10: not room enough! Cp copious anointing of High
Priest, in ct limited anointing of other priests (Exo 29:7,20).
IN HIS HANDS: Heb idiom for consecration of a priest:
Exo 29:9 mg.