Why don’t the religious elites know these things from Jesus?
I can get confused. Nicodemus did for sure. His whole world was the bible and theology. He is a member of the Jewish religious elite. I have a similar background having grown up in the church and studied scripture my whole life.
I can get confused. Like Nicodemus I ask”How can these things be?”
There is good news. Jesus sets me straight. Jesus explains it to me. Jesus is patient.
“How can these things be?” asked Nicodemus.
“Are you a teacher of Israel [a member of the religious elite] and don’t know these things?” Jesus replied. “Truly I tell you, we speak what we know and we testify to what we have seen, but you do not accept our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you don’t believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven—the Son of Man. | John 3:9-13 (CSB)
Nicodemus had described Jesus as a teacher. Ironically, perhaps even sarcastically, Jesus returns the compliment — and adds “the” and “of Israel” to heighten the irony of Nicodemus’s teacherly ignorance.
Nevertheless, the high rank of Nicodemus doesn’t rise to the level of Jesus as a teacher who, according to Nicodemus himself, “has come from God”.
Why should Nicodemus have understood these things? Because Ezekiel 36:25–27 quotes the Master as saying, “Then I’ll sprinkle clean water on you, and you’ll be clean.… Moreover, I’ll give you a new heart and put a Spirit in you.… And I’ll put my Spirit in you.…”
Now we know why Jesus told Nicodemus why he shouldn’t marvel. As “the teacher of Israel” Nicodemus should have understood Jesus’ words in terms of Ezekiel’s prophecy.
Here is the literal translation:
Nicodemus answered and said to him, “How can these things [being born from above, from water, even the Spirit] happen?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and don’t know these things?”
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Christian Standard Bible. (2017). (Jn 3:9–13). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
Gundry, R. H. (2010). Commentary on the New Testament: Verse-by-Verse Explanations with a Literal Translation (pp. 360–361). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.
2019 summer intern Jesse Wahl shares his wisdom on John chapter 3. What does it mean to be born again?
John 3 Christian Standard Bible (CSB)
3 There was a man from the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to him at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one could perform these signs you do unless God were with him.”
3 Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
4 “How can anyone be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked him. “Can he enter his mother’s womb a second time and be born?”
5 Jesus answered, “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be amazed that I told you that you must be born again. 8 The wind blows where it pleases, and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
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