Summary: Jesus continues to speak to the skeptical Nicodemus concerning the ONLY WAY to enter or see the Kingdom of God: Sinners are born with skepticism but self dies hard unless the Spirit gives life.
Jesus Speaks to Skeptics: John 3:9-15
Almost everyone knows the difference between a believer and a skeptic, but not everyone knows the difference between an honest skeptic and a dishonest skeptic. An honest skeptic may have doubts about certain truths but who will face up to them when he is presented with evidence; he will alter his life as a result. A dishonest skeptic is one who has doubt about truths or doctrines but who will NOT face up to the evidence. So when he is blasted out of one foxhole of disbelief, he will immediately take refuge in another and after he is blasted out of that one, he will begin to look around for a third. (Taken from “John” by J.M. Boice, p. 214) Nicodemus seems to be such a man.
After Jesus has given several commanding statements to Nicodemus concerning the “ONLY WAY” to enter the Kingdom of God, being born from above, we read in John 3:9-15: “Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you (pl.) do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”
A skeptical question and an accusatory response
“How can these things be?” or “How can these things HAPPEN? Here’s how! You’re born with unbelief and sin, and only a birth from above, a birth from God, will produce saving faith, no matter who you are; your power, prestige, education, life experience, nationality, heritage or intellect will not give understanding or entrance to the Kingdom of God. Unbelief COMES easily because you already have it, but it dies hard!
Jesus replies, as He often does, with a pointed but accusatory question: “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?” No doubt, Nicodemus was an outstanding, prominent and significant teacher of Israel, since Jesus said “you are THE teacher of Israel.” Certainly Nicodemus would be expected to know the deep things of the God of Israel. Surely Nicodemus knew the promise of new life from Ezekiel 36:26 and 11:19: “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”
Surely Nicodemus had studied Jeremiah 31:33: “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
Did he not know Habakkuk 2:4? "Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by faith,” not by works. He CERTAINLY would have known about Abraham’s faith in God’s promise to save, without ever seeing it for himself. Didn’t he see that from Adam, to Noah to Abraham and certainly in the selection of Israel to be God’s chosen people that the relationship between God and man was ALWAYS initiated by God! (Other Old Testament verses alluded to the new birth as well: Isa. 29:10, Deut. 30:6, Ps. 51: 6, and Ps. 51:10. Psalm 87:4-7.)
“While Christ’s rebuke of Nicodemus was harsh, it is nothing less than a rebuke for a failure to acknowledge the utter helpless condition that ALL of humanity faces outside of Christ. The new birth was just as necessary for people in the Old Testament as it is for all people.” (C. Michael Patton, Credo House)
It is God who brings the heart to receive. It is He alone that draws the person to Himself and it is He that renews and regenerates. In this conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus’ begins His ongoing charges concerning the spiritual deadness of the Pharisees and the overall state of spiritual deadness of Israel, as well any human being apart from a birth from above.
A Dialogue turns to a monologue
In Verse 11, Jesus’ Dialogue with Nicodemus turns into a monologue as Jesus demonstrates that HE truly is the Teacher, saying, “Truly, truly, I say to you,(Amen, Amen, an absolute divine authoritative statement is about to follow!) we (pl) speak of what we (plural) know, and bear witness to what we (plural) have seen, but you do not receive our testimony.”