JOHN 3 – Jesus shocks a very religious kind leader telling him he must be born again or he cannot see the kingdom of God. We have one of the most famous Bible verses (John 3:16) in its full (and surprising to many) context. And religious leaders try to stir up jealousy between Jesus and John the baptizer, and instead John joyfully puts all the attention on Jesus.
Jn 3:1-3 – In v 10 Jesus calls Nicodemus a key leader and Bible teacher in Israel. He’s a Pharisee (v 1), so we know he knew the Scriptures carefully and would have tried hard to apply them. So he was very moral, religious, but where many Pharisees were antagonistic to Jesus, Nicodemus shows obvious respect. I suspect Nicodemus was picturing a rabbi-to-rabbi discussion, and that Jesus might tweak his understanding in some areas of Scripture. He was clearly shocked (v 4, 9) when Jesus makes clear that Nicodemus doesn’t need an adjustment of his understanding – he must be “born again”.
Jn 3:3 – “born again” – The Greek here can mean either born AGAIN or born FROM ABOVE, and it’s clear that both of those meanings are true. Nicodemus is trying to understand what HE can do to make this happen (v 4), and Jesus is clear that he needs a miracle that only God’s Spirit can give (v 5-8).
Jn 3:5-8 – Nicodemus surely would have recognized Jesus’ language that comes from prophecies like Ezek 36:25-27. That Israel (who tended toward pride that they were the nation God chose) needed to be cleansed and given a new heart by God’s Spirit.
Jn 3:9-14 – Jesus further answers Nicodemus by reminding him of a Bible story I’m sure he had told many times, from Num 21:4-9. One of many stories where Israel complained against God and He brought judgment. This time the judgment was venomous serpents and many were dying. When they pleaded for help, God had Moses make a metal serpent and lift it up on a pole. If an Israelite was bitten, they could turn to the serpent on the pole, trusting God’s provision for their salvation, and look and live. Now Nicodemus needed to see himself as one of those sinful and helpless Israelites whose only hope was to look to the One who would be lifted up (Jesus’ prophesying His own death, resurrection and ascension) as his only hope and salvation.
Jn 3:16-18 – Note carefully the full context for the beloved John 3:16. Yes, there’s a beautiful promise of eternal life for those who look to Jesus as their salvation and hope. There’s also a clear warning that those who do NOT look to Jesus as their only hope, who are not born again / born from above (see v 3) are condemned ALREADY. And verses like Jn 3:18 (and many others – Jn 3:36 and Jn 14:6 are two more) should silence those who try to say that “it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you’re sincere.” No! God sent Jesus to be lifted up in a horrible death on the cross because Jesus is the ONLY WAY of salvation – the ONLY WAY to eternal life with God.
Jn 3:22-31 – Some Jewish leaders try to stir John the baptizer into jealousy over the success of Jesus’ ministry. In v 27, John points out that Jesus is clearly from heaven and all the people who truly receive what Jesus is saying give evidence of where God is miraculously working. This is the same truth that Jesus was teaching Nicodemus in v 5-8 – folks can only truly believe and be born again if God does a sovereign miracle in their heart through His Holy Spirit (so I’ve written “S!” by v 27 and “R” by v 18 – again, both the foundational sovereignty of God AND the responsibility of people).
Jn 3:29-30 – In my margin I’ve written: “Yes! It’s about JESUS, not me!”
Jn 3:36 – Along with Jn 3:16-18, notice both the beautiful promise and the terrifying warning. There are only two paths in the Bible: Those who trust in Jesus have eternal LIFE, those who do not have eternal WRATH from God.
Optional Psalm 50:1-15 – God is the righteous Judge (v 4, 6) of all the earth (v 1). Though He HAS been silent for a while (see v 21), the wicked wrongfully thought they would never have to answer for what they’ve done. BIG MISTAKE! God WILL bring perfect justice in His own timing. Don’t miss comparing the “devouring fire” in Ps 50:3 to Ex 24:17, Heb 12:28-29. And God BEGINS the judging with those who are supposed to be His people. They LOOK righteous on the outside, because of their continual sacrifices, but see v 9.
Ps 50:9-15 – God is NOT needy and hoping for our offerings! No, HE is the Giver / Deliverer! Ps 50:15 makes clear that our only hope is calling out to Him for salvation/rescue.
Optional Proverbs 14:5-9 – Pr 14:7 – apply to both who you physically spend time with and your media consumption. Pr 14:8 – wise self-CRITICISM instead of self-DECEPTION.