Born from Above

1-2 There was a man of the Pharisee sect, Nicodemus, a prominent leader among the Jews. Late one night he visited Jesus and said, “Rabbi, we all know you’re a teacher straight from God. No one could do all the God-pointing, God-revealing acts you do if God weren’t in on it.”

Jesus said, “You’re absolutely right. Take it from me: Unless a person is born from above, it’s not possible to see what I’m pointing to—to God’s kingdom.”

“How can anyone,” said Nicodemus, “be born who has already been born and grown up? You can’t re-enter your mother’s womb and be born again. What are you saying with this ‘born-from-above’ talk?”

5-6 Jesus said, “You’re not listening. Let me say it again. Unless a person submits to this original creation—the ‘wind-hovering-over-the-water’ creation, the invisible moving the visible, a baptism into a new life—it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom. When you look at a baby, it’s just that: a body you can look at and touch. But the person who takes shape within is formed by something you can’t see and touch—the Spirit—and becomes a living spirit.

7-8 “So don’t be so surprised when I tell you that you have to be ‘born from above’—out of this world, so to speak. You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it’s headed next. That’s the way it is with everyone ‘born from above’ by the wind of God, the Spirit of God.”

Nicodemus asked, “What do you mean by this? How does this happen?”

10-12 Jesus said, “You’re a respected teacher of Israel and you don’t know these basics? Listen carefully. I’m speaking sober truth to you. I speak only of what I know by experience; I give witness only to what I have seen with my own eyes. There is nothing secondhand here, no hearsay. Yet instead of facing the evidence and accepting it, you procrastinate with questions. If I tell you things that are plain as the hand before your face and you don’t believe me, what use is there in telling you of things you can’t see, the things of God?

13-15 “No one has ever gone up into the presence of God except the One who came down from that Presence, the Son of Man. In the same way that Moses lifted the serpent in the desert so people could have something to see and then believe, it is necessary for the Son of Man to be lifted up—and everyone who looks up to him, trusting and expectant, will gain a real life, eternal life.

16-18 “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.

19-21 “This is the crisis we’re in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won’t come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is.”

The Bridegroom’s Friend

22-26 After this conversation, Jesus went on with his disciples into the Judean countryside and relaxed with them there. He was also baptizing. At the same time, John was baptizing over at Aenon near Salim, where water was abundant. This was before John was thrown into jail. John’s disciples got into an argument with the establishment Jews over the nature of baptism. They came to John and said, “Rabbi, you know the one who was with you on the other side of the Jordan? The one you authorized with your witness? Well, he’s now competing with us. He’s baptizing, too, and everyone’s going to him instead of us.”

27-29 John answered, “It’s not possible for a person to succeed—I’m talking about eternal success—without heaven’s help. You yourselves were there when I made it public that I was not the Messiah but simply the one sent ahead of him to get things ready. The one who gets the bride is, by definition, the bridegroom. And the bridegroom’s friend, his ‘best man’—that’s me—in place at his side where he can hear every word, is genuinely happy. How could he be jealous when he knows that the wedding is finished and the marriage is off to a good start?

29-30 “That’s why my cup is running over. This is the assigned moment for him to move into the center, while I slip off to the sidelines.

31-33 “The One who comes from above is head and shoulders over other messengers from God. The earthborn is earthbound and speaks earth language; the heavenborn is in a league of his own. He sets out the evidence of what he saw and heard in heaven. No one wants to deal with these facts. But anyone who examines this evidence will come to stake his life on this: that God himself is the truth.

34-36 “The One that God sent speaks God’s words. And don’t think he rations out the Spirit in bits and pieces. The Father loves the Son extravagantly. He turned everything over to him so he could give it away—a lavish distribution of gifts. That is why whoever accepts and trusts the Son gets in on everything, life complete and forever! And that is also why the person who avoids and distrusts the Son is in the dark and doesn’t see life. All he experiences of God is darkness, and an angry darkness at that.”

Jesus Teaches Nicodemus

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus(A) who was a member of the Jewish ruling council.(B) He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi,(C) we know(D) that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs(E) you are doing if God were not with him.”(F)

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.[a](G)

“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.(H) Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit[b] gives birth to spirit.(I) You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You[c] must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”[d](J)

“How can this be?”(K) Nicodemus asked.

10 “You are Israel’s teacher,”(L) said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know,(M) and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony.(N) 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven(O) except the one who came from heaven(P)—the Son of Man.[e](Q) 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness,(R) so the Son of Man must be lifted up,[f](S) 15 that everyone who believes(T) may have eternal life in him.”[g](U)

16 For God so loved(V) the world that he gave(W) his one and only Son,(X) that whoever believes(Y) in him shall not perish but have eternal life.(Z) 17 For God did not send his Son into the world(AA) to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.(AB) 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned,(AC) but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.(AD) 19 This is the verdict: Light(AE) has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.(AF) 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.(AG) 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

John Testifies Again About Jesus

22 After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized.(AH) 23 Now John(AI) also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were coming and being baptized. 24 (This was before John was put in prison.)(AJ) 25 An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing.(AK) 26 They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi,(AL) that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified(AM) about—look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”

27 To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. 28 You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’(AN) 29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom.(AO) The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.(AP) 30 He must become greater; I must become less.”[h]

31 The one who comes from above(AQ) is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth.(AR) The one who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He testifies to what he has seen and heard,(AS) but no one accepts his testimony.(AT) 33 Whoever has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. 34 For the one whom God has sent(AU) speaks the words of God, for God[i] gives the Spirit(AV) without limit. 35 The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands.(AW) 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life,(AX) but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.

Footnotes

  1. John 3:3 The Greek for again also means from above; also in verse 7.
  2. John 3:6 Or but spirit
  3. John 3:7 The Greek is plural.
  4. John 3:8 The Greek for Spirit is the same as that for wind.
  5. John 3:13 Some manuscripts Man, who is in heaven
  6. John 3:14 The Greek for lifted up also means exalted.
  7. John 3:15 Some interpreters end the quotation with verse 21.
  8. John 3:30 Some interpreters end the quotation with verse 36.
  9. John 3:34 Greek he

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