9 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?
JOHN 3: 9-10 ESV
9 ἀπεκρίθη Νικόδημος καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ· Πῶς δύναται ταῦτα γενέσθαι; 10 ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ· Σὺ εἶ ὁ διδάσκαλος τοῦ Ἰσραὴλ καὶ ταῦτα οὐ γινώσκεις;
JOHN 3: 9-10 SBLGNT
Nicodemus’ incredulous question, ‘How can this happen?’ Doubtless, he had for years taught others the conditions of entrance to the kingdom of God, conditions cast in terms of obedience to God’s commands, devotion to God, and happy submission to his will; but here he is facing a condition he has never heard expressed, the absolute requirement of birth from above. Even after Jesus’ explanation, he is skeptical that such birth can occur.
Judging by Jesus’ rather sharp retort in verse 10, the question of Nicodemus reflects not wondering and probing ingenuousness but frank incredulity. Jesus’s response projects the blame in sharp focus: Nicodemus should have understood these things as Israel’s teacher. The article with this expression, literally ‘the teacher of Israel,’ suggests he was a recognized master, an established religious authority. ‘You are the Reverend Professor Doctor, and do you not understand these things?’ Nothing could make clearer the fact that Jesus’ teaching on the new birth was built on the teaching of the Old Testament.
After Jesus elucidates his original pronouncement, Nicodemus still does not fathom the possibility of the things Jesus has spoken of, though he now no longer, as in verse 2, attempts to demonstrate their absurdity. “How can this be?” narrative is also found in John 6:42; 8:33; 12:34, and Nicodemus primarily responds to what Jesus said concerning the working of the Spirit. However, his skepticism concerning the “birth from above” continues to be present as an undertone. Jesus’ reply, accordingly, does not limit itself to an explanation of the words he uttered last but places all he has said in the grand context of his coming and work.
Jesus does find fault with Nicodemus, and more emphatically than he did in vs. 7: “Are you the teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand this?” The emphatic “the teacher of Israel” means something like “the man who has to teach Israel the knowledge of God.” Jesus’ coming and ‘works’ manifest the breakthrough toward the absolutely new, which requires a new approach that can be received only “from above.” Nevertheless, this is not to say that the background (the “pre-understanding”) for that approach was lacking in Israel, the people of God’s revelation, or that its knowledge could not reasonably be expected from Israel’s teachers. The prophets of Israel repeatedly spoke of a fundamental inner change and the promise of the Spirit to that end, as in Ezk. 11:19 -19 “And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh,” or Isaiah. 44:3- 3 “For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.” As far as the hermeneutical key to or horizon of Jesus’ words is concerned, he did not speak from within a thought world or “anthropology” foreign to Nicodemus or Israel. In that respect, too, Jesus came to his own, as stated in John 1:11.
However, Jesus does not stop to discuss that background. As indicated earlier, all his words about the necessity of rebirth are only intended, from within the glory of God manifest in Christ, to cut off all “fleshly” knowledge of Jesus. Hence the entire dialogue with Nicodemus now culminates in the new “we know” of heavenly things — though without his further participation.
How we determine our life in the New Covenant begins with us individually. Not by the standards set forth by man. God has come into our reality and set the path for us to walk. No more are the views of subjective interpretations of leaders but the very revelation of God himself as a man. Can we further doubt the authenticity of our faith if God’s Word reveals the nature of our inner state? The Word of God is the most widely translated book in history and continues to break annual records for worldwide distribution. The core message of God focuses on the cross as everything is written leads to the moment on the cross.
Jesus came and spoke, and it is His word that opens pathways in our journey in our faith. We all have our own pathways to walk and dictate with strict obedience to subjugated beliefs of orthodoxy, defeating the uniqueness of our relationship with Jesus. My life story does not mirror anyone else’s, and God speaks to me in a manner that provides coherency but may be voiceless to another. We are made unique and different, and our values differ; hence sometimes it takes the shattering upheavals in our lives to open our eyes, whereas some who have been faithful continue to live life blissfully.
Our rebirth is unique, and its values are appreciated within our very heart and soul of ourselves uniquely. Value our faith, and together we uphold each other. Be mindful of the world around us and keep our eyes forward, keeping Jesus in our view.