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©Michael Player

Chapter 2:23-3:8 (ESV)

Posted on July 23, 2023  - By Chris LaBelle  

Chapter 2:23-3:8 (ESV) - Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Question to consider: Why does Nicodemus come to Jesus at night?

The religious leaders questioned the authority of Jesus after He cleared out the temple of the money changers and those selling animals for sacrifice. Jesus never performed miracles on demand as if He were some kind of magician so His response was a prophetic word concerning their crucifixion of Him, and His resurrection. However, after the area was cleansed, it would appear from John’s mention of “signs” that He taught in the temple courts and healed the sick like He did after cleansing the temple again three years later.

While many may have believed in Him when they saw the miracles, it is obvious that most of the religious leaders did not, for Nicodemus came to Jesus under the cover of darkness. Nicodemus was from among the Pharisees— this same group of religious leaders who questioned the authority of John the Baptist for baptizing Jews. I think it is important to remember that detail when considering Nicodemus’ inquiry.

John’s response to those sent by the Pharisees was that he baptized with water, but one who was coming would baptize with the Holy Spirit. Jesus had the same leaders question His authority in cleansing the temple, but Nicodemus, who had been among them, witnessed the signs and recognized that He had to have come from God in order to do them. Jesus’ response was to reiterate the testimony of John the Baptist by saying, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

I’ve heard people say that Jesus meant our physical birth when He said “born of water” with amniotic fluid representing the water. While that’s an interesting take, the ordinary way of describing physical birth in scripture is to be born of flesh. I would argue that “born of water” was a reference to baptism considering that all of the content in this book leading up to this discussion can be related back to the baptism of John and his claim that one who was coming after him would baptize by the Holy Spirit.

This also furthers the testimony of John on becoming a child of God, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13) 

The idea was also expressed by Peter to his Jewish brethren at Pentecost. After cutting them to the heart with the news that they had killed their Messiah, and that Jesus had risen from the dead and was ruling from heaven with the Father, Peter said, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)

John’s baptism was one of repentance in anticipation of the forgiveness that would come by the Messiah. Jesus was baptized to take upon Himself the sins of the people, and the baptism that Jesus gave would be for the forgiveness of sins so that someone would become a child of God and filled with His Spirit.

Nicodemus believed that the people of Israel were born into the kingdom of God simply for being the people of Israel, and Jesus corrected him by saying they must be reborn from above.


Dear heavenly Father, thank You for giving us new birth through Christ so that we may be Your children. We long for the day in which we can live with You in glory and are no longer plagued by sin and death. Amen.