We left the last time the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus where Jesus was telling Nicodemus that unless he is born from above, that is, unless he is born of water and spirit, he will not enter the kingdom of God. Seeing that Nicodemus is confused, Jesus then said to him, do not wonder for spiritual things are difficult to understand if you are still in the flesh. Flesh gives birth to flesh and spirit gives birth to spirit.
9 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?
Nicodmeus asked Jesus how these things can be. He simply was amazed or even maybe shocked at what Jesus was saying. He is probably thinking but how come I don’t know these things. How can this man be saying these things? Jesus then says to him, how can you be a teacher of Israel but you don’t know these things. Nicodemus was a member of the highest court and council in the land and also a renowned and respected teacher of the law, that is, the Old Testament. Since the New Testament was not there yet. By saying this, Jesus is saying, haven’t you read about this, haven’t you seen this in the scriptures? Jesus expects Nicodemus to have known and understood what Jesus’s was saying if he had just read the scriptures as he was supposed to. This simply shows how spiritually bankrupt Nicodemus was although he was at the forefront of the Jewish nation.
What did Jesus expect Nicodemus to understand, remember Jesus is still talking about been born of water and spirit being the requirement to enter the kingdom of God. This is what Jesus expects Nicodemus to understand. This simply means that you cannot use the New Testament to explain what Jesus was talking about here but you need to use the Old Testament. The Old Testament is what would have informed Nicodemus about being born of water and the spirit. Now, baptism as John the Baptist did it, did not exist in the Old Testament. People were circumcised and not baptized. It was never a requirement for anyone to be baptized in the Old Testament. So. Again being born of water and the spirit cannot mean baptism as it did not exist in the Old Testament and Nicodemus would not have been expected to know that. So, therefore again, being born of water and spirit refers to Ezekiel 36:24-27. This passage and others like it, should have made Nicodemus aware of what Jesus is talking about. This is why Jesus asks him if he is a teacher and yet he doesn’t understand these things.
11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you 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.
Again Jesus here uses the words truly truly, he says to Nicodemus, I am really telling you the truth, we speak of what we know and bear witness to what we have seen. Jesus uses the word “we”, who is he referring to? I believe that Jesus speaks of himself and the prophets. The prophets have not seen but they we told, therefore they know but Jesus has seen. So, Jesus is simply saying the prophets speak of what they know and I bear witness of what I have seen. Jesus continues to say but you do not recieve our testimony. The word “you” here is used in plural referring to all Jews who did not believe.
Jesus then says to Nicodemus, I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things. Remember Jesus used physical birth and the wind blowing which are of this earth as examples to try and explain to Nicodemus but he still did not understand, this is why Jesus is saying this. Jesus then continues to say, no one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven and he says that, that is the Son of God. This ties in with what Jesus said earlier that he bears witness to what he has seen.
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.
Not only does the Son of God bear witness to what he has seen, not only is the Son of God the only one who has ascended and descended from heaven but, just like Moses lifted up the serpent or snake in the wilderness, so must the Son of God be lifted up so that whoever believes in him, may have eternal life. Here Jesus is quoting Numbers 21:4-9 which talks about the time when the people of Israel were from Egypt on their way to the promised land after the law was given. We find Israelite or Jews complaining against God and Moses and saying why did they bring them out of Egypt to come and place them in the wilderness without food and water. They were also saying that they had had enough of the manna that God was giving them. God immediately send fiery serpents to them and it bit them so that they died. After this,
Numbers 21:7-9 (ESVST)
And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8 And the Lord said to Moses, “ Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.
The people had to believe that if they looked at the bronze serpent, they will be cured and live. It only makes sense that one needed to believe it first to even want to look at it. If you did not believe that by looking at a bronze serpent, you would live, why would you bother looking at it. So, it took faith to look at the bronze serpent on the pole to live. Just like our Jesus will also be put on a cross and lifted so that all who believe in him should have eternal life.
16 “ For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”