John 3By night; secretly, for fear of his associates and friends.
Jesus answered, &c. There is no apparent connection between the reply of Jesus and the words of Nicodemus. Undoubtedly much of the conversation was omitted.—Be born again; altogether and entirely changed in the temper and disposition of the mind.
How can a man, &c. We are not to suppose that Nicodemus seriously understood our Lord as using the language in its literal signification; but, not knowing precisely what he did intend, he employs these expressions as an emphatic mode of asking an explanation. In fact, the Savior's reply seems to indicate, not so much that Nicodemus misunderstood what he meant to say, as that he was our surprised at its extraordinary import.
Of water and of the Spirit. Water is emblematical of the public profession of repentance, and the Spirit is the agent that produces the inward change. The meaning, therefore, is, that an entire change in the spiritual condition of the soul must be openly avowed and truly experienced, to fit the sinner for the kingdom of heaven.
The meaning seems to be, that the qualities which are inherited by natural birth are earthly and sensual, and that a great change, to be wrought only by the Holy Spirit, will make man heavenly-minded and pure.
Where it listeth; where it will—Thou hearest, &c.; that is, we see the effect produced, but we cannot understand the operation of the cause.
He ought to have known them, for the power of God, in respect to the renewal of the heart, is often recognized in the Old Testament, especially in the book of Psalms.
Be lifted up. It is uncertain whether the meaning is exalted in honor, as expressed Matt. 28:18, or whether the reference is to his being raised upon the cross in ignominy, as in John 12:32-34.
With the fifteenth verse appears to end our Savior's conversation with Nicodemus; the remarks which follow, to v. 21, inclusive, being probably the comments made by John upon the conversation; for they resemble very much, both in sentiment and diction, the composition of the evangelist, while they are unlike the sayings of the Savior. Other similar cases of this character hereafter occur. For evidence of the effect which this conversation, and the Savior's ministry in general, produced on Nicodemus, see John 7:50, 51, 19:39.
The condemnation; the ground of their condemnation. Compare verses 19, 20, 21, with 1:1-14, for evidence that these are the remarks of the evangelist, and not of Jesus.
For John was not yell cast into prison. From the first three Evangelists one would naturally conclude that our Lord's public ministry only began after the Baptist's imprisonment. But here, about six months, probably, after our Lord had entered upon His public ministry, we find the Baptist still at his work of preaching and baptizing. How much longer this continued cannot be determined with certainty; but probably not very long. For the great importance of this little verse for the right harmonizing of the Gospels, and determining the probable duration of our Lord's ministry, see on Matt. 4:12.
They expected to have excited a feeling of displeasure in the mind of John, that Jesus, who had been among his disciples, and was baptized by him, and indebted to him for a public testimonial in his favor, should now be advancing beyond John in popular regard.
This my joy; that is, the joy of the friend of the bridegroom. John means to say that he rejoiced in the success and celebrity of the Savior's ministry, instead of regarding it, as his disciples had anticipated, with envy and chagrin.
It has been considered uncertain whether the words which follow, to the end of the chapter, are a continuation of the conversation of John the Baptist, or the remarks of St. John, the author of this Gospel. On the one hand, there is nothing to mark a transition; but, then, on the other hand, the remaining verses exhibit strikingly the style and mode of expression characteristic of the evangelist. It is, perhaps, most probable that they are intended to represent the general sentiments of the speaker, but clothed in language by the writer,—and thus exhibiting the peculiarities of his diction.
And no man receiveth, &c.; a remark more likely to be made by John the evangelist, when writing his history long after our Savior's death, and when he had been so decidedly rejected by the Jews, than by John the Baptist, just at the commencement of his ministry, when, as it is expressed in v. 26, all men were coming unto him.
By measure; sparingly.
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