John 3-4

John  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
0 ratings


First, how does John want us to think about Nicodemus before he is even introduced? Let’s look at the verses leading into.
John 2:23–3:1 NASB95
23 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing. 24 But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, 25 and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man. 1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews;
Jesus did not ‘put his faith in’ men the same way that men were ‘putting their faith in’ him. This leads to the mindset that these people who were believing in his name did not have saving faith, perhaps, but only superficial faith. Then John talks generally of ‘men’. Jesus knows what is in man. It is at this point that ‘a man of the Pharisees’ is introduced. So, we probably shouldn’t trust this man, either.
Note also that Nicodemus came at night. While this might not necessarily mean anything, think of John’s constant portrayal of light/dark and life/death. Perhaps Nicodemus was too afraid to step into the light (yet)? Look at:
John 19:39 NASB95
39 Nicodemus, who had first come to Him by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight.
It seems that John wants us to notice this, and see that he has changed by the end of the Gospel.
As they begin talking, does Nicodemus fully understand who Jesus is at this point?
John 3:2 NASB95
2 this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”
Nicodemus thinks of Jesus as a teacher. He is also buttering him up here. Nicodemus is also a teacher, so he is hoping to have a peer-to-peer conversation. He thinks he and Jesus are in the same league.
John 3:3–8 NASB95
3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 “Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
What the heck, Jesus? Nicodemus makes a general statement and invites Jesus into a conversation, and Jesus says some super confusing thing about being born again. Are we really surprised that Nicodemus is so confused?
Let’s take a moment and pretend we’re Nicodemus. Some guy can perform miracles, so we assume he is an ally and fellow teacher from God. We say so, directly to him. And he responds with a confusing saying about being born ‘again.’
But we do need to try and understand Jesus. Nicodemus does not comprehend who he is yet, and Jesus is trying to give him a glimpse.
To start, ‘again’ is a critical word. In Greek, its meaning is “from above; top; again; from on high.” Jesus likely means ‘again’ and ‘from above’ and yet Nicodemus takes it to mean only ‘again.’ This is a case of misunderstanding, another common theme in John. Remember to watch for misunderstandings as we read through John. Jesus will try to clear this one up, but misunderstandings consistently occur in the Gospel.
To understand this misunderstanding, where do we need to look? Why does Jesus expect Nicodemus to understand?
John 3:9–10 NASB95
9 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?
Jesus expects Nicodemus to understand his teaching because he is a teacher of Israel. He expects Nicodemus’s knowledge of the Old Testament to provide him with the information he needs to understand what Jesus is saying.
So what does it mean to be ‘born again’ or ‘born from above?’ Jesus Himself tries to clarify this for us by saying we must be “born of water and the Spirit.” This is not intended to be different from “born again”, but rather to clarify it. What does this make you think of?
In the Old Testament, water represented purification (similar to, but not the same as, Christian baptism). Also, the spirit (I don’t think the Holy Spirit, per se) represents renewal. Let’s look at some Old Testament verses on water and the spirit.
Ezekiel 36:22–27 NASB95
22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went. 23 “I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord,” declares the Lord God, “when I prove Myself holy among you in their sight. 24 “For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land. 25 “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26 “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.
Here in the Old Testament we find water and spirit. Ezekiel 37, the valley of dry bones, follows this passage. Here, God reanimates dead bones with his breath (spirit). Jesus is talking about this kind of renewal. Being born of water (cleansed) and spirit (renewed). This is the birth from above.

The Woman at the Well

We’re going to see some more misunderstandings as Jesus and the woman at the well talk. First, let’s get the context. Jews despised Samaritans. They were thought of as unclean and, essentially, a lesser race. This is because during the exile, the Israelites left behind by Assyria intermarried with those that the Assyrians sent to live in Israel. They had mixed children and mingled their religion into something only partially true. In addition, they only accepted the Torah as inspired scripture.
Second, in Jesus’ day, men did not speak with women. There was even a (rather extreme) Jewish thought that teaching a woman the Torah was like teaching them to be a prostitute.
The Gospel according to John 9. Jesus and the Samaritan Woman (4:1–42)

Some rabbis went so far as to suggest that to provide their daughters with a knowledge of the Torah was as inappropriate as to teach them lechery, i.e. to sell them into prostitution (Mishnah Sotah 3:4; the same passage also provides the contrary view).

So, the Samaritan woman was the least likely person a Jewish Rabbi would/should speak to. With this in mind, notice that Jesus initiates the conversation.
John 4:7–9 NASB95
7 There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” 8 For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. 9 Therefore the Samaritan woman said to Him, “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.)
She knew he was out of line, but Jesus didn’t care. Instead, he goes on to act all Jesus-like on her.
John 4:10–12 NASB95
10 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.” 11 She said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water? 12 “You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?”
Again, what? Can we fault an (uneducated) Samaritan woman for not understanding Jesus?
Some of the misunderstanding can be explain. Living water could also mean running water, like a spring. So, yet again, Jesus is using wordplay to establish his own meaning. She very clearly doesn’t believe he has access to this water. Her question in verse 12 has an expected negative answer.
Jesus goes on, but she is still not understanding his analogy.
John 4:13–14 NASB95
13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
The woman wants this water, for practical (worldly) reasons. Jesus needs to demonstrate to her that He is not who she thinks He is.
John 4:15–19 NASB95
15 The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.” 16 He said to her, “Go, call your husband and come here.” 17 The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly.” 19 The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.
He has established with this woman his authority, even if she does not understand who exactly He is. In truth, she probably could not understand truly all of who He is, given her own lack of knowledge and misguided religion. She does, however, ask for clarity, which Jesus provides (in typical Jesus fashion).
John 4:20–26 NASB95
20 “Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24 “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.
He is saying some of the same things he said to Nicodemus. Instead of “born again” and “water and spirit,” Jesus says that we must worship God “in spirit and truth.” What does this mean?
Remember, spirit has a renewing, rejuvenating effect. But what is truth?
John 14:6 NASB95
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
So, how does God expect us to worship?
The Gospel according to John 9. Jesus and the Samaritan Woman (4:1–42)

The worshippers whom God seeks worship him out of the fullness of the supernatural life they enjoy (‘in spirit’), and on the basis of God’s incarnate Self-Expression, Christ Jesus himself, through whom God’s person and will are finally and ultimately disclosed (‘in truth’);

Is the spirit here the holy spirit? Or is it an aspect of ourself that we are to employ in worship?
“He is talking about worshiping with or in the human spirit. What our Lord means is, he is not only looking for those who will worship him in the truth of who he is, but also in the very depth of their inner being - in spirit. Authentic worship happens only when the very core of our being is employed in worshiping God!” (Preaching the Word Commentary)
Spurgeon said, "God does not regard our voices, he hears our hearts, and if our hearts do not sing we have not sung at all."
What about truth? He is specifically talking to a Samaritan woman, so for her it meant she needs to correct her misunderstood faith. To us, it means we must meet and know Jesus, God’s incarnate word and self-expression.


These two individuals are juxtaposed next to each other on purpose. The woman at the well is contrasted with Nicodemus. Jesus is needed by both, a scholarly, Jewish man and a shunned Samaritan woman.
Which one are we? Do we come to God expecting him to be something he isn’t, like Nicodemus? Does our own ‘knowledge’ prevent us from seeing who God truly is and how we should approach Him?
Or are we the Samaritan woman? Possessing incomplete knowledge, yet willing to accept Jesus’ teachings?
In the end, does it matter? Jesus came for both, Jesus spoke to both. In the end, we should react as the Samaritan woman did:
John 4:27–28 NASB95
27 At this point His disciples came, and they were amazed that He had been speaking with a woman, yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why do You speak with her?” 28 So the woman left her waterpot, and went into the city and said to the men,
Or, as Nicodemus finally did:
John 19:39 NASB95
39 Nicodemus, who had first come to Him by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight.
Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more