John 3:5-8 (CSB) 5 Jesus answered, “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be amazed that I told you that you must be born again. 8 The wind blows where it pleases, and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
John 3:14-16 (CSB) 14 “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. 16 For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
John 3 is a rich and high and glorious chapter in the Bible. It’s always an emotional read for me. John 3 is so rich that I feel inadequate dropping a few words for eternal realities we’ll enjoy for hundreds of thousands of years to come knowing fully and yet unable to sound the depths of the glories in John 3. Having said that, let’s take a glimpse at the backside of a glory or two from John 3.
We see the struggle of light against the darkness take place at night when Nicodemus comes to see the Light of the World in order to chase the darkness of unbelief away. Jesus teaches from Ezekiel 36 about being born again by the work of the Holy Spirit. Darkness fights back as Nicodemus wrestles against the darkness of a veiled intellect to understand how this new birth can actually be a reality.
Jesus gently course corrects Nicodemus so he can see that this heavenly reality has come to invade the creation cursed by sin by ensuring Nicodemus that the Son of Man knows and has come to reveal the truth of how people come into the kingdom of God.
Then Jesus teaches from Numbers 21 about how God healed the people when they were bitten by the serpents in the wilderness (let the reader remember Genesis 3 and the serpent that brought death) by looking upon the pole with a fashioned serpent that Moses was instructed to make for the people’s healing. Jesus says that like that, he must be lifted up so that everyone who looks to him can have eternal life. Jesus is looking ahead to the series of climactic events that will include his execution on a Roman cross that will bring new birth for those who would look to him and see the Light of the Word.
Israel received temporary life from the snake bites when they looked at the serpent on the pole, but when the One comes that Numbers 21 was really pointing to, he will give eternal life. Why?
Because God so loved the world! Father, Son, and Holy Spirit so loved their creatures and created order that the Son would come on THE mission to be lifted up on a cross to pay for sin so that people can look to him and be born new by the washing of the water of the Spirit of God just like God said in his Word recorded in Ezekiel 36.
Anyone who believes in Jesus, he told Nicodemus, would not be condemned, but would be a lover of light, not darkness, and be shown that it was God who was at work in the world to save the world through Jesus the Son.
The conflict between belief and unbelief, darkness and light, mere intellect and faith grounded in God’s word could not be more palpable.
We’ll see Nicodemus later in John’s gospel, and we’ll have some indication of the impact this encounter with Jesus had on him, but there is more to see as we progress through John’s account of Jesus work before we see the Resurrection.
Enjoy the journey. Take it slow. Savor it. Walk toward the cross knowing there is life on the other side, that this is the way to life, and that this is likewise the pattern of sound living after the resurrection. Boast in the cross because there, through, and after it is where we will truly taste life.
Watch this clip. It’s my absolute favorite scene from “The Chosen” in how they depict Jesus and Nicodemus in John 3.