Summary: People do not begin to believe because they understand. They only begin to understand when they have believed.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony. 12 “If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 “No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man. 14 “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; 15 so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 “For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 “But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”
These verses which are the primary focus of today’s study comprise the completion of the discourse of Jesus with the leading Pharisee, Nicodemus, who has come to Him in the quiet of night to gather information about who Jesus claims to be in light of the miracles He has done and His purging of the merchandizers from the Temple earlier in the day or in that week.
SOME NOTES FROM VSS 1-10
Before we dive into verses 11 through 21 let’s make a mental note of a couple of things that stood out to me as I meditated on this third chapter of John’s Gospel.
First, I want you to notice that Jesus is patient and attentive to this man and gives him the words he needs to hear in order to come to belief. Now by that I mean a certain kind of belief and we will talk much about that later.
My point is, as we read through the Gospel narratives it is apparent in the various confrontations that are recorded for us between Jesus and the Jewish rulers; the religious leaders referred to as the Pharisees and Scribes and in some cases the Sanhedrin – which was sort of the Supreme Court of the Jews although they also were Pharisees – it is apparent, or perhaps I should say when it is apparent that they are challenging Him out of hardened unbelief and only want to find an excuse to destroy Jesus, He doesn’t really give them much time. He answers their questions according to truth rather than according to what they want to hear and He chastises their hypocrisy, but He moves on and doesn’t waste time debating issues with them.
But we’re told that Jesus sits and eats and drinks with the tax gatherers and irreligious people. That means He spent time with them. He told them about the Kingdom of God. They hung on His every word and when Jesus stood and walked they walked behind Him.
So I think it is an important thing to note that at a time Jesus could very legitimately have said, ‘You know, Nicodemus, it’s been a long and trying day and tomorrow is going to be another one and I really need some rest; why don’t you and your friends just follow Me around over the next few days as I teach in Jerusalem during the Passover celebration, and you’ll find out everything you need to know if you just listen’… instead, Jesus enters into the most rich and meaningful conversation that Nicodemus has undoubtedly ever found himself a part of in all his years as a student of Moses and a teacher of Israel.
Another thing I want you to notice – and it is really tied to the first – is that Nicodemus makes his opening statements as the one who has come to visit [That makes sense, doesn’t it? I mean, if you showed up at the home of some famous modern day theologian and sat down in his living room and just stared at him he’d probably get a little creeped out, wouldn’t he? So when you go to visit someone unannounced it’s considered polite to state the nature of your business without being asked.] then as Jesus begins to make these astounding statements that I am very certain Nicodemus did not expect, the Pharisee interjects a couple of questions that only serve to express his continued confusion, but after verse 9 we don’t hear from Nicodemus any more until late in chapter 7.