3. Nicodemus

Jesus tells Nicodemus that a person must be born again in order to see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus misses the point because his thinking is on a material level (3:1-15).

There was a man by the name of Nicodemus who was a leader among the Jewish people. He belonged to the religious sect of the Pharisees. One night he came to Jesus and said, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one could perform the miracles that you are doing unless God were with him."

Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, unless a person is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

Nicodemus asked, "How is it possible for a person to be born when he is old? Obviously you can't enter your mother's womb and be born all over again."

"I tell you the truth," said Jesus, "a person cannot enter God's kingdom unless he is born of water and the Spirit. "Physical birth results in a physical being; spiritual birth, in a spiritual being. You should not be surprised when I say that all of you must be born again. "The Spirit is like the wind, which blows wherever it wants to. You can hear the sound it makes, and there is no way to know where it comes from or where it is going. Spiritual birth is like that."

Studying God's word

"How could all this be?" replied Nicodemus.

Jesus answered, "How is it that you, a highly respected Jewish teacher, don't understand these things? I tell you the truth, we know that what we talk about is true because we saw it ourselves. Yet you people will not accept what we say. If I speak of things of the earth and you don't believe me, how will you believe me when I talk of things of heaven?

"No one has ever gone up into heaven, but the Son of Man has come from there. As Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the desert, so also must the Son of Man be lifted up so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life."

Jesus goes on to teach that the love of God is seen in the fact that the Son was sent into the world, not to condemn but to save (3:16-21).

"This is how God loved the world: he gave his one and only Son so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life and not really die. "God did not send his Son into the world to pass judgment on it, but that it might be saved through him. "Whoever believes in the Son is not condemned. However, the person who does not believe stands condemned already, because he has refused to put his faith in God's one and only Son.

Judean desert

"Light came into the world, but rather than loving that light, people chose the cover of darkness because what they were doing was evil. "People who do evil things hate the light. They won't come near it for fear it will make clear to others what they are doing. "On the other hand, those who live by the truth come willingly to the light. That way everyone can see that what they are doing is done in partnership with God."

John the Baptist does not envy the growing impact of Jesus' ministry. Using the analogy of a Jewish wedding he acknowledges that he is merely the friend of the bridegroom (3:22-30).

After his conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus and we went out into the Judean countryside, where we stayed for a time baptizing believers.

John the Baptist had not yet been put in prison but was at Aenon, near Salim. There was plenty of water there, and John was baptizing the steady flow of people who were coming to him.

Some of John's followers got into an argument with a Jewish man about the practice of ceremonial cleansing. They came to John and asked, "Rabbi, the man you spoke about when you were east of the Jordan -- the man you said was the Lamb of God -- he is now baptizing, and people are flocking to him."

John replied, "A person plays no role in the eternal plan unless it has been assigned to him by God. You yourselves heard me say, 'I am not the Messiah,' but rather, 'I have been sent ahead of time to announce his coming.'

"In a wedding it is the bridegroom who takes the bride. The role of the bridegroom's friend is to wait and listen for his coming. When he hears the voice of the bridegroom he is overcome with joy. My joy is like that; it is absolutely complete. Jesus must become increasingly important, but I must fade away."

Headwaters of the Jordan River

Jesus is from above and speaks the words of the Father; those who believe have eternal life (3:31-36).

"The one who comes from above is above all others. The one who belongs to the earth speaks only of things of the earth. The one from heaven is above all others. He speaks about what he has actually seen and heard, yet none of you accept what he says. But whoever does accept his message has demonstrated his conviction that God is truthful. The one sent by God speaks the words of God, for God gives his own Spirit to him without measure.

"The Father loves the Son and has placed everything under his control. Everyone who puts his faith in the Son has eternal life. But no one who disobeys the Son will share in that life, but will remain subject to the wrath of God.

Modern middle-eastern wedding