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Hebrew Couplet in John 3 and 4: Jesus Evangelizes a Rabbi Section 2

John the Gospel writer wrote chapters 3 and 4 like a poetic couplet written in Hebrew. We miss a great deal of meaning if we read about Nicodemus without considering the woman at the well, and we miss a great deal of meaning if we read about the woman at the well without considering Nicodemus. Each of these narratives is like one line of a single couplet of Hebrew poetry.

This Blog Has Two Sections 
  1. Woman at the Well–Shorter, fewer details, general comments: Link
  2. Nicodemus–Longer, more details, specific comparisons

 

Hebrew poetry of the Old Testament, especially in Psalms, features couplets. A Hebrew couplet consists of two lines of poetry that are independent, yet connected. The second line commonly repeats the first line by using a slightly different image, by adding a detail or example, by extending the meaning of the first line, or by particularizing the first line in some way. Examples abound.

1. Let your steadfast love come to me, O LORD,

your salvation according to your promise; (Psalm 119:41)

2. How precious is your steadfast love, O God!

The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. (Psalm 36:7)

3. My God in his steadfast love will meet me;

God will let me look in triumph on my enemies. (Psalm 59:10)

John 3:16 itself is like two couplets of Hebrew poetry:

1. For this is the way God loved the world:

He gave his one and only Son,

2. so that everyone who believes in him will not perish

but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NET)

In John 3:16 above, Jesus says that God gives “everyone” who believes in the Son eternal life. To illustrate this statement, John gives two examples of “everyone”: first, Nicodemus in John 3, and then the woman at the well in John 4. These are two very different people, yet identical. While the differences are external, the points of identification are essential. The two taken together form a continuum of humanity with Nicodemus at one extreme and the woman at the well at the other. The two examples together are like a Hebrew couplet of poetry that illustrate the couplets in John 3:16 above:

Nicodemus is part of the world; this is the way God (in Jesus) loves him.

The woman at the well is part of the world; this is the way God (in Jesus) loves her.

Differences between the two:

Nicodemus–a man, Jewish, a rabbi, well known, well-respected, educated, a teacher, close follower of the law.

Woman at the well–a woman, a Samaritan (pagan), anonymous, not respected, not educated, an adulteress.

Identification of the two:

Nicodemus–unable to enter God’s kingdom without the Spirit of Life (Christ).

Woman at the well–unable to enter God’s kingdom without the Water of Life (Christ).

Identification:

Nicodemus–welcomed by Christ.

Woman at the Well–welcomed by Christ.

Differences:

Nicodemus–slow to believe and receive.

Woman at the well–quick to believe, to receive, and to go share with others.

We can see the relationship between the two chapters if we align the verses in a table format:

John 3

 

John 4

2 “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God,”

 

19 “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.

3 Jesus answered … “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

 

23 …true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth…

6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh,

and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

 

24 God is spirit,

and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Progress towards Faith Breaks Down

 

Progress towards Faith Continues

9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?”

 

25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.”

 

 

 

10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel

and yet you do not understand these things?

 

26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

 

 

 

 

 

28 So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people,

29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?”

     

John the Gospel writer devotes great detail to demonstrate his point about Jesus’ teaching concerning the Kingdom of God. We can summarize Jesus’ teaching like this:

In order to enter the Kingdom of God…

1. No one is so rich that Jesus is not necessary (Nicodemus);

No one is so poor that Jesus is not sufficient (the woman at the well).

2. Jesus is necessary for everyone to enter the Kingdom of God;

Jesus is sufficient for everyone to enter the Kingdom of God.

3. Jesus is necessary and sufficient for all to enter the Kingdom of God.

John 3:16 For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. (NET)

The Gospel of John shows us that everyone who is born again receives the Spirit of God. Everyone who believes in Christ God’s Son receives the Spirit of God. God is a living God who speaks with everyone who receives his Spirit. The Spirit of God is Christ, God’s Son. If you believe, then God gives his Spirit to you, and God’s Spirit will talk with you.

This is what Jesus accomplished on the cross. The cross of Christ wiped out the sin that separates all humankind from Holy God. With sin gone and Christ in its place, there is no longer need for Holy God to maintain his distance from human hearts. Every believer in Jesus Christ God’s Son reunites with God through Christ and the Holy Spirit.

This is why Scripture is alive to all who believe. This is why as you faithfully and persistently read the Psalms, you will begin to hear God speaking to your heart through them. You will begin to hear the prayers of Christ within the Psalms as the Holy Spirit interprets them to your heart.

All humankind is somewhere on the continuum between Nicodemus and the woman at the well. Everyone needs Christ. Jesus God’s Son makes himself available to all.

 

 

Link to next post in this series

Link to prior post in this series

Link to Contents for this series

 

Outline of Psalms Revisited

I. Introduction

A. Overview: A Second Go Round

B. Expect God to Speak to You—Yes, You!

1. Pursue Your Hunger

2. God Is Willing to Talk to You

3. Jesus Evangelizes a Sinful Woman: Section I

4. Jesus Evangelizes a Rabbi: Section II

5. The Holy Spirit in the Reader

 

 

God’s Sliding Scale of Grace in Christ

No Virtue Will Get You In--No Defect Will Keep You Out

No Virtue Will Get You In!  No Defect Will Keep You Out!

 

Link: The New Birth–Its Necessity and Its Joy

Link: Concrete to Spiritual: How Jesus Changes the Old Testament to the New

Concrete to Spiritual: How Jesus Changes the Old Testament to the New

Week 4: Spiritual Replaces Concrete

One of the great takeaway lessons we learn from John 3–Nicodemus–and John 4–the Woman at the Well–is that Jesus introduces a Great Shift–the Great Change–away from concrete interactions with his people (physical symbols and types) to spiritual.

This is one of the biggest differences between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Jesus himself introduced this change, and we see it in both the account of Nicodemus and the Woman at the Well.

The reason the Great Shift occurs with the advent of Christ at the beginning of the New Testament is that the Spirit of God in the later pages of the Old Testament had left the temple and never returned. John the Baptist predicts the return of the Spirit at the time of Jesus’s baptism, saying that Jesus would be the one to baptize people with the Holy Spirit.

Further, in the Old Testament, the Spirit dwelled first in the column of fire by night and cloud by day, which hovered over the Israelites in exile. It next dwelt within the Tent of Meeting, and finally, in the temple. All these are EXTERNAL to the human being. Humans did not have the Spirit of God living within them, and ever since Adam sinned, humankind had lost intimate contact with God and lived separate from him. This is why God needed to talk to his people with concrete, physical symbols–pictures formed by real, historic events. Humankind had become SPIRITUALLY DEAD.

In the New Testament, the promised Holy Spirit arrives, not to live outside humans in the spaces of inanimate objects, but to live within humans in the spiritual spaces of human hearts. This is an enormous change from the Old Testament to the New. It’s a change best described as new wine which no longer fits the old wineskins. (Luke 5:36-38) It is the change from CONCRETE to SPIRITUAL.

In John 3 and John 4, the main protagonists understand Jesus’s words in concrete terms only, that would be to say, in literal terms, using the word “literal” in its modern meaning of something physical, something which can be seen and touched.

  1. Nicodemus interprets Jesus’s words, “You must be born again,” as climbing back into the mother’s womb. (John 3:3-4)
  2. The Woman at the Well interprets Jesus’s words, “living water” as physical water that she could physically drink and therefore physically never thirst again. (John 4:10-15)

In both cases Jesus patiently explains the new spiritual meaning. He pours his new wine into their old wineskins. And as the text shows, he had more success with the woman at the well than with Nicodemus. The woman at the well understood, believed, and went running off to confess her new belief and her discovery of Jesus the Messiah to her fellow townsfolk. Nicodemus, on the other hand, needed more time.

And so we see that God is Spirit and truth, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.

John 4:23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

……………………………….

For more information on how the Gospel of Christ changes the concrete into the spiritual, read Does Paul Spiritualize the Concrete?: The Great Shift Exemplified in Colossians 2:8-3:4

New Birth–Its Necessity and Its Joy

Week 4

The New Birth–Necessary and Desirable: John 3:1-21 and John 4:1-42

First, let’s read the text, especially John 3:1-15  (New Birth Necessary) and John 4:1-30 (New Birth Desirable).

What is the New Birth?

“It is very clear, therefore, that there is an act of God which precedes any act of man. In its initial stage the process of changing a person into a child of God precedes conversion and faith.” (Hendriksen, Vol. 1, 133)

Being “born again” or “born from above” is an action of God that connects the person spiritually with God; communication with God is restored through the depositing by God of his own Holy Spirit into the person. Being born from above is God’s action of REGENERATION upon a dead soul (the Bible precedes “Dr Who” by 2,000 years). It’s God’s work of bringing an enemy of God (all human beings since the fall of humankind–see Genesis 3 and Romans 5:10) into the very family of God as children.

ESV John 1:12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

NIV  Galatians 3:26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith

ESV  Romans 8:9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

NIV  Romans 8:14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.

ESV  Romans 8:16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

Hosea 1:10 Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.”

2 Corinthians 6:18 and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

1 Peter 1:23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;

Why is the New Birth Necessary? Jesus explains to Nicodemus 

John 3:3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again [ἄνωθεν, an-o-then, 1-from above, 2-again] he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

John 3:5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

ESV  Romans 8:9 … Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

1 Corinthians 15:50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

Psalm 51:5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. [AND]Job 14:4 Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? There is not one.

John 6:63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

Why is the New Birth Desirable? Jesus explains to the Woman at the Well  woman-well

John 4:10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

John 4:14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

2 Samuel 14:14 We must all die; we are like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God will not take away life, and he devises means so that the banished one will not remain an outcast.

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

How do we get the New Birth? We must only ASK for it.

John 4:10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 

John 4:15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

Isaiah 55:1 “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.

John 7:37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

Revelation 22:17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

The new birth (the water of life) is FREE; it is for EVERYONE who asks.

God will cleanse us to make our water vessels clean.

Nicodemus and the woman at the well both discovered that they were incapable of being born from above and receiving the water of life on their own. They didn’t have the capacity to effect their own new birth; unlike the mythical Dr Who, they were not able to perform their own regeneration. Such a miracle of life must come from above; it must proceed from God alone. God created at the first, speaking life out of nothing. He alone can speak new life into a dead sinner’s heart.

Jesus explained to Nicodemus in very few words the entire theology of the Old Testament, made clear in the picture of the brass serpent that Moses lifted up high on a pole to heal all those who had been fatally bitten by a venomous serpent. (Numbers 21) The poisonous snake, in the picture God chose to use, represents sin. Looking at a brass serpent lifted up on a pole effected physical healing. Looking at Christ (with the look of faith) lifted up on the cross brings spiritual healing–cleansing–to a soul poisoned by the fatally venomous bite of sin.

John 3:14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

 2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us–for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”–

Nicodemus needed to be cleansed of the sin of unbelief. (Exodus 20:3-7)

John 3:11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?

Nicodemus did not confess his sin of unbelief, and the account in John 3, he did not receive salvation–cleansing and new birth–the water and the Spirit.

John 3:5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

The woman at the well needed to be cleansed of her sin of immorality.

John 4:17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.

She did confess her sin (see just above, vss 17 and 19). John 4 recounts her joyful salvation and her sudden trip back to the village to tell all her neighbors the good news of Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ paid the price for our cleansing, so that the water of life would be FREE for all of us.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

 

Outline of John up to this point Outline

You might be interested to read more at this link from Billy Graham’s website: How to be Born Again

 

 

 

 

Signs Part 1: Turning Water into Wine

 

Week 3: John Chapter 2, Part 1

First Sign: Water to Wine 2:1-11

                                         What is a sign-text                                               ?

…a miracle viewed as a proof of divine authority and majesty…

…a physical illustration of a spiritual principle…

…the sign points away from itself to the One who performed it…

(Hendriksen, 117)

The First Sign in the Gospel of John

Synopsis:

ESV  John 2:1 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.  2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples.  3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”  4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”  5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”  6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.  7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim.  8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it.  9 When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom  10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.”  11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

At a literal level, what Jesus did at the wedding was IMPOSSIBLE. This points to Jesus’ special powers.

Why does this miracles constitute a SIGN?

Water in the New Testament symbolizes the Word of God.

ESV  Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,

Christ is called the living Word of God.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Wine in the New Testament symbolizes the blood of Christ shed on the cross as an atonement for sin.

Matthew 26:27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

The physical wine itself pales in comparison to the realization that here is a man who shows himself to have great power and love, by his working of a supernatural feat to bless the guests at the wedding, including the bridegroom and his bride.

WHO IS THIS MAN?

ESV  John 2:11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

This first sign shows that Jesus is the master of both QUALITY (he is the best wine) and QUANTITY (100-150 gallons is lots of wine!!) (Hendriksen, 119)

He can also CHANGE PHYSICAL SUBSTANCES, making him to be God!

sidebar-how-to-give

seven-miracles

Why Signs?

Jesus is the Light of men. This Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness just can’t put it out.

We all know from taking photos that too much light destroys color and detail–everything becomes a burned out white. Our eyes themselves can’t function when the light is too bright. Christ’s light (the light of God himself) would blind us if we saw it unfiltered.

A Sign Miracle is a toning down of the exposure of Christ’s light.

The Miracle Signs illuminate Christ to our understanding without overexposing our human minds to a blinding light.

John’s writing places all else but Christ in background tones of shadows while at the same time painting Christ in vivid, detailed colors.

Christ himself is a “Sign” that points to God as love.

 

 

 

 

 

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