Jesus’ nighttime interview with Nicodemus is one of the classic texts in Scripture. It give us much more than the great sixteenth verse — it gives us the great requirement for inclusion in God’s kingdom: spiritual rebirth. The theological term for it is “regeneration,” and it is the great need of every sinner. A good, moral life (like the one Nicodemus led) is not sufficient. What applied to Nicodemus applies to every person: “You must be born again.”
The means by which the new birth occurs is stated in verses 14-18 (one of the most potent and succinct synopses of the gospel, and a “must-memorize” passage for witnesses). God, in His great love, sent His Son into the world to be “lifted up” (v.14) like the brass serpent lifted up by Moses (see Numbers 21:4-9, whoever looked at the brass serpent in faith would live). Similarly, whoever looks to Jesus in faith will be born again, and the new life He gives them will never end. It is eternal life. To refuse to look to Jesus in faith is to stand condemned by your sins already (v.18).
Using the metaphor of “light vs. darkness” in verses 19-21, Jesus spoke to the responsibility of man in salvation. God has sent the light (Jesus) into the world, and whether a person comes to the light or remains in the darkness determines their destiny. Choosing to remain in the darkness of sin means choosing to “hate the light” and remain lost and condemned. Conversely, choosing to leave the darkness and come to the light means choosing God’s gracious offer of salvation in Christ.
When Jesus went into the Judean countryside to preach and baptize, John the Baptist was questioned about Him. John’s response revealed the depth of his understanding about Jesus. The punctuation does not indicate it, but I believe John’s statement that begins in verse 27 extends through verse 36. If that is the case, John the Baptist not only affirmed that Jesus is the “bridegroom” who had come to gather His “bride” — the ones He was beginning to baptize, the church! — but John also affirmed that Jesus will save those who believe in Him and obey Him (v.36), but will condemn those who do not.
May you be like John today, with the gospel on your lips, your eyes on Jesus, and your heart full of “complete” joy in Him (v.29). May Jesus increase as we decrease!
Note: Happy birthday to Tresa — my wife, soul-mate, and best friend!