John 3:1-5


In this chapter John makes it clear that the way of salvation is not a restoration of proper temple worship,

a return to the true Jewish laws or a correct understanding of     scripture.         

Salvation requires something radical.  It must be a complete change and it cannot come from ourselves,

the earth or anything that we already possess. 

It is as radical as being created all over again.  We must be born-again.



1)      A teacher, a Pharisee, a member of the Sanhedrin

2)      The Sanhedrin was

a.       the Jewish ruling council with 70 members

b.      responsible for religious decisions

c.       responsible for civil rule under the Romans

d.      put Jesus on trial in Luke 22:66

3)      The name Nicodemus is a Greek name found among the Jews.  It means literally “conqueror of the people”                                                                                or “victor over the people”

4)      Nicodemus the Pharisee would have considered this the way of salvation:

a.       respect the Scriptures,

b.      obey the Laws of Israel,

c.       follow the traditions of the fathers

5)      Nicodemus would have been against the liberal religious/political group called the Sadducees.

a.       The Sadducees had infiltrated the ranks of the priests and so held power over the temple.

b.      Jesus’ clearing of the temple would not have upset Nicodemus since politically and religiously he probably                                                             also felt it needed to be straightened out.

6)      Nicodemus appears to be

a.       Cautious

b.      Open-minded

c.       Fair –  He asks the Sanhedrin concerning Jesus,                                               

“Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?” (John 7:50-51)

d.      Interested in learning more revelation from God

e.       Non hostile and courteous

f.        Personally interested and sincere since he came alone.  People with false motives or who desire to intimidate                                                             often travel in numbers.  (Although the use of the plural “we” may refer to disciples that would have                                                           traveled with Nicodemus.  Jesus would also most likely have had disciples with him.)

7)      Nicodemus helped bury Jesus after the disciples had fled (John 19:39)



“Night” probably indicates caution and fear of:

1)      The Sanhedrin

2)      Public Opinion

3)      Repercussions of an official teacher of the Jews from Jerusalem coming to an unofficial teacher from Galilee

But, night may have been because Jesus was surrounded during the day, Nicodemus may have had official duties, or Nicodemus                                           wanted a conversation with Jesus and not just a response to a question.


Rabbi” is a very respectful and honorable way for Nicodemus to address Jesus.

“We” may refer to disciples that would have always traveled with Nicodemus or to a group of interested Pharisees who                                                             Nicodemus was representing.  It probably does not refer to the Sanhedrin as a whole since many of the Sadducees                                                       would not have had such a non aggressive approach.

Teacher” -  Nicodemus considers Jesus a teacher and is not asking yet about him being the Messiah, although this may be                                                                         a question he would like to discuss.

From God” – Nicodemus places Jesus on the side of  God and does not openly suggest he is a false prophet or false teacher.

“Miraculous signs” – refers to events that occurred at this Passover in Jerusalem.  These must have been taken serious by many                                        since a member of the Sanhedrin has sought Jesus out.  John tells us in 21:25 that he has omitted many things in his book.                                                This would include the names, number and details of many, many signs.



Jesus cut through the small talk for a variety of reasons:

1)      This was not a conversation between one teacher and another, or words being shared    between two rabbis.                                                                 Jesus was not on the same level as Nicodemus and was not going to entertain that kind of a conversation.

2)      Jesus knew what Nicodemus had really come to talk about.

3)      Jesus knew what Nicodemus really needed to hear.

4)      Jesus was somewhat impatient with the fact that “Israel’s teacher”, Nicodemus, had to ask questions about some basic truths.

5)      Jesus wanted to make it clear that anything that Nicodemus brought to the conversation was not relevant and was not useful.                                                         The entire system that Nicodemus was trusting in and promoting was but a shadow in light of the reality that                                                   Jesus was about to introduce.


I tell you the truth” is NIV’s translation of “amen” which is itself a transliteration (amen) of the Aramaic and Hebrew word                                                    which means “to confirm” or  “to agree with”.  It is what was said when someone agreed with what they had heard                                                           spoken.  Jesus used it before he spoke important statements.  There is no Jewish parallel or example of anyone else                                                                      doing this.  It was unique with Jesus.


Born Again” is “gennaw” (gennao) and “anwqen” (anothen)

gennaw means “to be born” or “to be begotten”

  • Used mainly of men having children (Matt1:2-16)
  • More rarely of women having children
  • Speaks of conception more than physical birth
  • John 1:13, “children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”
  • Used of God giving us his nature, life at the new birth (Jn3; 1 John 2:29; 3:9; 4:7) Used for imparting spiritual life (1 Corinthians 4:15; Philemon 10)



means “from above” which refers to the heavenly world and it can also mean,    “again” and “anew”

  • Both meanings where probably intended by John (Barclay translates it as, “Unless a man is reborn from above”
  • Nicodemus must be born from above
  • Jesus is “from above” in verse 3:31
  • This is interpreted by Nicodemus as saying “again” when he asks in verse 4 about a man being born a second time.
  • Jesus adds the Spirit to Nicodemus’ understanding of “anwqen to also refer to being born (receiving life) from another higher place.
  • Luke 24:49, “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49)


see the kingdom of God” is the same as entering the kingdom of God. 

The Kingdom of God is the realm of God’s ruler ship that controls all and will eventually overtake all.