Day 259 – Thru the Bible
Today we continue John.
John 3 – Under the cloak of darkness, Nicodemus learned of a birth from above. As an old man, he needed new life—eternal life, life in the kingdom of God. But apart from the work of Jesus, he (no different than we) could not even see the kingdom of God, much less enter it. Becoming a Christian is a supernatural act of God’s generosity. We, like Nicodemus, are just as dependent upon God for our second birth as for our first birth. To be born of “water and the Spirit” is to receive the new heart and the sin-cleansing washing God promised for the age of the Messiah (Ezekiel 36:24–35).
As someone steeped in the Old Testament, John had a great appreciation for the symbolism of water. Just as Jesus created the headwaters that flowed through the garden of Eden (Genesis 2:10–14), so He is the source of the life-giving river promised in Ezekiel’s vision of the end-time temple (Ezekiel 47). At His second coming, Jesus will “un-dam” the river of life and it will course its way through the new Jerusalem forever (Revelation 22:1–3). But even now, at His first coming, Jesus offers the firstfruits of living water to those who will bring their thirsty hearts to him (John 4:3–42; 7:37–39).
Jesus freely gives us new life by the supreme offering of His costly death—an event Nicodemus would witness firsthand (19:38–40). When Moses lifted the bronze serpent (representing God’s punishment for His people’s sin) in the wilderness (Numbers 21:4–9), it was to rescue the Israelites from God’s judgment as they looked in faith to God’s provision for healing. When Jesus was lifted onto the cross (representing God’s punishment for His people’s sin), it was to enter the wilderness of God’s judgment for us, and those who look to Him in faith for spiritual healing will also experience God’s provision.
The greatness of God’s love is measured in terms of its unsearchable riches as well as in terms of its unimaginable reach. The “world” spoken of in verse 16 is the rebellious world of God’s image-bearers. God loved rebels, fools, and idolaters so much that He gave His only Son, Jesus, to redeem them—to actually purchase a pan-national, trans-generational family for Himself (Revelation 7:9–10). Everyone the Father gives to Jesus will be saved (John 6:37–40; 10:14–18). There is no other way. There is no greater love.
For John, eternal life is a quality of life before it is a quantity of life. Eternal life is defined in the Bible as knowing God and His Son (17:3)—a sharing of the life and intimacy of the Godhead. It is earthly entry into the everlasting and ever-blessed life of the age to come, the age of the Messiah—the fullness of covenant life. Through Jesus this promised age arrived, and at our rebirth we are ushered into the initial stages of that eternal life. Indeed, the movement from deservedly condemned sinner to perfectly justified Believer is instantaneous and complete.
The transition from the era of anticipation to the age of fulfillment continued as John the Baptist helped his disciples shift their focus even more expressly onto Jesus. The apostle John cites John the Baptist’s testimony in terms that will become one of the apostle’s favorite metaphors for describing the rich relationship Jesus establishes with His people: as Messiah, Jesus is the perfect bridegroom who came from heaven to make a most unlikely, unworthy bride (the church) His wife. Jesus did this by taking upon Himself the wrath we deserve in order to give us the favor we could never earn (Ephesians 5:22–33).
It is important to note that those rescued from wrath are granted eternal life because they believe, while those who are condemned experience wrath because they disobey (John 3:36). The basis of God’s judgment is His just sentence for sin; the basis of our salvation is God’s grace toward those who put their faith in His Son’s provision for them. Disobedience alone results in wrath. Faith alone results in salvation.
What does it mean to you to be “born again”?
John 4 – The world of sinners loved by God includes not just respectable insiders seeking truth (Nicodemus) but broken outsiders running from the truth (the Samaritan woman). None of us are beyond the need of God’s grace and none of us are beyond the reach of God’s grace. Jesus has come to seek and to save both the “found,” those who presume they already have a relationship with God, and the “lost,” those who realize they don’t.
This interchange between Jesus and the Samaritan woman shows us that eternal life isn’t just about our life in heaven when we die; it is also about the life of heaven “welling up” in us while we live. Jesus’ conversation is designed to help this woman see the realities of “heaven” despite the realities of her sin and shame, but He also intends for her discovery to affect her community and culture. The gospel is not ethereal or abstract; it concerns people and place. The woman was shocked that a Jewish man would speak openly to a Samaritan woman. Here Jesus confronts racism and sexism. He has come, as the old hymn says, to “make his blessings flow far as the curse is found.”
The gospel is bad news before it is good news. The living water of grace is sweet only to those who know the bitter taste of their sin. Whether this woman literally had gone through several marriages or was just given over to a life of promiscuity (the specifics of her sin make no difference), she needed what Jesus alone can give. She had been a poor steward of her thirst—a thirst only Jesus can satisfy. She had spent most of her life running to broken cisterns that hold no water (Jeremiah 2:13), now she is offered the only water that will satisfy her, and us—the grace of the gospel.
By nature, we are allergic to grace. We resist it. Like this woman, we look for ways to avoid Jesus. She turned Jesus’ pursuit of her heart into an evasive conversation about different perspectives on worship. In His mercy Jesus met her right there, for ultimately, all of life is about worship. To what or whom do we give the attention, affection, and adoration which rightfully belong to God? We can make idols (substitute gods) out of anything—relationships, religion, anything. But even changing the subject to worship puts Jesus once more in the spotlight, for He is the only one worthy of our worship.
Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman were both part of the prepared harvest for which Jesus came. As disciples of Jesus, we follow Him into a great grace story that has secured the salvation of men and women “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (Revelation 7:9). All of history is bound up with God’s commitment to redeem His covenant family through the work of Jesus.
The gospel comes to us in order that it might run through us. Having believed on Jesus, the Samaritan woman went back to her community to share the good news with her family and friends. In doing so, she gives us the paradigm of a good testimony. Jesus is the hero of her story. She drew attention to the One who exposed her sin and gave her life; and in doing so, she invited her friends to do the same. The gospel is personal, but it is not private.
How is Jesus the hero of your story?
What other thoughts or questions does today’s reading bring up?
Some of these notes are from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible study notes. We highly recommend this study Bible.
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