John 2:23 – 3:3
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall

John 2:23-24a (Holman) AWhile He was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many trusted in His name when they saw the signs He was doing. Jesus, however, would not entrust Himself to them.@

Since Jesus gathered a large following in Jerusalem itself, why didn=t He go ahead and declare Himself Messiah? Jesus did not commit Himself to them because He knew their belief was superficial. They had been awed solely by His miracles, not by His person and teachings.

Jesus commits Himself only to those who admit they need forgiveness and who believe Jesus alone can mediate that forgiveness. This crowd would have followed Christ only till He spoke of service and self-denial.

They wanted to accept Jesus on their terms. Hence, Christ had no faith in their faith.

Jesus was not looking for a large number of cheerleaders. He wanted a handful of people who would follow Him to the end.

Christ wants us to trust Him. No higher honor can be given a person than to trust him or her. This is true of our doctor, lawyer, teacher, pastor, and also of God.

John 2:24b-25 A. . . since He knew them all and because He did not need anyone to testify about man; for He Himself knew what was in man.@

How was Jesus able to perceive the true depths of the crowd=s commitment? His knowledge is universal (AHe knew them all@) and complete (Awhat was in man@).

Jesus has no second-hand information. He needs the testimony of no one. Judas was a devil from the first. Jesus knew it. Judas could deceive the twelve, but not Jesus.

He doesn=t even need information passed on to Him by Angels. They are His messengers, not His spies.

Jesus= omniscience should comfort us in reference to Satan=s accusations. Christ does not need to pay attention to what the devil says about us. Jesus knows us as we are and deals with us according to His own knowledge and mercy.

What was wrong with this crowd? They were God=s chosen people. Why did they not commit themselves fully to Christ? The answer is found in the following dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus.

John 3:1 AThere was a man from the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.@

Jesus caused quite a stir in Jerusalem with His miracles and cleansing the Temple. By cleansing the Temple, Jesus humiliated the Sadduccees, who controlled Temple affairs.

This would have excited the rival Pharisees, who had no vested interest in the Temple. Nicodemus became so enthralled with Jesus that he decided to meet with Him.

The Pharisees were an elite, close-knit religious brotherhood, never numbering more than 6000 at any given time. Admission into the order involved pledging before three witnesses you would spend all your life observing every detail of the scribal law.

Pharisees believed salvation was gained through careful observation of the Law and the traditions of the elders. Pharisees held powerful influence in Israel.

In addition to being a Pharisee, Nicodemus was a ruler, a member of the Sanhedrin. He belonged in Israel=s most prestigious religious group, the Pharisees, and was among the most elite of that selective group.

John 3:2a AThis man came to Him at night. . .@
Nicodemus did not want a public consultation. He sought a private discussion. Christ had many enemies. It would be dangerous to be seen with Him.

Each time Nicodemus is mentioned, the Bible hints at his timidity. Here he came by night. He later defended Jesus without expressing any personal interest in Him (John 7:50). Finally, he brought his offering only after Joseph of Arimathea had obtained Jesus= body from Pilate (John 19:39).

John 3:2b A. . . and said, Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher, for no one could perform these signs You do unless God were with him.@

His words sounded nice on the surface, but contained a note of Pharisaical complacency. His complimentary words could have also been used of himself. He seemed to be coming to Jesus not as a suppliant, but as an equal, as one teacher to another.

John 3:3 AJesus replied, AI assure you: Unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.@

Jesus was not fooled by the Pharisee=s whitewashed exterior. Christ cut through the preliminaries and went straight to the heart of the issue.

Jesus now proved He possessed inward knowledge of people. This was no meeting of equals.

Nicodemus had no spiritual perception. The best person Judaism could produce needed to be born again.

Nicodemus did not simply need to improve. He needed to begin. Jesus told him he had to be born again, which meant abandoning every attempt to become righteous by anything he could do for himself.

No person can precipitate their own physical birth. Likewise, entering the spiritual realm requires being born without any dependence on ourselves.

ABorn again@ is literally Abegotten from above.@ The Greek verb for begotten signified the reproductive action of the male parent. The other word was commonly used as denoting something from above (John 3:31; 19:11, James 3:15,17).

Elsewhere, this new birth is described as being caused by incorruptible seed (I Peter 1:23). The new birth is begotten by God. He provides the seed. The only thing people can do is receive it.

This was the hardest thing Jesus could ever have said to Nicodemus. It went against everything the leader believed and had been taught.

As a Pharisee, he had all kinds of wrong preconceived notions to overcome. He anticipated a new world. Jesus advocated a new heart. Jesus did not come to fight Rome. He came to fight Satan.

As a ruler, Nicodemus had all kinds of social impediments to overcome. As a man of wealth, he had all kinds of earthly affections to overcome.

People still seek to save themselves. Pharisaism refuses to die. People still revert to it in varying ways.

This is sad. We don=t need more truths or rules. We already know what we ought to do.

What we lack is a power to help us do it. This comes only through being Abegotten from above.@