THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JOHN
THE PRESENTATION OF THE SON OF GOD IN JUDEA CONTINUED
You must see what great love the Father has lavished on us by letting us be called God’s children’which is what we are!
1 John 3:1a
By his divine power, he has lavished on us all the things we need for life and for true devotion, through the knowledge of him who has called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these, the greatest and priceless promises have been lavished on us, that through them you should share in the divine nature and escape the corruption rife in the world through disordered passion.
Ours is a religion of Divine Sonship. We are made partakers of the divine nature.
Pope Pius XI
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|IV. THE PRESENTATION OF THE SON OF GOD IN JUDEA||2:13-3:36|
A. Jesus cleanses the Temple –
B. Jesus witnesses to Nicodemus
C. John the Baptist witnesses concerning Jesus
Last week we discussed Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple in Jerusalem as a prophetic act, an ot in Hebrew, performed by Jesus in his promised role as “The Prophet” ofDeuteronomy 18:14-20. We also noted the connection between this act of judging the sanctity of the Temple in the casting out that which was unclean to the Creation symbolism found in Genesis chapters one and two. On the 7thday of the first Creation God presided over a wedding. Then later, when He surveyed Creation at the hour of communion between God and man and found that sin had contaminated the Eden Sanctuary and the world, God judged the ones through whom sin had entered Creation and expelled the offenders from His holy place. In the same way God the Son came to commune with man in the Temple Sanctuary and finding sin present, casts out that which is unclean from the holy place.
Jesus’ act of cleansing the Temple Sanctuary is not only symbolically reminiscent of the first expulsion of offenders out of the Sanctuary that was Eden, but His words “Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up” (2:19) prophesy His own death and resurrection. It is also significant that earlier in this passage Jesus uses the word “enclosure” [hieron], indicating the Outer Court and also called the Court of the Gentiles, but when He says “this Temple” in reference to His own body, He uses the word “naon” meaning “this Sanctuary”, the dwelling place of God. His own body of flesh is the dwelling place of God.
But there is even more symbolism in this “ot” or prophetic act that would not have been lost on those witnessing His encounter with the money lenders and animal venders and which would have deeply disturbed those who witnessed Jesus’ actions in the Temple in Jerusalem that day almost 2000 years ago. For the people of the Old Covenant the Temple was more than just a building where they came to worship the one true God. Jon Levenson, professor of Hebrew studies at Harvard and one of the leading authorities on Biblical Judaism writes in his book Sinai & Zion: The Temple is the epitome of the world, a concentrated form of its essence, a miniature of the cosmos. [Sinai & Zion page 138]. Levenson continues: The Temple on Zion is the anti-type to the cosmic archetype. The real Temple is the one to which it points, the one in “heaven,’ which cannot be distinguished sharply from its earthly manifestation. Thus, when Moses is to construct Israel’s first sanctuary, the Tabernacle in the wilderness, he does so on the basis of a glimpse of the ‘blueprint’ or ‘model’ of the heavenly shrine which he was privileged to behold upon Mount Sinai (Exodus 25:9, 40) [Sinai& Zion page 140]. Levenson explains that God’s presence in the Temple is “an aspect of his universal presence. The earthly Temple is the world in nuce; the world is the Temple in extenso.” [Sinai & Zion page 141]. In other words, the cosmos as God’s creation is His macro Temple, while the desert Tabernacle and later the Temple in Jerusalem represents the cosmos in miniature as His micro Temple. This thesis becomes obvious when you consider the 7-day period of creation. It is a mistake to spend time arguing about whether God could or would have created the cosmos in a 6-day period, resting on the 7th day. Jewish scholars have never concerned themselves with that conundrum. Instead they have always focused on the Covenant oath sworn by God to His people (to swear an oath in Hebrew is to literally “seven oneself), and on the correlation between the 6-day creation period ending in the 7th day with communion established in the Sanctuary that is Eden, and the creation of the desert Tabernacle which was a model of the heavenly Temple [Exodus 25:8-9] and the building of the replacement for the Tabernacle, the Temple in Jerusalem.
The desert Tabernacle was built in 6 days and on the 7th day God took possession of the Tabernacle [Exodus 40:43-35]; a correlation to the formation of creation. Likewise, the Temple of Jerusalem was built in 7 years. In the 8thmonth of the 7th year God took possession of the Temple in Jerusalem [1 Kings 6:38; 8:1-13], the model of the cosmos in miniature and the designated meeting place for man and God. Jesus’ attack on the Temple was to 1stcentury AD Jews an attack on God’s creation. This is why Jesus was charged with threatening the Temple in his trial before the Sanhedrin in [Matthew 26:61-62]. In essence, Jesus’ threat to destroy the Temple was a threat to destroy the world as they knew it’as indeed it was. Jesus had come to transform, to regenerate and recreate all of Creation through His sacrifice, death, burial and resurrection. With His resurrection the Temple in Jerusalem no longer had a function. Jesus is the priest of the heavenly Tabernacle [Hebrews 8:2, 5]. He is now the meeting place between God and man. When, as in Nathanael’s promised vision in John 1:51, angels will ascend and descend over the sacrificial altar of the Mass as Jesus comes to His people in the Most Holy Eucharist. His precious body has become the Temple and also, as an extension through the sacrament of holy Eucharist, our bodies have become His Temple: Christ living in us. 40 years after Jesus had regenerated creation and reestablished the New Covenant in His blood, God used the Romans to destroy the building in Jerusalem that had ceased to have function or meaning to the Covenant people but which had become a stumbling block to the Old Covenant people who resisted being called into the New Covenant in Christ.
PLAN OF THE TABERNACLE
Outside the “Tent” = profane and unclean
Tent of Meeting Outer Court = sacred and clean
- Bronze Altar of Sacrifice
- Bronze holy water basin for purification
Holy Place = sacred and clean
- L = Golden Lampstand (menorah)
- T = Golden Table containing the Bread of the Presence
- I = Golden Altar of Incense in front of the curtain separating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies (which side?)
- ___ = “curtain” separated the Outer Court from the Holy Place
Holy of Holies: = most sacred and clean
- ___”curtain” separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies
- A.C. = gold covered Ark of the Covenant covered with the gold covered Mercy Seat, the footstool of God joining heavenly and earthly liturgy
Question: In the plan of the desert Tabernacle and later the Temple in Jerusalem, notice the 3 part division: 1) the altar of sacrifice where animals are sacrificed as sin offerings, 2) the Holy Place where the 7 branch menorah is always kept burning signifying God’s presence and 3) the Holy of Holies which housed the Ark of the Covenant, God’s throne. What is symbolized in this 3-part division that is significant to New Covenant believers but was a mystery hidden from the Old Covenant people of God?
Answer: The mystery of the Holy Trinity: the altar represents God the Son who is the perfect Lamb of sacrifice, the Holy Place represents God the Holy Spirit, and the Holy of Holies, God the Father. If you look at the plan of the furniture arrangement in the desert Tabernacle, the plan suggests the shape of a cross. See Exodus 40:1-33.
In the first creation, God rested on the 7th day and judged His creation. When he found sin He cleansed His holy place and cast out the offenders. But before He cast them out He spoke to them and offered them the promise of redemption through “the Woman” and her “Seed”. Now in chapters 3 and 4 Jesus will offer that redemption and salvation to a man and a woman: Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman.
Please read John 2:23-3:8 Jesus’ Witness to Nicodemus
John 2:23-31 During his stay in Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he did, but Jesus knew all people and did not trust himself to them; he never needed evidence about anyone [man];he could tell what someone [man] had in him.” There was one [a man] of the Pharisees called Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews, who came to Jesus by night and said, ‘Rabbi, we know that you have come from God as a teacher; for no one could perform the signs that you do unless God were with him.’ *The brackets indicate the literal reading of this passage. In each case the Greek word is anthropos= man.
Many Biblical scholars consider John 3:1-21 as the first of seven major discourses that are found in the Gospel of John chapters 3-11.
Question: What does the 3-part repetition of the word “man” indicate?
Answer: It highlights human inadequacy. People saw the “signs” that gave evidence of who He was but their belief was imperfect and the repetition links those who believed imperfectly in Christ’s signs with Nicodemus [the 3rd use of the word “man”] who will exemplify the “delusion of adequacy”. The greatest barrier to faith for most intelligent and successful men is the delusion of self-sufficiency. This is Nicodemus’ weakness. The 3-part repetition also indicates that the next section is going to be of great significance
Question: What is the significance of the word “signs?”
Answer: A sign indicates more than just a supernatural event, a sign points the glory and power of God revealed in Jesus the Messiah. To the Jews the working of ‘signs’ was the mark of Jesus’ fulfilling his role as a prophet. 1Corinthians 1:22 [St. Paul]“While the Jews demand miracles [semeia = signs] and the Greeks look for wisdom, we are preaching a crucified Christ..”
a man of the Pharisees called Nicodemus: The Greek name, Nicodemus, means “people crusher” or “conqueror of the people”. This is a fitting name for a member of the sect of Pharisees whose harsh interpretation of the Law of Moses made the Law an intolerable and oppressive burden to the people [Matthew 23:1-7]. Nicodemus cannot be positively identified historically; however, there is historical evidence from independent Jewish sources that identifies two men known by that name. The Jewish historian Josephus mentions the account of a Nicodemus [Naqdimonin Hebrew] who was sent in 64BC as an ambassador from Aristobulus II of Judah to the Roman proconsul Pompey in an attempt to gain Rome’s support in the civil war against his brother [Antiquities of the Jews 14.37 ]. The Babylonian Talmud [Taanith, 20.1] mentions a man of the same family bearing the same name, one Nicodemus ben Gurion, who lived during the war with Rome in the late 60’sAD and survived until the destruction of Jerusalem. Both men called “Nicodemus” were members of the Gurion family. This family was part of the Jewish ruling class. They were Pharisees who were teachers of the Law and they were extremely wealthy. There is also a rabbinic tradition that mentions one of Jesus’ disciples as Naqqoi which is a Aramaic nickname for the Greek name Nicodemus. It is possible that the Nicodemus from this encounter with Christ is the second man named from the Gurion family. Nicodemus is mentioned three times in John’s Gospel [3:1; 7:50 and 19:39] but is not mentioned in the other Gospel accounts.
Question: What does the description of Nicodemus as a “leader of the Jews” suggest?
Answer: He was probably a member of the judicial court called the Sanhedrin. According to theAnchor Bible Dictionary our English rendering “Sanhedrin” comes from the Greek word synedrion, which literally means a “sitting down with.” This term is found in Greek literature and is one of several general words used for governing assemblies and various types of courts of law. It is in the sense of a court of law that this term is used in the New Testament and in the Jewish oral law known as the Mishnah. There appears to have been 71 members and High Priest who served as the president of the assembly of the Sanhedrin, yielding the significant number of 72 members. For the Old Covenant people this assembly was probably an outgrowth of the assembly which ratified the covenant with Yahweh in Exodus 24:9-11. In that historic event Moses as covenant mediator leads Aaron and his two sons and 70 elders up the mountain of Sinai and they eat a sacred meal in the presence of God. It was not lost on the Pharisees that Jesus employed this same division: Jesus as leader, Peter, James and John always singled out as the main confidants, and the 70/72 disciples from whom Jesus selected the 12 Apostles [see Luke 10:1; 6:13].
Question: Why did Nicodemus come by night to visit Jesus?
Answer: There are two different interpretations of Nicodemus’ intentions. The more favorable interpretation is that Nicodemus is drawn to Christ but is hesitant to come to Him in the daylight when he could be recognized because he is a man of such importance. The second view is that he is being sent as an official of the Sanhedrin to test Jesus and to try to gain evidence against Him. Since night/darkness in John’s Gospel symbolize the realm of evil, untruth and ignorance it is unlikely that Nicodemus’ reasons for coming to Jesus at night are positive. This second interpretation is supported by Jesus statement when He points out to Nicodemus that he does have a choice to come out of the darkness and into the light [verses 19-21].
Question: How does Nicodemus open his dialogue with Jesus? ,verse 3:2]
Answer: With a compliment.
Question: Do you think this flattery is sincere?
Answer: It is unlikely that Nicodemus’ comment is sincere since Jesus has already identified him as one of those men in whom belief in Him is not sincere faith but defective faith.
Some scholars have suggested that Nicodemus’ opening statement “We know”, the first personal plural, may indicate the presence of Jesus’ disciples.
John 3:3 Jesus answered: ‘In all truth I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born [begotten = monogenes] from above. The literal translation of “in all truth” should be “Amen, amen.
Question: Where did you notice the double use of the “amen” in an earlier verse?
Question: What does “amen” mean?
Answer: In English it carries the general meaning of “so be it” or “I believe” or “it is true” but the Hebrew word “emn” is a Hebrew acrostic formed from the first letters of three Hebrew words: El Melech Ne’eman which is translated “God is a trustworthy King.” The word “amen” itself appears for the first time in the Book of Numbers 5:22. As a response by a congregation to a prayer as in Psalms 89:53, or as a declamation as it is used in Deuteronomy 27, it is used like an oath, swearing that God is a trustworthy King who will make sure we will keep the oath we swear. To have an appreciation of the original meaning of this word read Revelation 3:14 “… Here is the message of the Amen, the trustworthy, the true witness, the Principle of God’s creation.” [see Talmud: Shabbat 119b; The Jewish Book of Why, vol. I, page 152].
Question: Jesus does not acknowledge the compliment. He is not deceived by Nicodemus’ flattery. How does He respond instead?
Answer: In reply to Nicodemus’ flattery that to do the signs He performs He must be a teacher approved by God, Jesus responds that one cannot see the kingdom of God without being born “from above or again.”[verse 3:7]
Jesus’ answer is meant to show Nicodemus that He has not come from God in the sense that Nicodemus thought: as a man who is simply “approved” by God, but instead has come in the unique sense of having descended from God’s presence to raise men, like Nicodemus, to God.
The Greek word Jesus uses for “from above” is anothen, a word that has a double meaning. It can mean “from above” or it can mean “again.” This is the second time a double meaning word has been used in this Gospel. Earlier in 1:32 , 33, and 34 John the Baptist testified about God’s Spirit descending on Jesus at His Baptism. The word John used in Greek was pneuma which can mean “wind or breath” as well as “spirit”. The Hebrew word ruah (Genesis 1:2) has the same double meaning. The use of this double meaning word reinforced the creation imagery of God’s “divine wind/ breath” (ruah) hovering over the waters of creation just as God’s Spirit or wind, pneuma, hovered over the waters of the Jordan River above Jesus.
Jesus probably intends to employ a double meaning in the use of the word anothen in being born “again” as well as “from above.” The use of this word also probably indicates that Jesus and Nicodemus are conversing in Greek. Most scholars do not feel an Aramaic expression could adequately generate both senses of this word and as a man of learning Nicodemus may have wanted to put the country Rabbi in his place by speaking in the language of the educated populace.
John 3:4 Nicodemus said, ‘How can anyone who is already old be born? Is it possible to go back into the womb again and be born?’
Question: How does Nicodemus interpret this double meaning word, as “born again” or as “born from above”?
Answer: He interprets Jesus to mean “born again”.
John 3: 5-8 Jesus replied: ‘In all truth [amen, amen] I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born [begotten = monogenes] through water and the Spirit; what is born of human nature [flesh] is human [flesh]; what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do no be surprised when I say: You must be born [begotten = monogenes] from above. The wind blows where it pleases; you can hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. Brackets indicate the literal wording.
Nicodemus’ misunderstanding leads Jesus to explain His point slightly differently. “Born from above” is the same as “born from water and the Spirit”. Jesus is using this metaphor as an explanation of the cleansing power of the Spirit in the age of the New Covenant which is a fulfillment of Ezekiel 36:25-27: [Yahweh says] I shall pour clean water over you and you will be cleansed; I shall cleanse you of all your filth and of all your foul idols. I shall give you a new heart, and put a new spirit in you… [also see Galatians 5:22-25].
Question: What word repetition that we have noted elsewhere did you notice in verse 5?
Answer: The repetition of “Amen, amen”. This is the second time during this passage that Jesus has used the double “amen.”
Question: In verse 6 what two words are being contrasted?
Answer: Flesh and spirit [In Greek sarx versus pneuma].
In St Paul’s letters he will often contrast these 2 words but in John’s Gospel the contrast appears only here. In the Synoptic Gospels the sarx (flesh) versus pneuma(spirit) contrast appears only in Jesus’ prayer at Gethsemane [see Mark 14:38].
Answer: Human frailty [not sinful nature].
Until now man has only thought in terms of “begetting” in human terms: the seed of man begets children. Man is “begotten” by the seed of a human father and becomes “flesh” when he is born in the kingdom of the world. But Jesus tells Nicodemus that man can enter the Kingdom of God only when man is “begotten” by the heavenly Father, begotten from above. Earthly life comes to man only from an earthly father; eternal life comes only from the heavenly Father through the Son whom he has empowered through the Holy Spirit to give life (verse 21). In 1 John 3:9 John makes the startling statement: No one who is a child of God sins because God’s seed remains in him. In the birth through water and the Spirit, one who is “begotten” by God has God’s “seed” or divine life-force abiding in him. No longer is being in Covenant with God a question of being born in the physical line of Abraham (John 1:13) but of being reborn through the action of the Holy Spirit by means of life giving water to become a child of God. The imagery of “begetting”, “regeneration”, and “divine seed” is in all the works attributed to St. John as well as in 1Peter 1:23, and Titus 3:5. St. Paul prefers the imagery of adoption by God as the explanation of how we have become sons of God through baptism by water and the Spirit. This passage is Jesus’ first reference to Christian Baptism.
- 1 Peter 1:23: …for your new birth was not from any perishable seed but from imperishable seed, the living and enduring Word of God.
- Titus 3:5-8: …it was for not reason except his own faithful love that he saved us, by means of the cleansing water of rebirth and renewal in the Holy Spirit which he has so generously poured over us through Jesus Christ our Savior; so that, justified by his grace, we should become heirs in hope of eternal life. This is doctrine that you can rely on.
Question: What prophesy made by John the Baptist does Jesus’ statement concerning rebirth confirm? See John’s witness in chapter 1.
Answer: It confirms John the Baptist’s prophecy of John 1:33 “…but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and rest is the one who is to baptize with the Holy Spirit.'” [also see Matthew 3:11].
Question: If our old birth came from our original parents in Eden, Adam and his bride, when we were born into the family of Adam, from whom does the new birth come?
Answer: The old birth is from Adam and his bride Eve; the new birth is from God and His Bride, the Church!
John 3:8: The wind blows where it pleases; you can hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.
The word translated “wind” is the Greek word pneuma again, which you will remember also means “spirit.” This is a clever play on both meanings of the word pneuma in this passage and Biblical scholars point out that we do not get the same sense of the word-play when translated into English. There is word-play also in the use of the word “sound” = you can hear its sound, literally “voice”. The word play suggests the “sound” of the wind but the “voice” of the Spirit. This coming of the Holy Spirit is not something that can be explained by man and yet it happens. The wind cannot be seen but its sound can be heard; the Spirit cannot be seen but the Spirit’s voice is heard in the hearts for those who have been regenerated by the Spirit’s gift of new birth.
Question: When will this rebirth of the Spirit be given to man? Will Jesus’ disciples baptize with water and the Spirit during His earthly ministry?
Answer: No. As Jesus will explain in John 3:14-16 the begetting through Spirit will be the supernatural event that will come through Jesus when He has been lifted up in crucifixion and resurrection. Please read John 20:19-23. The resurrected Jesus will speak to the disciples and He will tell them that his Father is now their Father because He “breaths” on them. Remember the meaning of the Greek word pneuma and the Hebrew ruah which can mean wind/breath and spirit. When Jesus breaths on them they are now recreated by the Holy Spirit. Their “baptism” in the Spirit will be given to the Church as a community in the Upper Room on the Second Great Pentecost in Acts chapter 2.
In Titus 3:4-8 (quoted above) St. Paul instructs St. Titus: “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior for humanity were revealed, it was not because of any upright actions we had done ourselves; it was for no reason except his own faithful love that he saved us, by means of the cleansing water of rebirth and renewal in the Holy Spirit which he has so generously poured over us through Jesus Christ our Savior; so that, justified by his grace, we should become heirs in hope of eternal life. This is doctrine that you can rely on.” Paul’s statement reaffirms Jesus’ instruction to Nicodemus in John 3:3-6: “In all truth [amen, amen] I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above. […]. In all truth [amen, amen] I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born through water and the Spirit; what is born of human nature is human, what is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
Please note: A profession of faith does not replace water baptism as the necessary spiritual rebirth into the family of God. Baptism by water and the Spirit is more than a Christian initiation rite’it is a supernatural, life altering event. Faith is the first step in the process of salvation and submission to Christian baptism is the second step in what is a life long journey toward eternal salvation. For more information on the necessity of water in the Sacrament of Baptism see: CCC #694; 1213-17; 1228; 1238-39; for infant baptism see CCC# 1252.
Please read 3:9-15
John 3: 9-10: ‘How is that possible?’ asked Nicodemus. Jesus replied, ‘You are the Teacher of Israel, and you do not know these things!’
Nicodemus dismisses Jesus’ teaching with his comment.
Question: Do you find some humor as well as a mild rebuke in Jesus’ comment to Nicodemus? Hint: see
Answer: In verse 2Nicodemus attempted to flatter Jesus by calling Him a man come from God as a teacher. The Pharisees present themselves as knowing everything about the Law and Sacred Scripture. Jesus is rightly chastising Nicodemus by putting the proud Pharisee in his place. If Nicodemus knew the Scriptures then Jesus’ teaching about the Spirit of God coming “from above” should have made him recall that the pouring out of the spirit of God was an important prophecy in the Old Testament picture of “the Last Days” also called “the Day of the Lord.” In Isaiah 32:15 Isaiah prophesizes that Israel will not be restored to God until the spirit is poured out on us from above, and the desert becomes productive ground. The desert is the dry, unfertile wasteland of Israel’s unrepentant heart. [Also see Joel 3:1-3; Ezekiel 39:29, etc. and the chart “Biblical Events That Prefigure Baptism by the Holy Spirit” in the Chart section entitled “The Catholic Church and Catholic Doctrine”].
Have you noticed that each of Jesus’ statements is longer than the previous statement while each successive remark by Nicodemus gets shorter? The great Pharisee has met an even greater teacher.
John 3:11-15: In all truth I tell you [Amen, amen], we speak only about what we know and witness only to what we have seen and yet you people reject our evidence. If you do not believe me when I speak to you about earthly things, how will you believe me when I speak to you about heavenly things? No one has gone up to heaven except the one who came down from heaven, the Son of man; as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so must the Son of man be lifted up so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.
Question: How many times has Jesus used the double “amen” in this encounter with Nicodemus and what does it indicate?
Answer: This is the third time in conversation with Nicodemus. It indicates that what follows will be of theological importance.
Question: What is the significance of Jesus’ statement that He has come down from heaven?
Answer: He is revealing His divinity
John 3:14-15: as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so must the Son of man be lifted up so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.
Question: What Old Testament event is Jesus referring to and what is the significance? Hint: readNumbers 21:4-9
Answer: Jesus is comparing Himself to the image of the bronze serpent God had Moses construct and raise up above the heads of the people on a standard. In the wilderness journey when plagued by the bites of deadly snakes all the people had to do was to look at the figure raised above them on the standard and be saved.
so must the Son of Man be lifted up so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.
This incident is a foreshadowing of Christ’s crucifixion. We must look to the crucified Christ, believe that He is the only Son of God and be “lifted up with Him” in order to be saved from the “bite” of eternal death. If we believe we can receive true salvation, the gift of eternal life [John 3:18]. When this happens we will be cleansed by the purifying water that flowed from the Savior’s pierced side [John 19:34; Zechariah 13:1]. This is why St. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:23 “we preach Christ crucified” and it is why in every Catholic Mass an image of the crucified Christ must be present. The Jesus uses the title “Son of man,” twice in this passage. It is Jesus’ favorite Messianic title for Himself. In verse 14 the title stresses Jesus’ humanity while verse 13 stresses His divine origin as the one who has gone up to heaven except the one who came down from heaven, the Son of man…. This verse may be a reference to the prophet Daniel’s vision of the divine Messiah who had the appearance of a son of man (looked like a man) in Daniel 7:13-14which Jesus will allude to at His trial before the Sanhedrin before His crucifixion.
Please read John 3:16-21
John 3:16-17: Jesus speaking: ‘For this is how God loved the world: he gave his only [begotten / monogene] Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. For God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but so that through him the world might be saved.’
John 3:16 is one of the best known verses in the Bible. It is the verse you often see displayed by Christian fans in sports stadiums. It is the witness of the Gospels summed up in one sentence.
Question: What does Jesus mean when He says God the Father did not send Him into the world to judge the world?
Answer: Jesus, Yehosua, “Yahweh is salvation“, was sent into the world to offer us the gift of salvation. Judgment comes later and judgment depends on whether or not one receives Christ as Savior.
John 3:18-21: Jesus continues, ‘No one who believes in Him will be judged; but whoever does not believe is judged already, because that person does not believe in the Name of God’s only Son. And the judgment is this: though the light has come into the world people have preferred darkness to the light because their deeds were evil. And indeed, everybody who does wrong hates the light and avoids it, to prevent his actions from being shown up; but whoever does the truth comes out into the light, so that what he is doing may plainly appear as done in God,’
To believe in His “name” is to believe everything that Jesus revealed to us about His true nature, human and divine. It is to believe He is the Son of God, it is to believe that He died for our sins and that He was raised from the dead to raise those who believe in Him to eternal life.
Question: Is there any in-between in so far as judgment is concerned?
Answer: No. In rejecting Christ one rejects salvation and eternal life. This is what Peter preached in Acts 4:11-12 to the members of the Jewish Law Court: “This is the stone which you, the builders, rejected but which has become the cornerstone. Only in him is there salvation; for of all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved.”
Question: But what about the poor soul who never heard the Gospel and therefore never had the choice? Hint: see Romans 2:12-16
Answer: They will be judged by their own consciences and the innate, natural law that God has placed in the heart of every human being.
Question: When you think about it, is this difficult?
Answer: Yes, consciences can be eroded by sin to the point where a conscience will no longer be aware of the degree of wickedness. That is why the spread of the Gospel across the earth is so important in order to bring salvation to man. Also seeLuke 12:47-48 and CCC # 846-48.
Question: What is Jesus calling Nicodemus, who came to Him in darkness, to do?
Answer: To come out into the “light”‘to come to believe in Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God.
Question: When Adam and Eve sinned in Eden what happened to them personally and what did mankind inherit from them?
Answer: They became “dis-graced”. Our original parent’s fall from grace deprived them, and all their children of the grace of God’s divine son-ship. We inherited from them their original sin, which is the absence of divine grace. Christ came to return to us that grace through the gift of divine sonship, the intimate participation in the life of God. That which was returned to us was so much greater than that which was lost to us by our original parents. Which is why, in the Latin version of the Easter Vigil, attention is drawn to “the happy fall” which caused us, through God’s grace, to receive the far greater gift of God’s Son, Christ Jesus. See CCC#389; 396-97; 402; 404-05; 407-09.
Grace in its most intimate definition in terms of Christ, is noting less than divine sonship. CCC# 1997 “Grace is a participation in the life of God. It introduces us into the intimacy of Trinitarian life…”
This gift of the grace that God gives to us is his own life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our souls to heal it of sin and to sanctify us. This it is the sanctifying or deifying grace we receive in Baptism. It is a gift of His life that God makes to us and in turn we are a new creation. 2 Corinthians 5:17-18: So for anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation: the old order is gone and a new being is there to see. It is all God’s work; he reconciled us to himself through Christ and he gave us the ministry of reconciliation. I mean, God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not holding anyone’s faults against them, but entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. See CCC # 1999.
In the beginning of our lives we are made as creatures, fashioned after God’s own image, made inHis image, but we are still creatures none the less. Christ is the eternal Son who is begotten of the Father. He is the image of the Father while we are created in the image of the Father. In the New Creation, Christ gives to us, through His own life, re-birth into permanent sonship. In 1 John 1:3 John writes: You must see what great love the Father has lavished on us by letting us be called God’s children’which is what we are! We are no longer just called children of God by virtue of being part of His creation. We ARE children of God by virtue of the blood of Christ which unites us in our re-birth, anothen/ “from above”, to God as His children. This is the most distinctive feature of Christianity and the most distinctive feature of Catholicism. It is what Pope Pius XI expressed when he said: Ours is a religion of Divine Sonship. We are made partakers of the divine nature. St. Peter writes in 2 Peter 3:4 “By his divine power, he has lavished on us all the things we need for life and for true devotion, through the knowledge of him who has called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these, the greatest and priceless promises have been lavished on us, that through them you should share the divine nature and escape the corruption rife in the world through disordered passion.” Also see CCC# 1994-5.
God’s grace “is a participation in the life of God” [CCC# 1997] through which we receive the gift of divine son-ship and by His grace we are justified. Catholic Christians define justification as that which has been merited for us by Christ’s passion on the altar of the Cross. Like conversion, justification has two aspects: Moved by grace we turn away from sin and to God and in doing so we accept forgiveness and righteousness in our transformed souls which as been infused by the Holy Spirit with the very life of Christ. Justification includes the remission of our sins, sanctification, and the renewal of the inner man, which is for us an on-going process in our life long journey toward salvation. CCC#1996 “Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.” [see John 1:12-18; 17:3; Romans 8:14-17].
As we have noted, the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines grace as “… a participation in the life of God. ..” # 1997; and defines justification as“… not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man.” CCC # 1991 identifies the spiritual process associated with our justification: With justification, faith, hope, and charity are poured into our hearts, and obedience to the divine will is granted us. And in article #1992: Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ who offered himself on the cross as a living victim, holy and pleasing to God, and whose blood has become the instrument of atonement for the sins of all men. Justification is conferred in Baptism, the Sacrament of faith. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who makes us inwardly just by the power of his mercy. Its purpose is the glory of God and of Christ, and the gift of eternal life…. [See Romans 3:21-26].
We are not just called “children of God” as creatures of the Creator like the people of God in the Old Covenant. The distinctive feature of divine sonship in the New Covenant is that we are no longer children in the family of Adam but we become, through our baptism by water and by the Spirit, reborn from above as true children in the family of God infused with the life of the Son. Many of our Protestant Christian brothers and sisters believe when a Christian is justified that he or she is declared to be “just” through Christ’s sacrifice, but not transformedand made just. The Catholic Church teaches that justification and salvation consist of nothing less than not just being declared the children of God and thereby being only “declared just” but of actually receiving a mystical infusion of the life of Christ through which we are in fact justified. It was the opinion of St. Augustine that the gift of salvation and the justification of the wicked was a greater work of God than the creation of heaven and earth because heaven and earth will pass away but the salvation and justification of the elect…will not pass away. He also believed that the justification of sinners surpasses the creation of the angels in justice, in that it bears witness to a greater mercy.
Our Protestant brothers and sisters rightly place great importance on being “born again” in order to be “saved”.
Question: If you were to be asked by a Protestant friend if you had been “born again” and are you “saved” how would you answer? This is a confusing question for many Catholics. Our Protestant brothers and sisters are using the Greek word Jesus used in John 3:3 &7, anothen, to mean “born again” which is one of two meanings for this word [the other is “from above”].
Answer: You could answer that in the baptism of Jesus Christ we have been “born from above” or “born again” [the double meaning of the Greek word anothen] through the power of water and the spirit into the family of God. In that sense Catholics have absolutely been “born again.” This sacrament of our re-birth, our baptism, was our entrance into the New Covenant and many of us enter that Covenant shortly after birth just as babies of the Old Covenant entered the Covenant as babies. Jesus entered the Covenant as a baby [8 days old] through the Old Covenant sacrament of circumcision. Catholics feel that such a grace should not be withheld from a child [as Jesus’ example shows us], but our baptism is completed in the Sacrament of Confirmation when we become old enough to understand our obligations and the necessity of obedience to Christ’s Covenant. As to whether you are “saved” the answer is Jesus has given us the gift of salvation through His sacrifice, His death, burial, and resurrection and has promised us eternal life. We are all in the process of being savedby His grace. I am personally promised that salvation and so I am being saved now, I plan to continue on the path to salvation and it is my hope that in persevering in faithfulness to the end, I shall be saved.
- Matthew 28:19-20: Jesus said, Go therefore, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And look, I am with you always; yes, to the end of the age.
- Mark 16:16: Jesus said, Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.
- Acts 2:38: St. Peter told the Jews and Israelites who had come from all over the known world to Jerusalem for the Sinai Covenant Feast of Pentecost [Feast of Weeks] who cried out to him to tell them what they must do to be saved [Acts 2:37], You must repent, Peter answered, and every one of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
- Titus 3:5-7: St. Paul writing to St. Titus: …it was not because of any upright actions we had done ourselves; it was for no reason except his own faithful love that he saved us, by means of the cleansing water of rebirth and renewal in the Holy Spirit which he has so generously poured over us through Jesus Christ our Savior; so that, justified by his grace, we should become heirs in hope of eternal life.
- Romans 6:3-4: You cannot have forgotten that all of us, when we were baptized into Christ Jesus, were baptized into his death. So by our baptism into his death we were buried with him, so that as Christ was raised from the dead y the Father’s glorious power, we too should begin living a new life.
- Colossians 2:12-13: You have been buried with him by your baptism; by which, too, you have been raised up with him through your belief in the power of God who raised him from the dead. You were dead, because you were sinners and uncircumcised in body: he has brought you to life with him, he has forgiven us every one of our sins.
- 1 Peter 3:18-22: Christ himself died once and for all for sins, the upright for the sake of the guilty, to lead us to God. In the body he was put to death, in the spirit he was raised to life, and, in the spirit, he went to preach to the spirits in prison. They refused to believe long ago, while God patiently waited to receive them, in Noah’s time when the ark was being built. In it only a few, that is eight souls, were saved through water.It is the baptism corresponding to this water which saves you now‘not a washing off of physical dirt but the pledge of a good conscience given to God through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has entered heaven and is at God’s right hand, with angels, ruling forces and powers subject to him.
Question: If baptism is necessary for our salvation, does this statement contradict what St. Paul taught in Romans 3:28 that it is faith which saves or what Paul wrote inRomans 10:8-10 that it is publicly professing Jesus as Savior that leads to salvation? Most Protestants believe that it is a public declaration of faith in Jesus Christ that leads to spiritual re-birth. What is the problem with that assumption?
Answer: No where in Scripture can it be found that a public declaration of faith gives rebirth in the Spirit. Rebirth or being “born again” in Scripture is only associated with the supernatural infusion of the life of the Trinity which comes from baptism by water and the Spirit. Faith is necessary to salvation just as publicly proclaiming Jesus is necessary [Matthew 10:32-33]. Faith is the first step in the process of salvation and baptism the second. Both faith and baptism begin a life long journey towards our final salvation at the Judgment seat of God. In the case of infants, parents and godparents make that pledge of faith on behalf of their children, taking a vow to raise that child to understand the meaning of salvation through Jesus Christ, but in the Sacrament of Confirmation that child must, for him or herself, step out in faith and accept all that Jesus has taught in obedient faith in the Savior. The public acknowledgement of Christ continues in our actions and in our speech throughout our lives as each of us progresses in the journey of faith toward salvation. In St. Peter’s statement in 1 Peter 3:21, he clearly states that the sacrament of baptism is necessary for salvation. And St. Paul clearly states that it is also necessary, in our journey toward salvation, to profess Jesus as Savior and to die to sin and live for Christ. [For more information of the Catholic teaching on the life long process of salvation for the believer and the relevant Scripture references please see the Romans study, chapter 6].
John the Baptist bears witness for the last time
I exult for joy in Yahweh, my soul rejoices in my God, for he has clothed me in garments of salvation, he has wrapped me in a cloak of saving justice, like a bridegroom wearing his garland like a bride adorned in her jewels. Isaiah 61:10
Like a young man marrying a virgin, your rebuilder will wed you, and as the bridegroom rejoices in his bride so will you God rejoice in you. Isaiah 62:5
Please read John 3:22-36
John 3:22-23: After this, Jesus went with his disciples into the Judaean countryside and stayed with them there and baptized. John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, where there was plenty of water, and people were going there and were being baptized. For John had not yet been put in prison.
At this stage in his ministry John seems to be moving up and down the Jordan River offering baptism for the repentance of sins. Aenon is an Aramaic word meaning “wells”. Salim was located to the northeast of Samaria and so this may be a site about 7 miles south of Scythopolis [also called Beisan] near the western bank of the Jordan and about 13 miles to the south of the Sea of Galilee. Only from John’s Gospel do we learn that Jesus’ disciples were baptizing before His resurrection.
Question: What kind of baptism would Jesus’ disciples be offering? Was Jesus baptizing? See John 4:2
Answer: Since the baptism of Jesus could not be offered until His death on the Cross when the water of baptism poured out from His side, this must also be a baptism of repentance. Jesus was not baptizing; only His disciples were offering baptism. St. John Chrysostom writes both baptisms, that of St. John the Baptist and that of our Lord’s disciples […], had a single purpose’to bring the baptized to Christ […] and prepare the way for future faith. Homilies on St. John, 29, 1.
In offering this information John is anticipating the future baptism that will come through God the Holy Spirit when all who accept Christ will receive a baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity and die to sin in order to be resurrected to “new life” in Christ.
Question: When will Jesus’ disciples begin the baptism unto Christ Jesus?
Answer: After the resurrection when Jesus commands them in Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus came up and spoke to them. He said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And look, I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.’
This command is called “The Great Commission.” At the Ascension Jesus will give the Apostles and disciples their “marching orders” to carry the Gospel message when He tells them in Acts 1:8b … ‘you will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judea and Samaria, and indeed to earth’s remotest end.’
Question: In what order does Jesus command the Apostles and disciples to take the Gospel message to humanity?
Answer: They are commanded to take the Gospel first to the Jews, and next to the Samaritans and finally to the Gentile nations of the earth. Hint: remember this order as we read through the next chapter.
John 3:27-28: Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew about purification, so they went to John and said, ‘Rabbi, the man who was with you on the far side of the Jordan, the man to whom you bore witness, is baptizing now, and everyone is going to him.’ John replied: ‘No one can have anything except what is given him from heaven. Your yourselves can bear me out. I said, ‘I am not the Christ; I am the one who has been sent to go in front of him.’
The identity of the Jew debating John’s disciples is not revealed but that they are debating the practice of purification is an indication of the importance place on ritual purification in the Old Covenant faith.
Question: Why are John’s disciples concerned?
Answer: They feel they are in competition with Jesus’ disciples but John assures them this is all part of God’s plan. John reminds them that he is only here to prepare the way for the Messiah.
John 3:29: It is the bridegroom who has the bride; and yet the bridegroom’s friend who stands there and listens to him, is filled with joy at the bridegroom’s voice. This is the joy I feel and it is complete.
Notice the reference to the bridegroom’s friend or groomsman. This term seems to have been more appropriate to Judea. Biblical historians tell us that the Galilee did not have quite the same marriage customs as the Judeans. The Synoptic Gospels use the phrase “children of the bridechamber” [see Matthew 9:15 and Mark 2:19], which may reflect this difference. In Judea it was the custom for two groomsmen to be in attendance upon the bridal couple, one for the bridegroom and the other for the bride. Before the marriage they acted as intermediaries for the families of the betrothed couple. At the wedding the groomsmen offered gifts, they attended the bride and groom during the 7 days of feasting, and they even escorted them to the bridal chamber. It was the duty of the “friend of the bridegroom” to present the groom to his bride at the wedding ceremony and after the marriage to maintain proper terms between the parties. The Rabbinical writings describe the Archangels Michael and Gabriel as acting as the friends of the bridegroom to Adam and Eve at the first wedding in Salvation history in the Garden of Eden. The writings of the Rabbis also identify Moses as the “friend of the bridegroom” who leads out the bride, Israel, to meet the groom, Yahweh, at Mt. Sinai [Exodus 19:17]. John the Baptist presents himself as fulfilling the same function for Jesus.
This teaching of John the Baptist’s can be compared to other teachings of Jesus, for example in Mark chapter 2 verses 19-20 where Jesus tells the Pharisees: Surely the bridegroom’s attendants cannot fast while the bridegroom is still with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. But the time will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then, on that day, they will fast. These wedding metaphors are common through Christ’s teaching [also see Matthew 22:1-14; 25:1-13] and illustrate the continuing Biblical symbolism of God as the Bridegroom and the Church as His Bride.
Question: John’s symbolic language of the bridegroom and the bridegroom’s friend takes us back to an earlier episode in John’s Gospel. What is the connection? Hint: think of a wedding.
Answer: At the wedding at Cana. Many Biblical scholars see John as the bridegroom’ friend who served as the Steward of the wedding feast, who tastes the wine of the bridegroom, and who is glad that it is the “best wine”. Jesus is the bridegroom and John is the steward of the feast in the sense that he has announced the bridegroom and he anticipates the “best wine” that will come with Christ’s sacrifice. He will taste death himself when he is martyred for his faith by Herod Antipas. He surely deserved the epitaph that Jesus gave him inMatthew 11:11 when Jesus said that up to that point in salvation history that: In truth [amen] I tell you, of all the children born to women, there has never been anyone greater than John the Baptist…
John 3:30-36: St. John the Baptist says: ‘He must grow greater, I must grow less. He who comes from above [anothen] is above all others; he who is of the earth is earthly himself and speaks in an earthly way. He who come from heaven bears witness to the things he has seen and heard but his testimony is not accepted by anybody; though anyone who does accept his testimony is attesting that God is true, since he whom God has sent speaks God’s own words, for God given him the Spirit without reserve. The Father loves the Son and has entrusted everything to his hands. Anyone who believes in the Son has eternal life, but anyone who refuses to believe in the Son will never see life. God’s retribution hangs over him.’
John announces that his ministry must diminish as Jesus’ ministry grows and then John makes 7 statements about Christ and His ministry.