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Early Ministry in Jerusalem

Discussion with Nicodemus


The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him,

Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God:

for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.  John 3:2








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Holy Trinity, Year B

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Quotes & Notes on:     John 3:2   

  • John Wesley's Notes:
    The same came-Through desire; but by night-Through shame:  We know-Even we rulers and Pharisees.

  • Treasury of Scripture Knowledge:

    * came. Joh 7:50; 12:42; 19:38,39; Jg 6:27; Isa 51:7; Php 1:14
    * Rabbi. Joh 3:26; 1:38; 20:16
    * we know. Mt 22:16; Mr 12:14
    * for. Joh 5:36; 7:31; 9:16,30-33; 11:47; 12:37; 15:24; Ac 2:22; 4:16,17 Ac 10:38

  • Adam Clarke's Commentary:

    Came to Jesus by night] He had matters of the utmost importance, on which he wished to consult Christ; and he chose the night season, perhaps less through the fear of man than through a desire to have Jesus alone, as he found him all the day encompassed with the multitude; so that it was impossible for him to get an opportunity to speak fully on those weighty affairs concerning which he intended to consult him. However, we may take it for granted that he had no design at present to become his disciple; as baptism and circumcision, which were the initiating ordinances among the Jews, were never administered in the night time. If any person received baptism by night, he was not acknowledged for a proselyte. See Wetstein. But as Jews were not obliged to be baptized, they being circumcised, and consequently in the covenant, he, being a Jew, would not feel any necessity of submitting to this rite.

    Rabbi] My Master, or Teacher, a title of respect given to the Jewish doctors, something like our Doctor of Divinity, i.e. teacher of Divine things. But as there may be many found among us who, though they bear the title, are no teachers, so it was among the Jews; and perhaps it was in reference to this that Nicodemus uses the word , didaskalos, immediately after, by which, in Joh 1:38, St. John translates the word rabbi. Rabbi, teacher, is often no more than a title of respect: didaskolos signifies a person who not only has the name of teacher, but who actually does teach.

    We know that thou art a teacher come from God] We, all the members of the grand Sanhedrin, and all the rulers of the people, who have paid proper attention to thy doctrine and miracles. We are all convinced of this, though we are not all candid enough to own it. It is possible, however, that , we know, signifies no more than, it is known, it is generally acknowledged and allowed, that thou art a teacher come from God.

    No man can do these miracles] It is on the evidence of thy miracles that I ground my opinion of thee. No man can do what thou dost, unless the omnipotence of God be with him.

  • Family Bible Notes:

     (No comment on this verse).

  • 1599 Geneva Bible Notes:
    We know that you are sent from God to teach us. (c) But he in whom some part of the excellency of God appears. And if Nicodemus had rightly known Christ, he would not only have said that God was with him, but in him, as Paul does in 2Co 1:19.

  • People's New Testament Commentary:

      The same came to Jesus by night. He probably chose the night in order to escape observation. He did not dare encounter the hostility of the priests, filled with rage over the cleansing of the temple, and yet he wished to know more of one whom he believed to be sent from God.

    Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God. Nicodemus confesses, not only his belief, but that of his fellow Pharisees and rulers. The miracles of Jesus convinced them, even if they would not admit it, that he was a teacher sent from God. He came for information, and Jesus recognized it in what follows.

  • Robertson's Word Pictures:
     The same (houtos). "This one." By night (nuktos). Genitive of time. That he came at all is remarkable, not because there was any danger as was true at a later period, but because of his own prominence. He wished to avoid comment by other members of the Sanhedrin and others. Jesus had already provoked the opposition of the ecclesiastics by his assumption of Messianic authority over the temple. There is no ground for assigning this incident to a later period, for it suits perfectly here. Jesus was already in the public eye (Joh 2:23) and the interest of Nicodemus was real and yet he wished to be cautious. Rabbi (Rabbei). See on Joh 1:38. Technically Jesus was not an acknowledged Rabbi of the schools, but Nicodemus does recognize him as such and calls him "My Master" just as Andrew and John did (Joh 1:38). It was a long step for Nicodemus as a Pharisee to take, for the Pharisees had closely scrutinized the credentials of the Baptist in Joh 1:19-24 (Milligan and Moulton's Comm.). We know (oidamen). Second perfect indicative first person plural. He seems to speak for others of his class as the blind man does in Joh 9:31. Westcott thinks that Nicodemus has been influenced partly by the report of the commission sent to the Baptist (Joh 1:19-27). Thou art a teacher come from God (apo theou elÍluthas didaskalos). "Thou hast come from God as a teacher." Second perfect active indicative of erchomai and predicative nominative didaskalos. This is the explanation of Nicodemus for coming to Jesus, obscure Galilean peasant as he seemed, evidence that satisfied one of the leaders in Pharisaism. Can do (dunatai poiein). "Can go on doing" (present active infinitive of poieŰ and so linear). These signs that thou doest (tauta ta sÍmeia ha su poieis). Those mentioned in Joh 2:23 that convinced so many in the crowd and that now appeal to the scholar. Note su (thou) as quite out of the ordinary. The scorn of Jesus by the rulers held many back to the end (Joh 12:42), but Nicodemus dares to feel his way. Except God be with him (ean mÍ Íi ho theos met' autou). Condition of the third class, presented as a probability, not as a definite fact. He wanted to know more of the teaching accredited thus by God. Jesus went about doing good because God was with him, Peter says ( Ac 10:38).

  • Albert Barnes' Commentary:

      The same came to Jesus. The design of his coming seems to have been to inquire more fully of Jesus what was the doctrine which he came to teach. He seems to have been convinced that he was the Messiah, and desired to be farther instructed in private respecting his doctrine. It was not usual for a man of rank, power, and riches to come to inquire of Jesus in this manner; yet we may learn that the most favourable opportunity for teaching such men the nature of personal religion is when they are alone. Scarcely any man, of any rank, will refuse to converse on this subject when addressed respectfully and tenderly in private. In the midst of their companions, or engaged in business, they may refuse to listen or may cavil. When alone, they will hear the voice of entreaty and persuasion, and be willing to converse on the great subjects of judgment and eternity. Thus Paul says (Ga 2:2), "privately to them which are of reputations;" evincing his consummate prudence, and his profound knowledge of human nature.

    By night. It is not mentioned why he came by night. It might have been that, being a member of the Sanhedrim, he was engaged all the day; or it may have been because the Lord Jesus was occupied all the day in teaching publicly and in working miracles, and that there was no opportunity for conversing with him as freely as he desired; or it may have been that he was afraid of the ridicule and contempt of those in power, and fearful that it might involve him in danger if publicly known; or it may have been that he was afraid that if it were publicly known that he was disposed to favour the Lord Jesus, it might provoke more opposition against him and endanger his life. As no bad motive is imputed to him, it is most in accordance with Christian charity to suppose that his motives were such as God would approve, especially as the Saviour did not reprove him. We should not be disposed to blame men where Jesus did not, and we should desire to find goodness in every man rather than be ever on the search for evil motives. 1Co 13:4-7. We may learn here,

    1st. That our Saviour, though engaged during the day, did not refuse to converse with an inquiring sinner at night. Ministers of the gospel at all times should welcome those who are asking the way to life.

    2nd. That it is proper for men, even those of elevated rank, to inquire on the subject of religion. Nothing is so important as religion, and no temper of mind is more lovely than a disposition to ask the way to heaven. At all times men should seek the way of salvation, and especially in times of great religious excitement they should make inquiry. At Jerusalem, at the time referred to here, there was great solicitude. Many believed on Jesus. He wrought miracles, and preached, and many were converted. There was what would now be called a revival off religion, having all the features of a work of grace. At such a season it was proper, as it is now, that not only the poor, but the rich and great, should inquire the path to life.

    Rabbi. This was a title of respect conferred on distinguished Jewish teachers, somewhat in the way that the title doctor of divinity is now conferred. See Barnes for Joh 1:38. Our Saviour forbade his disciples to wear that title (See Barnes for Joh 1:38), though it was proper for him to do it, as being the great Teacher of mankind. It literally signifies great, and was given by Nicodemus, doubtless, because Jesus gave distinguished proofs that he came as a teacher from God.

    We know. I know, and those with whom I am connected. Perhaps he was acquainted with some of the Pharisees who entertained the same opinion about Jesus that he did, and he came to be more fully confirmed in the belief.

    Come from God. Sent by God. This implies his readiness to hear him, and his desire to be instructed. He acknowledges the divine mission of Jesus, and delicately asks him to instruct him in the truth of religion. When we read the words of Jesus in the Bible, it should be with a belief that he came from God, and was therefore qualified and authorized to teach us the way of life.

    These miracles. The miracles which he wrought in the temple and at Jerusalem, Joh 2:23.

    Except God be with him. Except God aid him, and except his instructions are approved by God. Miracles show that a prophet or religious teacher comes from God, because God would not work a miracle in attestation of a falsehood or to give countenance to a false teacher. If God gives a man power to work a miracle, it is proof that he approves the teaching of that man, and the miracle is the proof or the credential that he came from God.

    {b} "for no man" Joh 9:16,33; Ac 2:22
    {c} "God be with him" Ac 10:38

  • Jamieson-Faussett Brown:

    came to Jesus by night--One of those superficial "believers" mentioned in Joh 2:23,24, yet inwardly craving further satisfaction, Nicodemus comes to Jesus in quest of it, but comes "by night" (see Joh 19:38,39; 12:42); he avows his conviction that He was

    come from God--an expression never applied to a merely human messenger, and probably meaning more here--but only as "a teacher," and in His miracles he sees a proof merely that "God is with Him." Thus, while unable to repress his convictions, he is afraid of committing himself too far.

  • Spurgeon Commentary:

     Perhaps he came by night because he would make private inquiries before he committed himself to the new teacher. Jesus did not refuse him a midnight audience, and Nicodemus came to him in courteous and candid spirit.

  • William Burkitt's Notes:

     (No comment on this verse).

  • Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary:

    When he came: He came to Jesus by night. Observe,

    2a1) He made a private and particular address to Christ, and did not think it enough to hear his public discourses. He resolved to talk with him by himself, where he might be free with him. Personal converse with skillful faithful ministers about the affairs of our souls would be of great use to us, Mal 2:7.

    2a2) He made this address by night, which may be considered,

    2a2a) As an act of prudence and discretion. Christ was engaged all day in public work, and he would not interrupt him then, nor expect his attendance then, but observed Christ's hour, and waited on him when he was at leisure. Note: Private advantages to ourselves and our own families must give way to those that are public. The greater good must be preferred before the less. Christ had many enemies, and therefore Nicodemus came to him incognito, lest being known to the chief priests they should be the more enraged against Christ.

    2a2b) As an act of zeal and forwardness. Nicodemus was a man of business, and could not spare time all day to make Christ a visit, and therefore he would rather take time from the diversions of the evening, or the rest of the night, than not converse with Christ. When others were sleeping, he was getting knowledge, as David by meditation, Ps 63:6; 119:148. Probably it was the very next night after he saw Christ's miracles, and he would not neglect the first opportunity of pursuing his convictions. He knew not how soon Christ might leave the town, nor what might happen betwixt that and another feast, and therefore would lose no time. In the night his converse with Christ would be more free, and less liable to disturbance. These were Noctes Christianae--Christian nights, much more instructive than the Noctes Atticae--Attic nights. Or,

    2a2c) As an act of fear and cowardice. He was afraid, or ashamed, to be seen with Christ, and therefore came in the night. When religion is out of fashion, there are many Nicodemites, especially among the rulers, who have a better affection to Christ and his religion than they would be known to have. But observe, First, Though he came by night, Christ bade him welcome, accepted his integrity, and pardoned his infirmity; he considered his temper, which perhaps was timorous, and the temptation he was in from his place and office; and hereby taught his ministers to become all things to all men, and to encourage good beginnings, though weak. Paul preached privately to those of reputation, Ga 2:2. Secondly, Though now he came by night, yet afterwards, when there was occasion, he owned Christ publicly, Joh 7:50; 19:39. The grace which is at first but a grain of mustard seed may grow to be a great tree.

    2b) What he said. He did not come to talk with Christ about politics and state affairs (though he was a ruler), but about the concerns of his own soul and its salvation, and, without circumlocution, comes immediately to the business; he calls Christ Rabbi, which signifies a great man; Isa 19:20. He shall send them a Saviour, and a great one; a Saviour and a rabbi, so the word is. There are hopes of those who have a respect for Christ, and think and speak honourably of him. He tells Christ how far he had attained: We know that thou art a teacher. Observe,

    2b1) His assertion concerning Christ: Thou art a teacher come from God; not educated nor ordained by men, as other teachers, but supported with divine inspiration and divine authority. He that was to be the sovereign Ruler came first to be a teacher; for he would rule with reason, not with rigour, by the power of truth, not of the sword. The world lay in ignorance and mistake; the Jewish teachers were corrupt, and caused them to err: It is time for the Lord to work. He came a teacher from God, from God as the Father of mercies, in pity to a dark deceived world; from God as the Father of lights and fountain of truth, all the light and truth upon which we may venture our souls.

    2b2) His assurance of it: We know, not only I, but others; so he took it for granted, the thing being so plain and self-evident. Perhaps he knew that there were divers of the Pharisees and rulers with whom he conversed that were under the same convictions, but had not the grace to own it. Or, we may suppose that he speaks in the plural number (We know) because he brought with him one or more of his friends and pupils, to receive instructions from Christ, knowing them to be of common concern.

    ``Master,'' saith he, ``we come with a desire to be taught, to be thy scholars, for we are fully satisfied thou art a divine teacher.''

    2b3) The ground of this assurance: No man can do those miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Here,

    2b3a) We are assured of the truth of Christ's miracles, and that they were not counterfeit. Here was Nicodemus, a judicious, sensible, inquisitive man, one that had all the reason and opportunity imaginable to examine them, so fully satisfied that they were real miracles that he was wrought upon by them to go contrary to his interest, and to the stream of those of his own rank, who were prejudiced against Christ.

    2b3b) We are directed what inference to draw from Christ's miracles: Therefore we are to receive him as a teacher come from God. His miracles were his credentials. The course of nature could not be altered but by the power of the God of nature, who, we are sure, is the God of truth and goodness, and would never set his seal to a lie or a cheat.


  • The Fourfold Gospel:

     Nicodemus is mentioned only by John. His character is marked by a prudence amounting almost to timidity. At Joh 7:50-52 he defends Jesus, but without committing himself as in any way interested in him: at Joh 19:38,39 he brought spices for the body of Jesus, but only after Joseph of Arimathaea had secured the body. Nicodemus was a ruler, or a member of the Sanhedrin.





Updated:   Wednesday, March 06, 2013 at 03:52 AM



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