The text of today repeats the last two verses of yesterday in order to situate the question that Nicodemus asks in the following verse. To Jesus’ statement that it is necessary for a person to be born of water and the spirit, or from above, and that this birth, like the wind/spirit is a mystery that cannot be fully grasped, Nicodemus responds with amazement. His question once again begins with “How”. This indicates the limits that Nicodemus sets even before any revelation can be made to him. This is the last time that Nicodemus will speak. He begins with “How” and ends with “How”. He does not seem to have been able to go to the deeper meaning and mystery to which Jesus was taking him. Though he is a teacher himself, he has refused to learn and so, cannot understand.
Through the monologue that follows, Jesus renews the offer of new birth through his death, resurrection, and ascension. The “we” of Jesus, in the Gospel context, stands for Jesus, John the Baptist, and the disciples of John, who followed Jesus and witnessed to him. These witnesses speak from their own experience; what they know, they say. If Nicodemus is not able to understand the simple things, like being born from above and with water and the spirit, how will he able to understand even greater mysteries than this? Jesus alone has the authority to make the revelation of heavenly things since he has come from heaven. He has the power on earth to reveal things of heaven. In 3:14, for the first time, we come across what may be regarded as a passion, resurrection, and ascension prediction in the Gospel of John. Jesus will be lifted up/exalted, just as Moses lifted up/exalted the bronze serpent in the wilderness. The word “hupsoo’ can mean “lift up” or exalt”. Thus, while the word might indicate the physical act of “lifting up” the cross beam at the time of his crucifixion, it can also mean his “exaltation”. Thus, in his crucifixion, Jesus will also be exalted, yet there is no exaltation apart from the crucifixion. The consequence of believing in Jesus lifted up/exalted is eternal life, which here means a life lived in the constant presence of God.
It is significant that for the Gospel of John, the very act of the crucifixion is also seen as the act of the resurrection and ascension. Jesus dies, but only to be raised to life and ascend to the Father. This insight is extremely important for our lives as well, because it means that, if we accept it, our lives will never be the same again.
It says to us that, even when we are in extremely difficult situations and there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel, God continues to be there with us. It says to us that, at moments when we think all is lost and we have no hope, we must not give up or give in. It says to us that, even at those times when we cannot fully understand why things happen the way they do and we are tempted to throw in the towel, God continues to offer hope and consolation.