In this chapter John makes it clear that the way of salvation is not a restoration of proper temple worship,
a return to the true Jewish laws or a correct understanding of scripture.
Salvation requires something radical. It must be a complete change and it cannot come from ourselves,
the earth or anything that we already possess.
It is as radical as being created all over again. We must be born-again.
1) A teacher, a Pharisee, a member of the Sanhedrin
2) The Sanhedrin was
a. the Jewish ruling council with 70 members
b. responsible for religious decisions
c. responsible for civil rule under the Romans
d. put Jesus on trial in Luke 22:66
3) The name Nicodemus is a Greek name found among the Jews. It means literally “conqueror of the people” or “victor over the people”
4) Nicodemus the Pharisee would have considered this the way of salvation:
a. respect the Scriptures,
b. obey the Laws of Israel,
c. follow the traditions of the fathers
5) Nicodemus would have been against the liberal religious/political group called the Sadducees.
a. The Sadducees had infiltrated the ranks of the priests and so held power over the temple.
b. Jesus’ clearing of the temple would not have upset Nicodemus since politically and religiously he probably also felt it needed to be straightened out.
6) Nicodemus appears to be
c. Fair – He asks the Sanhedrin concerning Jesus,
“Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?” (John 7:50-51)
d. Interested in learning more revelation from God
e. Non hostile and courteous
f. Personally interested and sincere since he came alone. People with false motives or who desire to intimidate often travel in numbers. (Although the use of the plural “we” may refer to disciples that would have traveled with Nicodemus. Jesus would also most likely have had disciples with him.)
7) Nicodemus helped bury Jesus after the disciples had fled (John 19:39)
“Night” probably indicates caution and fear of:
1) The Sanhedrin
2) Public Opinion
Repercussions of an official teacher of the Jews
But, night may have been because Jesus was surrounded during the day, Nicodemus may have had official duties, or Nicodemus wanted a conversation with Jesus and not just a response to a question.
“Rabbi” is a very respectful and honorable way for Nicodemus to address Jesus.
“We” may refer to disciples that would have always traveled with Nicodemus or to a group of interested Pharisees who Nicodemus was representing. It probably does not refer to the Sanhedrin as a whole since many of the Sadducees would not have had such a non aggressive approach.
“Teacher” - Nicodemus considers Jesus a teacher and is not asking yet about him being the Messiah, although this may be a question he would like to discuss.
“From God” – Nicodemus places Jesus on the side of God and does not openly suggest he is a false prophet or false teacher.
– refers to events that occurred at this Passover in
Jesus cut through the small talk for a variety of reasons:
1) This was not a conversation between one teacher and another, or words being shared between two rabbis. Jesus was not on the same level as Nicodemus and was not going to entertain that kind of a conversation.
2) Jesus knew what Nicodemus had really come to talk about.
3) Jesus knew what Nicodemus really needed to hear.
Jesus was somewhat impatient with the fact that
5) Jesus wanted to make it clear that anything that Nicodemus brought to the conversation was not relevant and was not useful. The entire system that Nicodemus was trusting in and promoting was but a shadow in light of the reality that Jesus was about to introduce.
“I tell you the truth” is NIV’s translation of “amen” which is itself a transliteration (amen) of the Aramaic and Hebrew word which means “to confirm” or “to agree with”. It is what was said when someone agreed with what they had heard spoken. Jesus used it before he spoke important statements. There is no Jewish parallel or example of anyone else doing this. It was unique with Jesus.
“Born Again” is “gennaw” (gennao) and “anwqen” (anothen)
gennaw means “to be born” or “to be begotten”
means “from above” which refers to the heavenly world and it can also mean, “again” and “anew”