John 3

1 Nicodemus was a prominent Jewish teacher and sat on the Sanhedrin: a council of 70 men which judged the religious affairs of the Jewish nation.
2 Nicodemus may have come to Jesus at night for several reasons. He may have wished to avoid being seen with Jesus because most of the Sanhedrin already rejected Jesus' teachings. He may have wanted to avoid crowds in general so that he could have a one-on-one and in-depth conversation with Jesus. He may have wanted to ask questions that he would be embarrassed to ask otherwise. He also may have wanted to have a long conversation with Jesus, which would not have been possible on a busy street during the day.

Nicodemus acknowledges that Jesus was a spiritual teacher and was sent by God. The evidence of the miracles Jesus performed proved that God was working through Jesus, but Nicodemus had not yet concluded that Jesus was God.

3 Jesus did not wait for Nicodemus to lead up to some spiritual questions. Instead, He makes a statement that he knows will provoke questions.

In Greek, "born again" can also mean "born from above."

Note that being born again is a requirement for entering the kingdom of God. A person may have vast religious knowledge and perform many good deeds, but unless he is reborn spiritually through faith in Jesus, he can not enter God's kingdom.

4 As expected, this did prompt questions. The Scriptures do not speak clearly on this topic, yet Jesus makes this a necessary condition for entrance into the Kingdom.

In fact, the phrase is so new to Nicodemus that he completely misunderstands its meaning. He asks how it would be possible for someone to be born again physically.

5 Jesus may be alluding to Ezek 36:25-26 which speaks of cleansing and a new spirit. Physically, He might be referring to a baptism of repentance followed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is also possible that He is speaking of physical birth (alluding to amniotic fluid) followed by spiritual birth.
6 There is a definite distinction between physical and spiritual birth. Women give birth to babies into the physical world. Spiritually, we are born dead because of the sinful nature we inherited from Adam. Only God can give us a spiritual birth.
7 God is a spirit, so it should be "obvious" that we must relate to God in a spiritual way. He designed humans with the capacity to do so, but we lost that capacity when Adam sinned. It is impossible for us to relate with God in a physical manner because we are physically contaminated with sin, and our physical nature can not comprehend important spiritual matters. However, through the process of spiritual birth God makes it possible for us to relate to Him, as we ought to.
8 This is a play on words. "Spirit" can also mean "breath" or "wind." Wind is something we can not see, but we can see the affect it has. There is no "litmus test" to prove that a Christian has the Holy Spirit, but the evidence is the changed life of the individual.
9 Nicodemus does not understand what Jesus is talking about and is very frustrated.
10 Nicodemus was a spiritual leader to the Jews, yet he did not understand the basic principles of the spiritual life. Unfortunately, this is still a prevalent problem, and will lead to unexpected disaster for those involved (Mat 15:14).
11 Jesus was putting Himself in the class of prophets. God repeatedly sent prophets to Israel only to have the message misunderstood and the prophets murdered. They spoke of things they saw and heard from God, but those who should have recognized God's message did not.
12 Spiritual birth is something that can only happen to a person during their lifetime. If Nicodemus can not even understand this basic principle, then to speak of more in-depth matters would be a waste of time.

The same is still true today. Many non-Christians either can not or will not understand the basic principles of sin, repentance, and salvation. Yet, they claim they will not believe anything until the Christian can explain all kinds of deep spiritual matters. In most cases, it is better to avoid such conversations since they tend to lead to useless arguments and misunderstandings. When a person first comes to Jesus, all he needs to know is that he has sinned and needs Jesus to forgive him. After that, Jesus will be able to help him understand the other profound implications of the spiritual life.

13 Jesus was qualified to speak of heavenly things because that is where He came from.
14 Nicodemus was a Scriptural scholar, and would have recognized the allusion to Num 21:7-9.
15 People are separated from God and oppressed by sin. If God did not intervene, we would all be destroyed. However, Jesus was to be "lifted up" on the cross to die for our sins. Our faith in this will save us in the same way the Israelites of Moses' day were saved when they looked upon the serpent that Moses fashioned. They had a desperate faith that God would heal them as He had promised.
16 This is the most famous verse in the Bible because it states the essence of the Good News in one sentence.

Everyone has sinned and is doomed to eternal separation from God, His love, and everything that is good. The bad news is there is nothing we can do to pay for our sins. Our situation is hopeless. However, God loves us so much that He intervened by sending His Son, Jesus, to take the punishment of sin for us. When we believe that He has done this, God cancels our sin based on the perfect sacrifice of Jesus. The believer, once cleansed from sin, is "born again" and given the Holy Spirit as a counselor. The rest of the believer's life is a transformation process where sinful deeds and thoughts are replaced with those things that please God. The believer's body will still die, but Jesus' resurrection from the dead proves that He is able to bring people back to life and fulfill His promise of eternal life to believers.

17 All people will be resurrected on Judgement Day. Those who believe in Jesus will have eternal life with God, and nothing bad will ever happen to them again. Those who do not believe in Jesus, the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament, or figure out God's existence and purpose from creation are condemned to eternal separation from Him and all the goodness He provides.

Almost everyone agrees that the consequences of hell are terrible. Even God does not want anyone to suffer this way. This is why He sent Jesus. Only Jesus' perfect sacrifice can make up for our sins and only faith on our part can complete the saving transaction. This Salvation is available to everyone who will believe. Thus, the world has the potential to be saved.

18 Unfortunately, most people are shortsighted and choose to reject the only available opportunity to escape eternal punishment.
19 The sinful nature makes evil seem enjoyable, even when we know our actions are harmful spiritually and physically. The sin in the world can make God and His will difficult to discern. However, when God sent Jesus, He sent the clearest message possible. Those who reject Him have no excuses. The love of the sinful life is terribly shortsighted and leads to self-destruction.
20 Some people refuse to believe that their godless lives are displeasing to God (or they do not want to believe in God at all). Thus, they stay away from the message of Jesus because they do not want to be shown that their evil ways are wrong.

No one likes to be told that his actions are wrong, but the believer must overcome this "hurtful" thing to gain the ultimate prize of a perfect, eternal life with God. In the proper perspective, the humiliation caused by the recognition and confession of sin is minor in comparison to the reward that waits for those who believe in Jesus.

21 Those who want to please God will believe the Good News, repent of their sins, and allow the Holy Spirit to assist them in living the life God wants for them. The believer is no longer ashamed of his deeds because he turns from evil and does the things that please God. On Judgement Day, every believer, great and small, will be clearly distinguished from those who did not believe during their lifetime.
22 Jesus remained in this area for eight months.
23 The exact location of these two cities is undetermined. Some believe they were in Samaria (Ryrie).
24 John the Baptist was imprisoned near the end of the eight-month stay of Jesus in this area.
25 We do not know the substance of this argument.
26 We do not know how this question came about, but it may have been intended to provoke John.
27 John's ministry was given to him by God. It was not intended to be a ministry that would overshadow Jesus' ministry.
28 John knew very well that he was sent to point out the Messiah, not compete with Him.
29 The purpose of these ministries was to bring people to Jesus. Thus, John would not be upset when this happened. Instead of becoming jealous, he was made happy by the success of Jesus' ministry.
31 Since Jesus is God ministering on earth, His ministry must overshadow any ministry done by man.
32 John had been telling people this since the time he announced Jesus' identity. Yet, most people did not understand what this meant.
33 Those who do understand and follow Jesus agree with what God has determined is right.
34 People should listen to Jesus since He speaks God's words. Only those who believe in Jesus will have the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit that Jesus would later provide.
35 Within the Godhead, the Father makes the plans and Jesus sets them in motion. Jesus carried out the creation plan that the Father gave Him. Jesus would also be the focus of the salvation work for the world. At the end of time, Jesus will be given the authority to judge and rule. Thus, all things have been placed in Jesus' hands.
36 Jesus has the final say in the matter of eternal life. Those who believe in Him will be rewarded with eternal life. If a person does not believe in Him, that person will suffer God's wrath. In Jesus' eyes it will be very simple -- either one believes in Him or not.