In the Wednesday night college class, we are walking through the gospel of John, scrutinizing its contents and structure to gain insight into what message the author John was trying to convey to his original audience. One of the interesting patterns that we see throughout the gospel of John is how John depicts Jesus’ authority and nature (as the Christ—Son of God) through the challenging claims he makes and the signs he does. A great example of this is found in John 3, where we get our famous John 3:16 “For God so loved the world…” verse. But the familiar verse aside—as important as it is—what I find interesting is the entire conversation itself. This is an occasion where Jesus, in the dead of the night, converses with a Jewish man of authority: Nicodemus. He was “a man of the Pharisees,” “ruler of the Jews” (v. 1), and a rabbi much like Jesus himself, as Nicodemus addresses him (v. 2). And yet, quite frankly, Jesus schools Nicodemus on the matters of Scripture. Jesus even rebukes him a little, saying, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?” (v. 10). Here, we see Jesus plainly explaining what has always been in Scripture to the teacher of Scripture, and yet all he can say is “how can these things be?” (v. 9).
This isn’t to mock Nicodemus and his failure to understand in this specific conversation with Jesus. But two things are glaringly true from this passage. First, Jesus is the authority. He is the master teacher, and therefore what we may think we know often holds little power against what Jesus teaches. I’m sure Nicodemus felt that in his conversation with him. Second, this means that we may be challenged by Jesus in our own knowledge and traditions, as was Nicodemus. There is no shame in that. However, more importantly, will we be stiff-necked and stubborn? Or will be acknowledge that the standard ultimately lies within the truth of Scripture as Jesus taught it? Jesus said to Nicodemus that they did not receive his testimony (v. 11). I pray that we will receive Jesus’ teachings humbly, and follow in his footsteps.