Daily Bible Studies & Sermon Notes

John 2:20-3:2
Pastor Steve Schell
Sunday: John 2:20
v20: When this group of leaders heard Jesus’ words they initially thought He was boasting that He could tear down the massive stones of Herod’s temple and then “magically” put them all back in place in three days (Mt 26:61; 27:40). They responded by saying, “This sanctuary was built in 46 years, and you will raise it up in three days?” (literal). They reminded Him how long it had been under construction, and in fact, it was still not complete. Construction did not cease until A.D. 63, shortly before it was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70 (Alfred Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, E.R. Herrick and Co., 1883, Vol. 1, p.375). By recording the precise age of the temple, John gives us valuable information that helps us calculate the year in which this conversation was taking place. The historian Josephus tells us that Herod began to build the temple in the 18th year of his reign (Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews, 15.11.1), which would have been 19 B.C. (F.F. Bruce, The New Bible Dictionary, J.D. Douglas ed., Eerdmans, 1971, p.522). So the date this conversation took place must have been the spring of A.D. 27 (Edersheim, p.375).

Monday: John 2:21-25
vs21-22: John admits that he and the rest of the disciples finally understood Jesus’ statement years later after He had been raised from the dead. Only then did they look back and understand that His words were a parable about His physical body based on prophetic promises found in the events surrounding the Passover (v19). vs23-25: While He was in Jerusalem during the Feast of the Passover and the week of Unleavened Bread which followed it, Jesus must have begun His ministry of healing the sick and delivering those oppressed by demons because John says, “many believed in His name beholding Him [because of] the signs which He was doing” (literal). And then John adds the strangest statement. He says, “But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them for He knew all men.” Then he reinforces that statement by saying, “because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man (human-kind), for He Himself knew what was in man.”

Tuesday: John 2:23-25
vs23-25 (continued): It’s easy to see why Jesus might not trust people who didn’t believe in Him, but John tells us He didn’t trust those who did and then he tells us why. He said it was because Jesus knew what was inside every human being. So what was it He knew about us that He didn’t trust? As we’ll soon discover (Jn 3:1-5), He knew that the human heart must undergo a profound transformation before anyone can be trusted to follow Him on the path that leads to a cross. And then to help us understand this truth, John lets us listen to a dialogue between Jesus and one of the people who “believed in Him.” The man’s name was Nicodemus, and during their conversation Jesus explained to him what would have to happen inside him before God could consider him trustworthy.

Wednesday: John 3:1-2
vs1-2: Nicodemus was a member of the Sanhedrin and possibly one of the most popular teachers in Israel (v10). As he watched Jesus perform miracles and heard Him speak he became one of those who “believed in His name.” He was an example of a sincere but un-transformed seeker, and as we listen to him we can hear what he believed. “Rabbi, we know that you have come from God [as] a teacher, for no one is able to do these signs which you do unless God is with Him” (literal). We can hear in this statement that he believed that God had sent Jesus as a teacher and that He was teaching truth. He also recognized that real power was at work through Jesus, and he was convinced that God was the source of that power. And because of what he believed he longed to talk to Jesus privately, yet if word got back to the high priest or those on the Sanhedrin who were hostile to Jesus, he would be pressed to renounce Jesus and if he didn’t he would almost certainly be removed.

Thursday: John 3:1-2
vs1-2 (continued): John mentions that Nicodemus is a Pharisee (v1), and this is an important piece of information to help us understand the dialogue which took place that night, because everything Jesus said (Jn 3:3-21) challenged the basic assumptions of Phariseeism. It was a religious movement focused on maintaining God’s favor by meticulously obeying the commands of the Law (Torah), but Jesus told Nicodemus that God’s favor would be given to those who placed their faith in Him. Their discussion centered around the same issue Paul addressed in his letter to the Romans where he contrasts those who pursue a “law of righteousness” with those who receive the “righteousness which is by faith” (Ro 9:30-32).

Friday: John 3:1-2
vs1-2 (continued): The origin of the religious movement called “Pharisees” is uncertain. Even the meaning of the name itself is disputed largely, I think, because it appears to have originally meant “Persian” (Leon Morris, John, Eerdmans, 1971, p.139), and to some students of the Bible that seems illogical. But I think we observe the root of this word being used in the Book of Daniel when he interpreted the handwriting on the wall (Da 5:22-28). He saw there the words “Upharsin” and “Peres” which are the plural and singular form of the name for the people of Persia. That ancient name can still be heard in the word “Farsi” which is one of the major languages in Iran (Persia). The problem some have in connecting the term “Pharisee” to Persia is in understanding why anyone would use the term “Persians” for a religious group in Israel, but we need only think back to Israel’s history to see a possible connection. The Babylonian (and then Persian) Exile (about 605-536 B.C.) was God’s discipline of Judah and Jerusalem for disregarding His Law. During those years the temple lay in ruins and all but the poorest had been taken as captives to Mesopotamia. The restoration of the nation began when some of these exiled Jews came home under the leadership of Ezra (458 B.C.) and Nehemiah (444 B.C.) (Ezr 1:1-4). And from that time onward, the school of thought began by Ezra continued to influence the formation of Judaism.

Saturday: John 3:1-2
vs1-2 (continued): Prior to returning to Israel, Ezra was a priest living in the city of Babylon. He was a prophet and a great lover of God’s Word, and tradition says he was the one who gathered the various books of the Bible into one volume. In the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, Ezra is repeatedly called a “scribe” meaning he carefully copied books of the Bible onto scrolls of parchment (e.g. Ezr 7:6, 11-12, 21; Ne 8:1, 4, 9). He passionately studied the Bible, obeyed what he read and taught others to do the same (Ezr 7:10). He deeply believed that the Exile had been the result of Israel’s failure to obey the Law of Moses (Ezr 9:3-15), and he was determined to teach the people how to live separately from other cultures and to be very careful to obey the Law even in matters which might seem small or unimportant. His goal was to restore God’s blessing and protective hand and to prevent anything like the Exile from happening again. I think he and those scribes and teachers he brought with him from Persia, and later on the movement itself which was based on his teaching, came to be called by the nickname “the Persians.” With this in mind we can easily see why conflict quickly arose between Jesus and the scribes and Pharisees, and nowhere are the reasons for that conflict expressed more clearly than in Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus. He was endangering their national existence. That’s why as we listen to this conversation we’ll hear Jesus explain to this Pharisee the true path to God’s salvation. 

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