John: The religious expert

John 3:1–36

This is one of the most famous scenes in John, with one of the most famous Bible verses (thank you, Tim Tebow). But what does it all mean in the big picture of John?

When John starts his Gospel, he begins with telling us that Jesus is the Word. And indeed, Jesus according to John is a man of words. Probably more “red letters” in John than another other Gospel. Jesus talks a lot.

Here in chapter 3, we have the first of two significant conversations—two scenes back-to-back. So it’s worth the question: Why tell these stories, these conversations between Jesus and the Pharisee and between Jesus and a Samaritan woman, one right after the other? There are no other scenes like this in John, but here there are two in a row.

Let’s to try to notice some details. They might be important.

Nicodemus is a guy. He’s a Pharisee, a religious expert. By typical cultural appearances, he is what a person close to God looks like. He’s a leader, a guy with influence and power. This is a private, clandestine conversation at night. He initiates the dialogue, and when he gets around to asking a question, it’s a very academic and intellectual approach.

Reminds me of a professor I once had who constantly wrote on my paper, “Define your terms,” or always asked in class, “What do you mean when you say…?” That’s Nicodemus.

Born again? What do you mean when you say that? What does that look like?

In this scene, we see a Jesus to makes time for the religious expert, to answer questions, to listen, challenge, poke, prod, and challenge.

There is a place in the life of Jesus for those who ask heady questions and have an insatiable need for answers.

But this is just one half of the story. The rest comes tomorrow and the next chapter and the next scene.

What about you? What do you see?


About peterjwhite

I am a pastor to college students in Tulsa, OK.
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