3:1Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus,1 a ruler of the Jews:2 3:2the same came unto him by night, and said to him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that thou doest, except God be with him.3 3:3Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except one be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.4 3:4Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter a second time into his mother's womb, and be born? 3:5Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except one be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God! 3:6That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 3:7Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born anew. 3:8The wind bloweth where it will, and thou hearest the voice thereof, but knowest not whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.5 3:9Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? 3:10Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou the teacher of Israel, and understandest not these things?
3:11Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that which we know, and bear witness of that which we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. 3:12If I told you earthly things and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you heavenly things? 3:13And no one hath ascended into heaven, but he that descended out of heaven,6 even the Son of man, who is in heaven. 3:14And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up;7 3:15that whosoever believeth may in him have eternal life.
3:17For God sent not the Son into the world to judge the world; but that the world should be saved through him. 3:18He that believeth on him is not judged: he that believeth not hath been judged already,9 because he hath not believed on the name of the only begotten Son of God. 3:19And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light;10 for their works were evil. 3:20For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, and cometh not to the light, lest his works should be reproved. 3:21But he that doeth the truth cometh to the light, that his works may be made manifest, that they have been wrought in God.
- a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus. All "inheritance" of ideas and beliefs has a mental basis. We "inherit" some states of mind from our ancestors. An "inherited" or transmitted religion is a dark state, if there is no real understanding in it. This is the Nicodemus mentality. Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a ruler of the Jews. He represents the Pharisaical side of our mentality that observes the external forms of religion without understanding their real meaning.
- a ruler of the Jews.This should be properly translated "a ruler of the Judeans." Jesus was from Galilee, not from Judea. Much of the hostile language in the Gospel of John toward "the Jews" reflects hostility between the Galileans, of which was Jesus, and the Judeans, who were invested in temple sacrifice and conservative religious thought.
- We know that thou art a teacher. The Pharisees refused to be baptized by John. They did not consider that they needed the repentance that he demanded. They thought they were good enough to take the high places in the kingdom of God because of their popularly accepted religious supremacy.
- Except one be born anew. The new birth is an uncertainty to the intellectual Christian, hence there has gradually evolved a popular belief that after death the souls of those who have accepted the church creed and have been counted Christians will undergo a change. But in His instructions to Nicodemus Jesus makes no mention of a resurrection after death as having any part in the new birth.
- The wind bloweth where it will. Jesus cites the ever present though unseen wind as an illustration of those who are born of Spirit. The new birth is a change that comes here and now. It has to do with the present man, that he may be conscious of the "Son of man," who is the real I AM in each individual.
- but he that descended out of heaven. There is but one real man, the ideal or spiritual man that God created. Jesus explains to Nicodemus the evolution of this spiritual man from his ideal to his manifest state. Man is fundamentally spiritual and so remains throughout his various manifestations. He comes out of heaven, manifests himself as a personality in the earth, and returns to heaven.
- even so the Son of man must be lifted up. In these few words is summed up the fall of man from an Edenic state, where he had the constant inspiration of creative Mind, to a consciousness of matter and the desperate struggle of personality for existence. The natural man must evolve into the spiritual.
- for God so loved the world. To believe in Jesus is to believe that in the regenerate state we are to be, like Him, "joint-heirs with Christ." This belief must then lead us to a desire and an effort to attain our inheritance, because then we know that there is no other thing in the universe worth striving for. Every person in his real, true self desires to be just as great and just as good as it is possible for him to be. The open door to the attainment of this objective is to believe in one's own divinity and then to raise oneself to its level by following the example of Jesus Christ. Eric Butterworth comments on this well-known verse in clip 16 of Eric Butterworth: Great Teachers — Meister Eckhart — the Eternal is forever begetting the only begotten:
- he that believeth not hath been judged already. Salvation from the results of error thought begins at once when we have faith in the power of the Lord Jesus Christ to save us from the judgment. He comes to us in Spirit to do away with the effects of transgression of the law.
- men loved the darkness rather than the light. World chaos results from the lack of spiritual light. We may plan peace and achieve it, but if this peace is not based on divine law, evolving love, and that law incorporated into the pact of peace as well as into the minds of those who sign that pact, we shall have no permanent peace.
The Testimony of John the Baptist
3:22After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized. 3:23And John also was baptizing in Enon near to Salim,1 because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized. 3:24For John was not yet cast into prison.
3:25There arose therefore a questioning on the part of John's disciples with a Jew about purifying. 3:26And they came unto John, and said to him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond the Jordan, to whom thou hast borne witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him. 3:27John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it have been given him from heaven. 3:28Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but, that I am sent before him. 3:29He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, that standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is made full. 3:30He must increase, but I must decrease. 2
- John also was baptizing. John the Baptist represents the intellectual concept of Truth and his baptizing means a mental cleansing. The name Salim means "peace." "Near Salim" signifies the illumined consciousness of spiritual life and peace in the individual. The water refers to a natural rising in consciousness of the cleansing power of the thought and word of purification and life.
- He must increase, but I must decrease. John the Baptist (representing the illumined intellect) decreases on the sense plane in proportion as the intellect is lifted up in Spirit and is in truth swallowed up in spiritual consciousness. The faculty decreases on one plane only to be reborn on a higher one. The illumined intellect wholly co-operates with Spirit, so there is a merging and blending of these powers until the mere intellect ceases to be mere intellect and is swallowed up in Spirit. This is the ideal unfoldment.
The One Who Comes from Heaven
3:31He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is of the earth, and of the earth he speaketh: he that cometh from heaven is above all.1 3:32What he hath seen and heard, of that he beareth witness; and no man receiveth his witness. 3:33He that hath received his witness hath set his seal to this, that God is true. 3:34For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for he giveth not the Spirit by measure. 3:35The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand. 3:36He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life; but he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.
- he that cometh from heaven is above all. In order to fulfill the divine law of his being man must realize that he is the Son of God in manifestation, that he came from above and is above all; also that in his evolution he leaves the earthly consciousness and ascends into the spiritual under a law of mind. "He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is of the earth, and of the earth he speaketh."
Fillmore Study Bible annotations compiled by Mark Hicks
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