John 3:9-13 (NIV) 9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. 10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven–the Son of Man.
On verses 9-13: Nicodemus was known as “the teacher of Israel” (v10 ESV, NKJV). Yet here Israel’s teacher is unable to understand what Jesus, the Son of Man, was saying. It shows that Jesus, the Son of God and Son of Man, had wisdom and experience that Israel’s greatest teachers could not match. Teachers like Nicodemus were mere men reaching for heaven, whereas Jesus is the one who “came from heaven” to reach for men on earth.
John 3:14-15 (NIV) 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.
On verses 14-15: Here Jesus cites an event from Numbers 21 in the Old Testament when the Israelites, led by Moses, were wandering through the desert and bitten by snakes. God told Moses to make a bronze snake and put it on a pole so that anyone who looked at the bronze would live (Numbers 21:8-9). Jesus compares himself to that bronze snake in that:
– Like the snake, Jesus would be lifted up on a pole;
– Just as the snake’s bronze colour symbolized judgment, so Jesus took on God’s judgment for us;
– Just as the dying could look at the bronze snake and live, so we who are dying spiritually can look to Jesus, believe in him and live.
This is just one of so many examples where the Old Testament foreshadows and points to what Jesus would later on do for us. So as a follower of Jesus, train yourself to read the Old Testament with New Testament eyes.
John 3:16-18 (NIV) 16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
On verses 16-18: Verse 16 is the most famous verse in the New Testament and perhaps the entire Bible, and for good reason. You will be hard-pressed to find a verse that more succinctly and memorably expresses the gospel (literally, “good news”) and the hope we have in Jesus. Verse 17 affirms Jesus’ purpose in being sent to the world the first time: not to condemn the world but to save the world through himself. It therefore becomes really simple, just as verse 18 says: believe in Jesus God’s Son and be saved and not condemned. Don’t believe in Jesus and remain condemned.
John 3:19-21 (NIV) 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”
On verses 19-21: Jesus is the “light” that “has come into the world” (v19). But as is an ongoing theme in John (see for example, John 1:5, 10), people naturally loved darkness instead of light. Thus they would choose to stay away from Jesus. Whereas our natural sinful inclination is to run away from the light who is Jesus, when we come to the light that is Jesus, that shows that God is working in our lives and that “what he has done has been done through God” (v21).
Jesus, God-man from heaven and light of the world, thank You that through faith in You we are saved and not condemned. Thank You for sacrificing Yourself on a pole, the cross, so that by looking to You I could go from death to life. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!