Study Notes 3-25-12

3:8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

  • We can’t control the Spirit just as we can’t control the wind.  Jesus once again illustrates God’s sovereign work in salvation – this time in a very tangible way.
  • It’s amazing to think that Jesus, who tells us here that no one knows where the wind comes from or where it goes, was the One who calmed the wind on the Sea of Galilee.  And, of course, the Spirit is not going to do anything that isn’t in perfect harmony with Christ’s mind and the Father’s plan from all eternity.

3:9-10 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” [10] Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?

  • The Lord is telling him that these truths are things that he should have known from close study of the Old Testament.  But Nicodemus was not a believer, nor did it seem he was much of a scholar (though that commentary might have been made about many of the ruling class of the Jews during Jesus’ day).
  • We ought to take this rebuke and apply it to our lives as Christians.  In Hebrews 5:11-6:1 Paul echoes a similar sentiment – to be mature as Christians.  We aren’t to be naïve.  And though you may not be a teacher of large groups of people, or part of the “ruling class”, we are all teachers of our children.  We are all rulers of our homes.  We are responsible to learn and to press forward toward maturity.

3:11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony.

  • There’s a contrast being made here between the “we” that Jesus is saying and the “we” that Nicodemus used in verse 2.  Nicodemus was referring to some of his pals on the Sanhedrin Council, but Jesus is likely referring to Himself and His disciples – this probably included John the Baptist (MacArthur).

3:12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?

  • This is part two of His rebuke.  First Jesus rebuked Him by inferring in verse 10 that he didn’t have an adequate understanding of the Old Testament prophets, and here he seems to be rebuking him for not being able to understand what He was showing him now.
  • This verse reminded me somewhat of what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:4, “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
  • It is evident that unless the Holy Spirit does a supernatural work in our lives, we’ll never be able to understand heavenly things.  RC Sproul explains and summarizes this section of scripture, “A Person must be changed by God; the disposition of his heart, which by nature does not want to do God’s bidding, must be altered by God the Holy Spirit.”

3:13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.

  • This is Jesus simply reaffirming His deity.  He is the only one who has descended from heaven and the only one who has ascended into heaven.  It is an interesting statement.  It seems to me that He is first asserting that He has some amazing (heavenly) things to impart to the people of this world, and that here He is saying that He’s the only one qualified to impart those things.  It’s almost as if He’s saying, “there’s never been anyone like me who can tell you these things, and there never will be another like me.  I’m the only one who has ever come with this kind of authority straight from heaven.”

3:14-15 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, [15] that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

  • Here another shadow in the Old Testament is made clear to us.  In this case, Jesus is appealing to a story Nicodemus certainly would have known.  The story can be found in Number 21:5-9.
  • In this account, the people of Israel had just been delivered from the land of Egypt and because of their unbelief, we find them here in the midst of their 40-year wandering in the wilderness.  God sent poisonous snakes to plague them because of their grumbling, and Moses intercedes for them.
  • Interestingly enough, the snake eventually became the source of idol worship!  The ESV Study Bible notes say this, “The redness of copper suggested atonement (see 19:1–10), so symbolically it was well chosen for this occasion. Jesus compares his own death on the cross to the uplifted serpent (John 3:14–15). By the time of King Hezekiah of Judah (c. 715 B.C.), this copper serpent had become an object of worship among the Israelites and had to be destroyed (2 Kings 18:4).”
  • So, by the grace of God, they are given a way out of their troubles.  They have only to look upon the fiery serpent in faith and trust that by looking upon this poll they will be healed by God.
  • We also must look to the Lord upon the cross and come to Him with faith that He will heal the sickness of our sin and misery.  He alone grants us the opportunity to be healed of this sickness, and He alone is gracious and powerful enough to ensure that we are saved.
  • The result of the healing in this Numbers passage was a saved life, the result of the healing that Christ brings is Spiritual, and because it is spiritual it is eternal.  This is the first instance where John has mentioned eternal life.   It’s significant that Christ uses an Old Testament passage here to illustrate His point – in my opinion it further shames Nicodemus because it would have been a passage he would have been (hopefully) familiar with.

In summary, how do we teach this to our children? 

Today we learned that the Holy Spirit cannot be seen, and He operates in ways that we as humans cannot understand.  The same thing is true about being born-again – its God’s work in us and we can’t really fully understand it, but we trust the God has done it and we notice the change in our hearts.  We also talked about how we (as parents) are responsible for teaching our children the truths God has taught US in the Bible.  Lastly, we learned that humans have always been grumblers – just like the Israelites in grumbled and complained to Moses and God about their food, we also do the same thing don’t we?! On our own strength we will never be able to overcome this sinful nature, but must look to Jesus for redemption and salvation.  Once we have been born again/saved, God sends us the Holy Spirit to help us obey and please God even through trials.

2-26-12 Study Notes

1:43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”

  • Note the divine imperative here.  He doesn’t ask, He tells Philip to “follow me.”  This reminds me of the efficacious work of the Spirit when He calls us to follow Christ – He lifts the blinds on the windows of our heart and causes us to see Christ for who He is.

1:44-45 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. [45] Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

  • Again we see that Philip and the other disciples are convinced (at least very nearly convinced) that they have found the Messiah.  This connoted both an understanding of the law and the prophets, and an attitude of expectation at Jesus’ arrival.
  • Nathanael is said to be the same person as Bartholomew.  Bartholomew was a surname and Nathanael was a given name.

1:46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”

  • Nazareth was not a very important town, but it doesn’t seem that Nathanael’s opinion was necessarily universal.  As Morris says, “It is not a famous city, but we have no reason for thinking it was infamous. We should probably understand Nathanael’s words as the utterance of a man who could not conceive of the Messiah as coming from such an insignificant place.”

1:47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!”

  • This is the first of two statements where Jesus seems to show a sort of super-human intellect.  But it is more than intellect of a “super-human” kind.  It is obviously knowledge that only the Divine Being could know.
  • The fact that Jesus used the term “Israelite” is interesting because its not the word used most in this gospel – usually the word “Jew” is used, but Jesus is using the covenant name of the nation and the one closely identified with Jacob – significant because Jacob is the character that best ties in this whole final passage.
  • When Jesus says there is no “guile” or “deceit” in Nathanael, it harkens our minds back to Jacob who was himself a deceiver.  Jesus is basically saying, ‘here is an Israelite in whom there is no Israel!’  He is praising Nathanael for being a straight-forward type of guy.

1:48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”

  • This says something of the divine knowledge of Jesus during His time here on earth.  There is an ongoing argument among scholars as to how much Christ knew or could have known in his humanity.  Some ask the question: if he was fully human, how could his human mind have known what The Deity knows?  The question is worth asking, though we may never know the answer.  It is certainly obvious from the Scriptures that Jesus knew a lot – though it is my opinion from reading the Bible throughout the years that He didn’t use His full omnipotence while on earth.  For example, while on earth He said that only the Father knew the date of His second coming.  It is this kind of statement that leads me to think that He laid aside some of His divine omniscience.

1:49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

  • Note the way that Nathanael ties the two concepts of the “Son of God” and the “King of Israel” together.  I like this because it signifies both His deity and His humanity.  It also signifies His authority and kingship.
  • Keep in mind that Nathanael had just been identified as an “Israelite”, and now Nathanael is identifying Jesus as the “King of Israel” – he is submitting to His authority.
  • And by the reaction we read here, he seemed to understand right away that Jesus was the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies.

1:50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.”

  • In this verse we’re given a hint from Jesus that the best is yet to come.  This is a fitting statement for the beginning of what would end up being the most exciting and world-altering three years ever lived by a man on earth.  Jesus’ ministry here on earth was a shower of one miracle after another.  Teaching after teaching by Christ flowed forth the divine wisdom with a profundity that forever changed the course of history for humanity.

1:51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

  • This is a clear reference to Jacob’s ladder – which is amazing to see the fulfillment of this from thousands of years prior (Gen. 28:10-17).  According to Jonathan Edwards, the passage serves as an analogy to what Christ fulfilled in bringing to us in Salvation and the Covenant of Grace.
  • The sleep that Jacob takes symbolizes death (spiritual death), and the rock he lays his head upon symbolizes Christ. The ladder is God’s Salvation and the Covenant of Grace, which was ushered in with Christ.  The ladder is the only way to heaven, though men desire to make their own ladders of self-righteousness, which only lead to destruction.  The rungs of the ladder are the ordinances and promises of God – they are strong enough to keep us and hold us as we climb upwards toward heaven.  The ladder, of course, leads to heaven.  It takes us to God who is far above the earthly sin and trouble of this life.
  • As Christians it is our mission each to day to climb the ladder.  Edwards says, “don’t rest is what you’ve attained.”  He also points out that there is great happiness – ultimate happiness – awaiting us at the top of the ladder, and that every man desires to reach that happiness.  Our souls all desire to be happy in God.
  • Lastly, let’s examine this title, “Son of Man.”  As Morris reminds us, “In the gospels it is used by Jesus as His favorite self-designation, occurring in this way over 80 times.
  • The term is derived from Daniel 7:13-14.  So why did Jesus like this title?  Leon Morris gives us four reasons:
  1. “Because it was a rare term and one without nationalistic associations. It would lead to no political complications.”
  2. “Because it had overtones of divinity”
  3. “Because of its societary implications.  The Son of Man implies the redeemed people of God.”
  4. “It had undertones of humanity. He took upon Him our weakness.”
  • Morris concludes, “It was a way of eluding to, and yet veiling his Messiahship, for His concept of the Messiah differed markedly from that commonly held.”

 

How do we teach this to our children?  If you were to tell your children on the way home today that you learned about how Jesus was and is the Word of God, what would you say?

EXAMPLE:  Today we learned about how the first disciples were called.  We also learned about the name that Jesus liked to use for himself (the Son of Man).  The title ‘Son of Man’ indicates that Jesus is divine, and that He’s also human.  The Jews who were listening to Jesus teach would not have thought much about this title (for older children: it was a title disassociated with any preconceived political or society notions) so they wouldn’t have had any incorrect thoughts about who Jesus was or who He was describing Himself to be.  We also learned about how Jacob from the Old Testament saw a ladder reaching all the way to heaven.  On the ladder there were angels going up and down – almost like a stairway.  Jesus said to His disciples that they would see angels walking up and down “on” the Son of Man – on Him!  What Jesus meant by this was that He was the great ladder (or stairway) that connected heaven and earth.  Our only way to get to heaven is by Jesus and His salvation.