The Passion Translation
3 Now there was a prominent religious leader among the Jews named Nicodemus,[a] who was part of the sect called the Pharisees and a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 One night he discreetly came to Jesus and said, “Master, we know that you are a teacher from God, for no one performs the miracle signs that you do, unless God’s power is with him.”
3 Jesus answered, “Nicodemus, listen to this eternal truth: Before a person can perceive God’s kingdom realm, they must first experience a rebirth.”[b]
4 Nicodemus said, “Rebirth? How can a gray-headed man be reborn? It’s impossible for a man to go back into the womb a second time and be reborn!”
5 Jesus answered, “I speak an eternal truth: Unless you are born of water[c] and Spirit-wind, you will never enter God’s kingdom realm. 6 For the natural realm can only give birth to things that are natural, but the spiritual realm gives birth to supernatural life!
7 “You shouldn’t be amazed by my statement,[d] ‘You must be born from above!’[e] 8 For the Spirit-wind blows as it chooses. You can hear its sound,[f] but you don’t know where it came from or where it’s going. So it is within the hearts of those who are Spirit-born!”[g]
9 Then Nicodemus replied, “But I don’t understand, what do you mean? How does this happen?”
10 Jesus answered, “Nicodemus, aren’t you the respected teacher in Israel, and yet you don’t understand this revelation? 11 I speak eternal truths about things I know, things I’ve seen and experienced—and still you don’t accept what I reveal. 12 If you’re unable to understand and believe what I’ve told you about the natural realm, what will you do when I begin to unveil the heavenly realm? 13 No one has risen into the heavenly realm except the Son of Man who also exists in heaven.”[h]
God’s Love for Everyone
14 “And just as Moses in the desert lifted up the brass replica of a snake on a pole for all the people to see and be healed,[i] so the Son of Man is ready to be lifted up, 15 so that those who truly believe in him[j] will not perish but be given eternal life. 16 For this is how much God loved the world—he gave his one and only, unique Son as a gift.[k] So now everyone who believes in him[l] will never perish but experience everlasting life.
17 “God did not send his Son into the world to judge and condemn the world, but to be its Savior and rescue it![m] 18 So now there is no longer any condemnation for those who believe in him, but the unbeliever already lives under condemnation because they do not believe in the name of God’s beloved Son.[n] 19 And here is the basis for their judgment: The Light of God has now come into the world, but the hearts of people love their darkness more than the Light, because they want the darkness to conceal their evil. 20 So the wicked[o] hate the Light and try to hide from it, for their lives are fully exposed in the Light. 21 But those who love the truth[p] will come out into the Light and welcome its exposure, for the Light will reveal that their fruitful works were produced by God.”[q]
John, Friend of the Bridegroom
22 Then Jesus and his disciples went out for a length of time into the Judean countryside where they baptized the people. 23 At this time John was still baptizing people at Aenon,[r] near Salim,[s] where there was plenty of water. And the people kept coming for John to baptize them. 24 (This was before John was thrown into prison.)
25 An argument then developed between John’s disciples and a particular Jewish man about baptism.[t] 26 So they went to John and asked him, “Teacher, are you aware that the One you told us about at the crossing place—he’s now baptizing everyone with larger crowds than yours. People are flocking to him! What do you think about that?”
27 John answered them, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless God bestows it.[u] 28 You heard me tell you before that I am not the Messiah, but certainly I am the messenger sent ahead of him. 29 He is the Bridegroom,[v] and the bride belongs to him. I am the friend[w] of the Bridegroom who stands nearby and listens with great joy to the Bridegroom’s voice. And because of his words my joy is complete and overflows! 30 So it’s necessary for him to increase[x] and for me to be diminished.[y]
31 “For the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth and speaks from the natural realm. But the One who comes from above is above everything and speaks of the highest realm of all! 32 His message is about what he has seen and experienced, even though people don’t accept it. 33 Yet those who embrace his message know in their hearts that it’s the truth.[z]
34 “The One whom God has sent to represent him will speak the words of God, for God has poured out upon him the fullness of the Holy Spirit without limitation.[aa] 35 The Father loves his Son so much that all things have been given into his hands.[ab] 36 Those who trust in the Son possess eternal life; but those who don’t obey[ac] the Son will not see life, and God’s anger will rise up against them.”[ad]
- John 3:1 Nicodemus means “conqueror.” Here we see a distinguished and moral man speaking with Jesus. In the next chapter we will see an immoral woman coming to know Jesus, the woman at Jacob’s well.
- John 3:3 The Greek word can be translated “born from above.” It is clear in the context that Nicodemus understood it as a rebirth. The Aramaic word is clearly “born from the origin.” The implication is that you must be born again like Adam was born by the direct breath of God. Nicodemus came seeking knowledge; Jesus offered him life.
- John 3:5 This is the water of the Word of God that cleanses and gives us life. See Eph. 5:25-26; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23. Some see in the water and Spirit analogy the creative beginning of Gen. 1, where God’s Spirit fluttered over the chaotic waters. New creation life comes the same way. It was water and blood that came from the side of our Lord Jesus. He was the last Adam giving birth to his bride from his pierced side.
- John 3:7 Or “say to you all.”
- John 3:7 A common poetic form of Hebraic teaching is to use a play on words, which Jesus utilizes in this poetic masterpiece with multiple words containing dual meanings. The word reborn can also be translated “born from above.”
- John 3:8 The word for blow can also be translated “breathe.” The word sound can be translated “voice.” And the same word for Spirit can also mean “wind.” If our new birth is so mysterious, how much more will be the ways of living each moment by the movement of the Holy Spirit? You can then understand why Nicodemus was confused, for he took everything at face value and couldn’t see a deeper meaning.
- John 3:8 Or “The Spirit moves you as he chooses, and you hear his voice, but you don’t know where he came from or where he goes.” The Aramaic is so rich and multilayered in this passage. Perhaps it could be paraphrased as, “The wind, the breath, and the Spirit are moved by mysterious moods and in their own wonderful ways. When you feel their touch and hear their voices you know they are real, but you don’t understand how they flow and move over the earth. In this same mysterious way so is the way of everyone who is born by wind, breath, and Spirit.”
- John 3:13 Jesus shares a mystery with Nicodemus. While he was on the earth ministering, Jesus was also in heaven in the spirit realm. Being in two places at the same time is also the privilege given to every believer. We are seated with Christ in the heavenly realm and living our earthly life to please him. This is what it means to be “in Christ.” See Eph. 2:6; Col. 3:1-5. In the realm of the Spirit, heaven and earth is one. Jesus is telling Nicodemus that only those who are seated in the heavenly realm will understand spiritual truths. See 1 Cor. 2:1-10. There are some Greek manuscripts that read “the Son of Man who came from heaven.” But the Aramaic is clearly “who is in heaven.”
- John 3:14 See Num. 21:8-9. The brass snake was an emblem of sin and disease. The Hebrew uses a word, seraph, which means a fiery one (fiery serpent). All of humanity has been bitten by the “snake of sin,” but Jesus was raised up on a cross for all people to see. We only need to look to him and believe, and we are healed and saved from sin.
- John 3:15 The Aramaic participle can also be “believe on him” or “believe into him,” which could explain the variations found in the Greek text.
- John 3:16 Or “God proved he loved the world by giving his Son.”
- John 3:16 Or “believe into him.” Salvation and regeneration must be by faith. True faith (Gr. pistis) has a number of components: acceptance, embracing something (someone) as truth, union with God and his Word, and an inner confidence that God alone is enough.
- John 3:17 The Aramaic is “so that they shall live by his hand” (of power).
- John 3:18 Or “one and only Son.”
- John 3:20 The Aramaic is “those who do hateful things.”
- John 3:21 Or “practice the truth.”
- John 3:21 Some scholars believe that vv. 16–21 are explanatory material supplied by John, the author, rather than the words of Jesus.
- John 3:23 The Aramaic location is Ainyon, which in Aramaic means “the spring of doves,” or “dove’s eyes.” The Greek manuscripts have transliterated this to Aenon.
- John 3:23 Or in Aramaic, Shalim, which means “to follow.” One ancient tradition refers to this location to be eight miles south of the town of Scythopolis, or Beit She’an.
- John 3:25 Or “purification.” The implication is that the Jewish man was telling John’s disciples that Jesus’ baptism was better than John’s.
- John 3:27 Or “No one of his own will can receive anything unless it comes to him from heaven.”
- John 3:29 See Isa. 62:5; Rev. 21:9.
- John 3:29 Or “family member.”
- John 3:30 The increase of Christ in v. 30 is the bride of Christ in v. 29. We are the increase of Christ as his counterpart. Just as Eve was the increase of Adam, the bride is the increase of Christ on the earth.
- John 3:30 Or “He is destined to become greater, and I must be pruned.” Some translations end John the Baptizer’s words here and make vv. 31–36 the words of John the apostle.
- John 3:33 The Aramaic is “Those who accept his testimony take God’s true seal (upon them).”
- John 3:34 Or “the Spirit does not give anything in small measures.” There is some textual evidence that this verse is saying, “The Son gives the Spirit [to his people] without measure.”
- John 3:35 The text is simply “he has given all into his hands.” The “all” can be all things, or “all authority,” but can also mean “all people.”
- John 3:36 The Aramaic can be translated “those who do not cling to the Son.”
- John 3:36 As translated from the Aramaic. The Greek is “wrath rests upon them.”