Week 3 – John 3:1-21


Passage Intro

The Gospels are a lot funnier than they get credit for. Here in John 3 we have a Pharisee named Nicodemus sneaking over to Jesus under cover of night to ask him some questions. He tries to small-talk for a minute but Jesus immediately cuts to the chase, kinda like he just woke up and has no business being awake at this hour. He tells Nicodemus that he needs to be born again and Nicodemus is, understandably, confused by this on an anatomical level. And then Jesus point blank tells Nicodemus, “You’re a teacher, why don’t you understand this?”

It’s amazing that God would weave this kind of humor into a passage that reveals so much doctrine, particularly about salvation and the Holy Spirit. The Gospel of John has more material on the Holy Spirit than any other book of the Bible (especially chapters 14-16), and here we learn that the Spirit is responsible for bringing new believers into the world. Nicodemus is flabbergasted, of course, because his system of belief has to do with righteous action, sacrifices, and obedience. In his eyes, he’s in charge of remaining in God’s good graces. Instead, Jesus tells him that there is a comprehensive internal transformation that has to take place for you to be in right relationship with God, that this transformation can be described as recreation or rebirth, and that this transformation is accomplished by the Spirit of God, who moves about when and where he pleases (aside: the Greek word for wind and Spirit are the same, pneuma, so Jesus is doing some word play here).

There’s so much in this passage that it’s hard to cover all of it. Doubtless you also noticed it includes John 3:16, which we’ve all seen used in stale, tone-deaf, turn-or-burn evangelism. But it’s incredibly helpful to see that this statement occurs in the context of Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus. Jesus was explaining God’s plan for salvation and love for the world so that Nicodemus himself would have faith and by reborn by the work of the Spirit. We should see that God’s love for us is intended not to just save us from hell but to draw us close to God himself.

Questions for Discussion

• Can someone read John 3:1-21?

• What stood out to you from this passage?

• How did Jesus interact with Nicodemus here?

• How do you think Nicodemus was being challenged in his beliefs?

• What can we learn about the Spirit and salvation from this passage?

• What can this passage tell us about the way God interacts with us?