There’s one question I always ask when I read about someone’s encounter with Jesus in the gospels…
“What’s the spiritual condition of the person talking to Jesus.”
I mean… are they a believer… a seeker… or someone not at all interested in the spiritual side of life?
Most people assume that Jesus spent the majority of His time “evangelizing unbelievers”… so they naturally conclude that we should do the same. Our generation has focused much of its efforts on evangelism… because we believe “that’s WJD”.
In this post… we’ll look at an interaction Jesus had with Nicodemus. Most understand this guy to be a “seeker” who is coming to Jesus with questions, but is it possible that he is a believer coming to Jesus to understand more about his Messiah?
Let’s see if we can pull Nicodemus out of the shadows.
What’s Going on Behind the Translation?
There is a lot happening “behind the curtain” of the English translations of John 3:1-21. While I won’t be able to take space to unpack all of it here, I would like to give you some things for further study.
First… John, the author, used one word over and over again in verses 3-5. The Greek word “pneuma“, which can mean a “breath”, a “blast of air”, or “wind” but is often interpreted as “spirit”. In scripture, this can often refer to the Holy Spirit. In John 3:5-8… everywhere the English translation says “wind” and/or “Spirit”… it’s the same word (pneuma) in the Greek language. (For a more complete discussion… please read Zane Hodges’ article).
Second… the Greek phrase that’s often translated, “born again” can also be translated “born from above” (meaning Heaven). Jesus was using this linguistic ambiguity to teach a spiritual truth. Nicodemus originally thought Jesus meant “born again” (physical birth) when Jesus really meant “born from above” (spiritual birth). Jesus liked to play with phrases like that.
Third… there are a bunch of “you” statements in the interaction between Jesus and Nicodemus. The Greek language uses two different words to distinguish whether a “you” is singular (directed to one person) or plural (sometimes in English we say “you all”). English is not so clear. The English language only has one “you” that functions as both a singular “you” and a plural “you all”. I believe the English language brings a lack of clarity to Nicodemus’ conversation with Jesus.
With that said… let’s take a look at the interaction Jesus had with Nicodemus. Continue reading