John 3 Notes.docx

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Religious Studies
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Stephen Westerholm

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John 3 - Headings were added later - Headings in John 3 may be misleading - End of ch 2 leads into ch 3 How interested is the gospel writer really in Nicodemus? - Nicodemus was more of a representative figure of a Jewish leader / Pharisee who is sympathetic towards Jesus, which is atypical for the Pharisees – Pharisees are always in opposition with Jesus - Nicodemus is not only a ruler of the Jews (member of the Jewish Sanhedrin) and a teacher in Israel and a Pharisee (most respected group of the Jews), but also one sympathetic towards Jesus - John’s gospel tends to divide people in one or two categories o Eg. Proverbs - wise or foolish, righteous or wicked o Eg. John – a believer in Jesus or not… but it actually shows a whole spectrum  There are those who have a belief, temporary belief, sympathetic towards him, fully faithful, fully against o Some Individuals are impressed by signs and wonders but Jesus says they don’t have any lasting faith - Nicodemus is impressed by the signs that Jesus does, seems to be like those temporarily faithful individuals o Acknowledging that Jesus is divinely authorized .. but ‘a teacher from God’ won’t cut it - Nicodemus’ importance is just to elicit certain things about Jesus and convey things about Jesus - Represents the Jews in its most positive aspect: leader and teacher of one of the most privileged peoples on earth, and sympathetic to Jesus - Nicodemus’ response towards Jesus’ words – he’s baffled  even the most favoured member of the most favoured people, the most sympathetic of people – still don’t understand Jesus - Jesus’ initial statement: Truly, truly.. unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God o Curious, ambiguous statement that one is supposed to take very seriously o Crucial you understand what’s being said, but what is being said is unintelligible – Nicodemus can’t make sense of it o Jesus often makes an outrageous, provocative, unintelligible statement leaving someone completely in the dark  People always take it in a literal sense which doesn’t make sense and leaves them baffled - “Born again”  “born from above” : ambiguous, confuses Nicodemus Why does Jesus speak in this ambiguous, outrageous, provocative manner? - Jesus wants to make people think - If you say something immediately intelligible people don’t always keep thinking about it - If you say something outrageous people will think you’re crazy or they’ll think about it - Jesus came down from above, and naturally there is a disconnect between heavenly language and human language – this disconnect is shown by Jesus having to term things in figures and analogies that humans don’t understand - Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night  indicates the expression of his half-heartedness, doesn’t want to be seen by the Pharisees , visiting Jesus in secret o Also shows that the I sin the dark because he doesn’t understand Jesus What it Takes to Enter the Kingdom of God - Typical theme of the synoptics, speaks in familiar terms in John - Unless you become his little children you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven (matt 1) - Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (matt 5:3) - In John, what it takes to enter the kingdom: o Unless you are born again or born from above - Nothing counts in the end, the condition you find yourself in now is inadequate - A radical transformation is needed no matter who you are or what status you are in order to enter God’s kingdom - “You have to be born of the water and spirit” “Being born of the Spirit” o Indicates these all mean the same thing: born of the spirit, water and spirit, and born from above / born again o Born of the Spirit is the most crucial part of this - Expects Nicodemus to understand what this is all about - Ezekiel 36: 25-27: coming of spirit is going to represent something new and transformational o God speaking to people in exile for being disobedient – day is coming when they’re going to be different o “sprinkle clean water on you.. give you a new heart and a new spirit… remove your heart of stone and put in a heart of flesh, and I will put my spirit in you”  Sprinkling with water = cleansing o Heart transformation = as new of a beginning as being born again, transformation means being born of the spirit - Ezekiel 37: Ezekiel sees a valley of dry bones o “I’m going to cause spirit / breath to enter you and you shall live” - Ezekiel says the way you are now won’t be enough, you need a transformation / be born again with can only be done with the divine spirit otherwise you can’t enter the kingdom of God - Early church believed that the giving of God’s spirit had already taken place o Thought of it as the first installment of the things promised to come for the last days - John baptizes with water, Jesus would baptize with the Spirit - This transformation is required to enter the kingdom of God Does the language of being born again occur elsewhere in the NT? - This language in John’s writings are familiar in 1 John - 1 Peter 1:3, 1:23, Titus 3:5 - Paul: need you die with Christ and rise again – same idea, different terminology o Very different picture but same id
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