But it is also known for the story of Nicodemus coming to see Jesus in the dark. Later, after Jesus’ death, he comes with spices and oils to help carry the body to the tomb (John 19:39–42).
Although today’s passage ends at verse 17, if we include verses 18–21, we see a recurrence of the theme of light and darkness. That theme seems clearly connected to Nicodemus coming to Jesus at night and his quest for light. Our story follows a familiar pattern in John, where the first part deals with a sign or signs, is followed by a discussion, and concludes with Jesus teaching about the topic.
Nicodemus, a Pharisee, is a leader among the Jews. He is a teacher, interpreter, guardian of the law, and member of the ruling council. He comes to talk to Jesus, ask him questions, and see for himself this person is who is performing all these signs.
Jesus’ reference to being born from above in John 3:7, is saying God is the one who gives us life. It is God who gives us the invitation to belong to the kingdom of God. God is laboring to bring us to new life. According to Jesus one needs to be born from above of water and Spirit. “From above” can also be translated as anew, but Nicodemus hears the words and still does not understand Jesus. Jesus’ use of the word for water may allude to what follows in the next chapter where Jesus refers to “living water.” We are familiar with the important role the Spirit plays in John who refers to it as the Comforter or Advocate who will stay with us when we carry on Jesus’ work.
Jesus challenges Nicodemus when he questions how he cannot understand this as a teacher. In verse 11 Jesus again speaks to Nicodemus, but this time when the word you is used it becomes plural and he addresses everyone. So the words in verses 17 and 18 are also directed to all, stating how much God loves each one of us. Jesus is the light that was sent into the world. It is up to us to respond to this love and light and live in it instead of in darkness.
(Worship Helps 3/16/2014)