Unless You See Signs and Wonders

John 4:43-54

“Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will never believe.”

After his conversation with the woman at the well, Jesus stayed in the Samaritan town of Sychor for another two days before continuing on his way to Galilee. The Bible doesn’t say whether Jesus performed any miracles of healing during this time with the Samaritans; instead it indicates that it was the things Jesus said, and not his deeds, which convinced them to believe in him. They themselves testified of this, telling the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

Jesus next came to the small town of Cana, in the region of Galilee. (This was the same place where he had once turned water into wine.) The Galileans also welcomed his arrival, just as the Samaritans had, but their welcome of him was mainly due to the many miracles they had seen him doing in Jerusalem when they were all there for the Passover feast.

The news that Jesus had returned to Cana quickly spread throughout the entire region and eventually reached the ears of one of Herod’s royal officials who lived in the city of Capernaum, a distance of over twenty miles away. This man had a son who was desperately ill and very close to death, so he decided he would make the journey to Cana in order to seek Jesus out and persuade him to come back with him and heal his son. Here is the account of their conversation:

When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death. “Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.” The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” “Go,” Jesus replied, “your son will live.”

The man took Jesus at his word and departed. While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “Yesterday, at one in the afternoon, the fever left him.” Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and his whole household believed.

“Unless you people see signs and wonders you will never believe.” – Jesus wasn’t just saying this about the man as an individual, but was actually lumping him in with all of the other Jewish people in the region. The Apostle Paul would later make a similar generalization when he said, “Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom.” (1 Cor 1:22) This wasn’t meant to condemn the man, however, for Jesus went ahead and healed his son anyway – and because of that one miracle, the nobleman and his entire household ended up believing in Jesus.

But why would Jesus make such a generalization about the Jews, when they were the very ones whom God had chosen to reveal his glory on earth? Because it was true, that’s why. Nicodemus, the Pharisee, articulated this same somewhat skeptical attitude when he came to Jesus and told him, “We know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” Even some of Jesus’s own disciples needed to see a sign before they could really believe. (John 2:11)

We see this pattern repeated over and over again in the gospels. Many sincere Jewish people traveled from all over to see Jesus because they truly wanted to believe in him, but they still needed a sign to complete their faith. Jesus never condemned them for this, instead, he had compassion on them – the blind received sight, the lame walked, the lepers were cleansed, the deaf heard, the dead were raised, and the good news was proclaimed to the poor. (Matthew 11:5)

This is still the case today. God in his mercy reaches out to us as we are; he understands the human heart and he does not punish us by withholding his grace when our faith is weak. If we sincerely seek him, he promises that we will find him. (Jeremiah 29:13)

The Samaritans believed in him because of his words, the Galileans believed in him because of his works, but in both cases the the end result was the same – they believed.

Open Your Eyes and Look at the Fields

John 4:28-42

“Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”

God is, and always has been, the Sower. He plants his seed in the hearts of men, and though it is his seed and his harvest, he allows us the privilege of laboring alongside him in the fields. And it truly is a privilege!

“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” quotes Paul, as he reverse engineers the process of salvation in the epistle to the Romans:

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:14-15)

The Samaritan woman was running upon her own beautiful two feet as she hastened back to the village, proclaiming to anyone who would listen, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did!” And they did come; they came in droves.

“Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together.” – The Bible tells us that many people from the village believed in Christ because of the woman’s testimony. This nameless woman had played a major part in reaping this harvest of souls, and thus she had the exquisite honor of sharing in Christ’s joy with him.

“I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” – The Holy Spirit is always at work within the hearts of those around us and he incorporates our simple acts of obedience into the process, whether we realize it or not. Sometimes, we may be helping to till the soil, at other times, we may be helping to water the plants, all the while not knowing what the final results of our labor will be. And we might never know, at least, not while we are living here on earth.

“Do you not say that it is yet four months and the harvest comes? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and see the fields, because they are already white toward harvest!” (Berean Literal Bible) – Once again, Jesus challenges his disciples to shift their attention away from the natural world to focus on the spiritual world. In the natural world, the newly sowed fields were only beginning to turn green, but in the spiritual world there was a ripe harvest ready to be gathered in.

Imagine the beautiful sight that met their eyes! Here comes the Samaritan woman, followed by a whole crowd of men and women eager to meet the one she spoke of; their flowing white garments mimicking the spectacle of a ripe barley field swaying in the midday sun. What a sharp contrast to the scene they had witnessed earlier that day when they glanced back to see their master seated at the well, weary and alone. But such is the glory of the unseen power of God at work – Seed and Sower, Water and Well – he alone is the source of all.

“Drip down, O heavens, from above, And let the clouds pour down righteousness; Let the earth open up and salvation bear fruit, And righteousness spring up with it. I, the LORD, have created it.” (Isaiah 45:8 NASB)

My Food is to Do the Will of Him Who Sent Me

John 4:27-34

“My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”

When the disciples last saw their master, he had been sitting at the well, too fatigued to go into town with them on their errand to buy food. They likely rushed through their purchases out of concern for him whom they had left behind. They didn’t know it, but during their absence something spectacular was happening back at that well. The centuries-old wall of hostility between the Jews and Samaritans was about to be breached. Soon, this region which had so long isolated itself from the truth would be set ablaze with the Gospel.

The disciples were surprised when they got back to find Jesus engaged in conversation with one of the local Samaritan women, but they didn’t bother to ask him what the two had been talking about. They were too focused on their mission of providing him with something to eat. They urged him to take some food, saying, “Rabbi, eat,” but Jesus didn’t appear to need it anymore. He told them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” And the disciples, oblivious to the fact that these words had a spiritual implication, wondered to themselves how he could have managed to get food during their absence.

I think that, at this point, they may have noticed a difference in Jesus since the last time they saw him. He was no longer weary and fatigued, but revived and refreshed. The grace of God had sustained him, just as it had when he had been in the wilderness for forty days. The disciples could not understand this for they were still thinking along natural lines, too dull to notice that something supernatural had taken place. So Jesus explained it to them further by saying, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”

Please pause here with me to reflect upon this for a moment, for this one statement defines everything that Jesus ever said or did while he was on earth. Just as he had explained to his own earthly parents so many years before, he would always and only be about the business of his heavenly Father (Luke 2:49); from the very first to the very last, it was always, “Not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) Contrary to popular belief, Jesus was not a revolutionary, he was not trying to “change the world” – his only desire was to do the will of the one who had sent him and to finish his work.

“My food is to do the will of him who sent me.” – This is such a simple statement, yet the profundity of it still lies beyond the reach of our own human comprehension. We, who are innately self-centered, cannot fathom a heart so perfectly aligned with the will of God. How foolishly presumptuous it is for us to speculate, “What would Jesus do?” How could any one of us ever know that? The only way we can hope for even a glimpse into the motivation of his sinless heart is by continuously seeking the will of our own heavenly Father and subjecting our own desires to his, up to the point where his will forms the base of our very sustenance. Because, after all, that is what Jesus would do.

I Am He

John 4:25-30

“I who speak to you am he.”

As the disciples were approaching the well on return from their errand into town, the Samaritan woman capped off her conversation with Jesus by saying, “I know that Messiah is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Jesus responded, “I who speak to you am he.”

There’s no doubt about what Jesus is claiming here. He is letting her know in no uncertain terms that he is the Messiah. Contrast this with his not-so-direct response earlier, when she asked, “Are you greater than our father, Jacob?” (John 4:12) He didn’t say it then, but the answer had become obvious by now. Yes, he is greater than Jacob. He is the God of Jacob.

Realizing that Jesus would soon be traveling on with his companions, the Samaritan woman lost no time in hastening back to the town to spread the news that Messiah had come.

Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him. (John 4:28-30)

Somehow, during her brief encounter with Christ, faith had taken hold within her heart. Let’s not make the mistake of taking her question (“Could this be the Messiah?”) as a sign that she still harbored any doubt. She did not pose that question in order for others to confirm her belief, but rather as a challenge for them to come and confirm it for themselves. And, apparantly, her argument was persuasive enough to cause a great many of the townspeople to drop whatever it was they were doing at the time and come with her.

This story of Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman stands in contrast to his earlier one with Nicodemus. With Nicodemus, he was metaphorical and indirect, but with the Samaritan woman, he was more straightforward and personal. This is because Jesus approached each person who crossed his path as a unique individual; he didn’t rely on any particular method or formula for evangelism, for he could see within their hearts and already knew whether or not they believed in him. By the time he concluded his encounter with the Samaritan woman, he knew she was able to respond in faith to the truth which he spoke boldly and plainly.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17 NASB)

In Spirit and In Truth

John 4:11-26
“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

The advent of Christ to earth signaled a time of transition within in the Kingdom of God. Things were changing – the crooked paths were being made straight, the roughs ways were being made smooth (Luke 3:5-6), the plan of redemption was unfolding. This is not to say that there were no “true” worshipers before this time, or that the genuineness of the Old Testament saints was being called into question, but rather that a new dimension of truth about God himself was about to be revealed, exemplified in the person and work of Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 1:1-3)

“God is spirit” – Within the context of their discussion about where God ought to be worshiped, Jesus reminds the Samaritan woman that God is spirit, so he is not confined to any particular place, but rather inhabits all of the heavens and the earth. Solomon, who built the first temple in Jerusalem, understood this fully. Before the work on the temple had even begun, Solomon declared:

“But who is able to build a temple for him, since the heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain him? Who then am I to build a temple for him, except as a place to burn sacrifices before him?” (2 Chronicles 2:6)

“His worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth” – In order to be clear about what is meant by the term “worship” as it is used within this passage, let’s see what Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance has to say about the Greek word, “proskuneó,” translated here as “worship”:

4352. proskuneó – From “pros” and a probable derivative of “kuon” (meaning to kiss, like a dog licking his master’s hand); to fawn or crouch to, i.e. (literally or figuratively) prostrate oneself in homage (do reverence to, adore) — worship.

However, let’s not delve too far down into the “dog and master” analogy, for Jesus did not refer to God as the Master but rather as the Father.  To worship God in this sense is to humbly show submission to someone who is inexorably higher and greater than ourselves. To worship the Father in truth, we must not only understand the truth about who and what he is, but also understand the truth about who and what we are in relationship to him.

“For they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” – So many of today’s Christian devotionals and worship songs focus on a God who is “crazy about us”; where we become the object of his adoration, rather than the other way around. But such hubris is antithetical to the very quality that God appears to value most in a person, namely humility:

“Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?” declares the Lord. “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.” (Isaiah 66:1-2)

We serve a high and holy God, whose ways are inscrutable. We cannot know everything about God, but he already knows everything about us. He knows all our weakness, all our foolishness, all our shame, all the ugly things that we don’t even know about ourselves, and the astounding thing is, he loves us anyway!

In his famous psalm of repentance, Psalm 51, David said, “You desire truth in the inward parts.” (Psalm 51:6) I think that there is something deep within the heart of man that instinctively understands this, and yearns for it as well – a desire for this raw connection with the heart of God, where we can stand with upturned faces before our heavenly Father, naked and unashamed, loving him and knowing that we are loved by him. This is only possible through Christ.

You Worship What You Do Not Know

John 4:16-22

“Woman, believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.”

The Samaritans lived in what had once been territory of the erstwhile Northern Kingdom of Israel, giving them jurisdiction over some ancient and very sacred landmarks. This helped to form their spiritual identity and fueled their assumption that, as descendants of Jacob, they were included among his beneficiaries in regards to the blessings foretold in the Torah. But they were also a very “mixed” race of people, and the sacred scriptures and religious customs they adhered to were a corruption of the teachings of Moses, mingled with the idolatrous traditions of the heathen nations included among their ancestry. So, although they observed the feasts, such as Passover, and used much of the same terminology as the Jews, they weren’t really worshipping the same God, but rather a “God” adapted to fit their own ideology.

All of this serves as a backdrop to the exchange taking place between Jesus and the Samaritan woman, and helps to explain why she would suddenly challenge him with a topic of religious controversy, just at the point when things were starting to get rather personal.

As outsiders “listening in” on this private conversation, we might assume that she just changed the subject in order to avoid talking about her deeper personal issues. But that wasn’t really the case. It wasn’t an attempt to steer the conversation away from deeper issues, it actually WAS the deeper issue; not her relationships with men, but rather her relationship with God. Who was she worshipping?

“Woman, believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.” – The phrase “believe me” is unique here, this is the only passage in scripture where Jesus uses it, and the fact that he further emphasized the phrase with “woman” lends an explicit significance to the words which follow. He was telling her that a time was coming when she, herself, would indeed worship the Father, his Father, the one and only true God.

“You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know”– Throughout Jewish history, there had always been a remnant of true believers living in the land of Judea. Enduring through the reign of one wicked king after another, persistent despite the oppression of heathen conquerors, we can see them personified in the likes of Simeon (Luke 2:25), Anna (Luke 2:36-37), Elizabeth and Zechariah (Luke 1:5-6), as well as Jesus’ own earthly parents. They all knew the God whom they worshiped – not some hybrid, semi-biblical idol concocted from their own traditions, but the true God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Creator of heaven and earth; the One who was, and is, and is to come.

“For salvation is of the Jews.” – When Jesus said this, he wasn’t speaking to a group of people, he was speaking only to her, so it was said with the intent that she would be able to understand him. As a Samaritan, she wouldn’t be familiar with the messianic prophecies of Isaiah or Jeremiah, but she would be very familiar with the messianic prophecies contained in the books of Moses, especially this one, spoken by Jacob himself:

The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his. (Genesis 49:10)

As well as this one, spoken by Baalam:

I see him, but not here and now. I perceive him, but far in the distant future. A star will rise from Jacob; a scepter will emerge from Israel. It will crush the foreheads of Moab’s people, cracking the skulls of the people of Sheth. (Numbers 24:17)

Jesus was reminding her that the promised Messiah was to come from the lineage of Judah, the people that she now referred to as “the Jews.”

Never Be Thirsty Again

John 4:9-30

“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The Lord has long been calling out to those who are spiritually thirsty, inviting them to come and drink freely of the water that only he can provide. We can see this in the Book of Isaiah when he says, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!” (Isaiah 55:1) and also in Jeremiah, where God describes himself as the “Fountain of Living Water” (Jeremiah 2:13; Jeremiah 17:13). So it’s not surprising that Jesus would extend this same invitation to the Samaritan woman at the well, knowing as he did the turmoil of her past and the unanswered questions of her heart.

The woman had been argumentative at first, protesting that Jesus didn’t have anything to draw water with, and why did he think his water was so great anyway? How could it be better than the water in her well, which had once belonged to Jacob himself? But Jesus patiently sidestepped her protests, brushing past the temporal in order to focus on the eternal – “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

She still didn’t get it, however. We can’t hear her tone of voice, but we can still discern the note of flippant skepticism within her response as she says, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” This woman is typical of so many of us who have toiled through life with our heads down, preoccupied with the immediate tasks necessary for daily survival, while inwardly our hearts yearn to worship our creator. We just don’t know how. It takes a supernatural encounter with the Lord to roust us from the stupor of our temporary existence and cause us to shift our gaze to what lies beyond.

“Go, call your husband and come back.” – This is not the hard sell tactic of a timeshare sales presentation (“both spouses required to attend”) this is the sound of Jesus drawing back the bow as he prepares to shoot an arrow straight into the painful recesses of her heart:

He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet.” (John 4:16-19)

Thunk! The arrow hit the target! We know this because she immediately says, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.” Or maybe it wasn’t so immediate. Maybe she took a moment of silent reflection before speaking again. In either case, it’s clear that she’s been jolted away from her mundane task of fetching water, for she begins to question him about spiritual things. As Jesus continues to talk with her, faith springs to life within her heart. She forgets her thirst, for she has discovered the Fountain of Living Water. Leaving her water pot behind, she rushes back into town to tell the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did; isn’t this the Christ?!”

Give Me A Drink

John 4:1-10

“Will you give me a drink?”

Some time after the Passover feast, Jesus departed from the region of Judea and began travelling through Samaria on his way back to Galilee. As he and his disciples approached the town of Sychor, they passed a well, known as “Jacob’s Well,” which was located on the outskirts of town. Jesus was weary from the uphill journey, so he stopped off to sit by the well and rest while his disciples continued on into town in order to buy food.

As Jesus sat there by the well, a Samaritan woman came by to fill her water jug. Jesus asked if she would give him a drink, but instead she gave him an argument:

“How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” (John 4:9-10 NASB)

The Jews and the Samaritans had a long history of animosity, going back to the time preceding the Babylonian exile. Like any long-standing blood feud, there were incidents perpetrated by both sides which fomented the conflict and contributed to the deep-seated hostility which already existed between them. As a result, the Samaritans despised the Jews every bit as much as the Jews despised the Samaritans.

“Will you give me a drink?” – Jesus wasn’t just using this as a conversation starter, he was genuinely tired and thirsty from his journey, and he needed a drink of water. Still, his request was an audacious one, for it meant that the woman should allow him to drink from the very same vessel from which she herself drank. (There were no Dixie cups in those days!)

“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” – The gift of God that Jesus spoke of is the gift of eternal life. (John 4:14; Romans 6:23) Jesus knew what was in this woman’s heart, and he knew that he was bringing to her the very thing that she had yearned for all her life, though she couldn’t recognize it.

Before proceeding into further study of the ensuing conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman, let us pause to reflect upon the attitude that Jesus assumed in his initial approach. Jesus did not approach her from a position of smug superiority, knowing that he held the answer to all her prayers. Instead, he approached her from a position of humility, perhaps even vulnerability, for he was physically weary, thirsty, and alone in hostile territory without the support of his companions.

What does it take to bring the message of hope to a hostile world? Let us learn from the example that Jesus provides in this conversation with the Samaritan woman. We must abandon all notions of moral superiority and allow the Holy Spirit to give us the same mind that was also in Jesus Christ, who humbled himself and took on the form of frail humanity, ultimately allowing himself to be sacrificed on a cross for the sake of all those who would one day believe in him. (Philippians 2:5-8)

The Son of Man Must Be Lifted Up

John 3:14-15

“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

Jesus is referring here to a peculiar episode which took place during the time when Moses and the Israelites were traveling en route to the promised land. The people had grown impatient, and carelessly slandered both God and Moses, complaining that they’d been rescued out of Egypt in order to die in the wilderness. They complained of having no bread or water, disparaging the very manna which God was miraculously providing to them each morning in order to sustain them. So God sent poisonous snakes out amongst them, and the snakes bit the people, causing many of them to die:

Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived. (Numbers 21:6-9)

“So the Son of Man must be lifted up…” – In this simile, Jesus compares himself not to Moses, but to the snake! Although Nicodemus may not have recognized it at the time, Jesus had just revealed to him a “heavenly thing” – indeed, this was the very reason for which Jesus had been sent into the world. That he, the Lamb of God, the one who knew no sin, would become sin for us. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Following this statement is probably one of the most well-known and oft-quoted portions of the entire Bible:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:16-18)

Some Bible translators believe that the above verses are part of Jesus’ response to Nicodemus, however given the abrupt change in style and terminology occurring in this portion of the text, we do not share that opinion. Rather, we believe that the gospel writer himself is pausing here within his narrative in order to expound upon the profound truth that Jesus had just revealed to Nicodemus.

Just like those people who had been bitten by snakes, we stand “condemned already” in our sin. But God, being rich in love and mercy, has sent his own Son in the form of sinful flesh as an offering for our sin. (Romans 8:3-4) If we will but lift our eyes up in faith and look upon the One who was sacrificed for us, we will live.

The One Who Came From Heaven

John 3:9-13

“No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man”

“How can these things be?” Nicodemus asked, still perplexed by Jesus’s assertion that no one could see the kingdom of God unless they were “born again.”  Jesus responded, “You are Israel’s teacher and do you not understand these things? Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.”

“You are Israel’s teacher and do you not understand these things?” – This is not an unfair question on the part of Jesus, for the concept of spiritual regeneration could be clearly found within the teachings of the Old Testament, such as in Ezekiel 11:19-20, Ezekiel 36:25-27, and Psalm 51:10. However, Nicodemus’s blindness to these truths was symptomatic of the mindset of the religious teachers of the day. Their focus was man-centered, emphasizing the outward behaviors of “do not eat” and “do not touch.” We can see this man-centered approach clearly in Nicodemus’s previous response to Jesus when he asked him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Surely he cannot enter his mother’s womb a second time to be born?” Notice that Nicodemus didn’t say, “How can God…?” but rather, “How can a man…” presuming that the burden of regeneration must rest on human effort.

“I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.” – “Earthly things” is not a reference to the natural phenomena of wind and water, but rather to all that takes place within the sphere of earth, including the spiritual interactions between God and men. We who are confined to this earth can have no concept of what heaven is like, for we have never been there. It is another world – a holy atmosphere where we cannot exist without undergoing a dramatic metamorphosis, such as the one described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:51-53.

“We speak of what we know and we testify to what we have seen…” – One can’t help but notice that, midway through his response, Jesus mysteriously transitions from first person to third person. Who is the “we” that he is referring to? There are actually several theories regarding this. Some believe that Jesus is referring to himself and John the Baptist, or perhaps to himself and his disciples. Others believe that he is referring to himself and all the prophets who have preceded him. Another theory is that he is speaking as a representative of the Holy Trinity. Personally, I believe that Jesus is referring to himself and John the Baptist.

In John 3:31-32 it states, “The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony.” From the context it is clear that “the one from the earth” is a reference to John the Baptist. Both he and Jesus were testifying about the very same thing, namely the Kingdom of Heaven. However, John was testifying of things he had seen and heard on earth, while Jesus was testifying of what he had seen and heard on earth and in heaven.

Jesus Christ is the only one who has come down to earth from heaven. He is the one who emptied himself of his heavenly glory and took on human form, and who humbled himself to the point of death, even death on a cross; (Philippians 2:6) and he is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. (John 1:29)