What does John 3:9 mean?
ESV: Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?”
NIV: How can this be?' Nicodemus asked.
NASB: Nicodemus responded and said to Him, 'How can these things be?'
CSB: "How can these things be? " asked Nicodemus.
NLT: How are these things possible?' Nicodemus asked.
KJV: Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?
Verse Commentary:
Nicodemus is a Pharisee, and a member of the Sanhedrin court. This means he is well educated, intelligent, and very interested in moral behavior. He knows the law of Moses, and the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures very well. At the same time, Nicodemus came to Jesus looking for answers. In verse 2, he indicated that seeing miracles is what led him to believe Jesus was from God. However, as a Pharisee, his perspective is very legalistic. From Nicodemus' point of view, what Jesus is saying about "the flesh" and "the Spirit," or about being "born again" is completely upside down. What Nicodemus needs to realize is that knowledge and moral behavior aren't enough to make him right with God. As long as he thinks that he can make things right by himself, he's going to be lost. So, Jesus (lovingly) takes him down a notch or two. In verse 10, Jesus points out that even though Nicodemus is a "teacher" of Israel, his knowledge is clearly incomplete.
Verse Context:
John 2:24–3:15 describes a meeting between Jesus and a Pharisee. The last two verses of chapter two highlight the fact that Jesus knew men better than they knew themselves. Nicodemus was the ancient equivalent of a politician, priest, and professor all rolled into one. Jesus proves that this man doesn’t understand religion as well as he’d like to think. In contrast to the loud, public spectacle of clearing the temple, this encounter is a private, night-time meeting. Their actual conversation was probably longer than the brief summary recorded here.
Chapter Summary:
John chapter 3 is one of the most important in the entire gospel. Many crucial ideas are explained in this passage, including the role of Jesus as Savior. After the loud, public commotion at the temple, John transitions to a quiet, nighttime discussion. These verses make it clear that Christ—and Christ alone—is the means of salvation for the entire world. This text also states that those who reject Jesus are rejecting God.
Chapter Context:
The gospel of John is meant to prove that Jesus is God. Chapter 3 contains some of the most direct, most important concepts in Christianity. The ideas of spiritual rebirth, and the need to believe in Christ, are reinforced by the rest of the information in this gospel. John continues to use contrast, moving from the loud and public temple cleansing to the quiet of this conversation. After Jesus injects humility into a powerful leader, chapter 4 will transition again, as Jesus gives dignity to an outcast stranger.
Book Summary:
The gospel of John was written by the disciple John, decades later than the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The author assumes that a reader is already familiar with the content of these other works. So, John presents a different perspective, with a greater emphasis on meaning. John uses seven miracles—which he calls “signs”—in order to prove that Jesus is, in fact, God incarnate. Some of the most well-known verses in all of the Bible are found here. None is more famous than the one-sentence summary of the gospel found in John 3:16.
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