John 3: 1-36 – Jesus and Nicodemus


The main content in John 3 is the dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus, a leader of the Pharisees. [The section John 3: 22-30 dealing with the witness of John the Baptist has been already interpreted earlier]. So here we are dealing with John 3: 1-21 and 3: 31-36. The main theme of the dialogue is “to be born anew”.

John 3 begins as a dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus. But as the dialogue progresses, it becomes a monologue and ends with the words of Jesus in a discourse form. After John 3: 11, Nicodemus is not mentioned in John 3. He reappears later in the Gospel of John 7: 50 and 19: 39. The narration can be divided in the following way:

John 3: 1                        –           Introduction.

John 3: 2-11                –           “Unless one is born anew…”

John 3: 12-15              –           “Son of man must be lifted up”.

John 3: 16-21              –           Love and judgment.

John 3: 31-36              –           Conclusion.

Of these sections John 3: 2-11 is the dialogue proper. It is on “being born again”. The following sections are further clarifications of the same theme through two other themes, namely, “lifting up of the Son of man” and “the infinite love of God”. The theme of judgment is linked to this as the consequence of the decision one takes in response to the revelation of “love of God” in Jesus. The organisation of John 3: 2-11 can be seen thus:

John 3:2      :         “… We know that…”

John 3: 3    :           “… Unless one is born anew…”                    Revelation]

John 3: 4    :            “… How can a man be born…”                                                                                                                                                                    [Misunderstanding]

John 3: 5  :        “… Unless one is born of water and the Spirit…”                                                                                                                 [Clarification (1)]

John 3: 6-9      :           “… The wind blows…”                [Clarification (2)]

John 3: 10-11  :           “… We speak of what we know…”

John 3: 2 and 3: 10-11 are parallels because of the repeated “we know”. Then there is a revelation followed by misunderstanding and a two-step progressive clarification.

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