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©Kris Gerbrandt

Chapter 3:9-16 (ESV)

Posted on July 24, 2023  - By Chris LaBelle  

Chapter 3:9-16 (ESV) - Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Question to consider: Who is the “we” in Jesus’ statement, “We speak of what we know?”

Sometimes we look at the Pharisees as the villains of the New Testament as if they were willfully carrying out the plans of the devil or were intentionally cruel to the people of Israel. This can be easy to do since Jesus ultimately pronounced curses on them and told them that they were seeds of the serpent. The truth was that they held the Law in such high regard that their traditions were meant to protect people from breaking it. Outward fealty to the Law was a sign in their eyes that a person loved God. We can see this in the church today when well-meaning Christians are more concerned that people behave in a Christ-like fashion than connect to Christ Himself. The unintended consequence of an environment that focuses entirely on law-keeping is to crush a person into despair or to create a new generation of self-righteous people.

Nicodemus didn’t think he was perfect (no honest person does), but he did try his best to carry out the Law and the traditions and taught others to do the same. He believed that if a man was circumcised into the covenant of Abraham, learned God’s word, served in the synagogue and kept the high holy days, he would be blessed by God in this life and then raised up on the last day for his eternal reward.

Then John the Baptist came along and started baptizing Jews, and Jesus affirmed this and added that salvation was not a work of man but a rebirth by God through water and the Holy Spirit. If Jesus had said these things and had not performed miraculous signs, Nicodemus would have dismissed Him as a false teacher. Instead, he asked Him, “How can this be?”

Jesus was shocked that Nicodemus could know the scriptures so well, and yet didn’t see that they were all pointing to Him and His work to fulfill the Law and pay for the sins of the world. The “we” who bore witness was Jesus and John the Baptist. Both proclaimed the way of salvation with signs from God, and yet both had their authority questioned in doing so. If Nicodemus would not accept their message about sin after seeing God’s work in the miracles, He would not be able to accept Jesus’ message in regard to the kingdom of heaven. Jesus went on to state that He was the Son of God who came from heaven— sent by God to save the world from sin. As proof that the scriptures were about Him, Jesus pointed to the bronze serpent in Numbers 21. The serpent on the pole lifted up was a type and shadow of Christ lifted up on the cross.

The manner in which God loved the world was in offering up His very own Son to pay the penalty for sin so justice could be satisfied through the outpouring of God’s mercy on those who would receive it.


Dear heavenly Father, thank You for such a great mercy offered through the life of Your Son. May we continue to receive it with gratitude and live for the glory of Christ. Amen.