Jesus and Nicodemus
3 1 There was a man of the Pharisee sect, Nicodemus, a prominent leader among the Jews. 2 Late one night he visited Jesus and said, "Rabbi, we all know you're a teacher straight from God. No one could do all the God-pointing, God-revealing acts you do if God weren't in on it." 3 Jesus said, "You're absolutely right. Take it from me: Unless a person is born from above, it's not possible to see what I'm pointing to - to God's kingdom." 4 "How can anyone," said Nicodemus, "be born who has already been born and grown up? You can't re-enter your mother's womb and be born again. What are you saying with this 'born-from-above' talk?" 5 Jesus said, "You're not listening. Let me say it again. Unless a person submits to this original creation - the 'wind hovering over the water' creation, the invisible moving the visible, a baptism into a new life - it's not possible to enter God's kingdom. 6 When you look at a baby, it's just that: a body you can look at and touch. But the person who takes shape within is formed by something you can't see and touch - the Spirit - and becomes a living spirit. 7 "So don't be so surprised when I tell you that you have to be 'born from above' - out of this world, so to speak. 8 You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it's headed next. That's the way it is with everyone 'born from above' by the wind of God, the Spirit of God." 9 Nicodemus asked, "What do you mean by this? How does this happen?" 10 Jesus said, "You're a respected teacher of Israel and you don't know these basics? 11 Listen carefully. I'm speaking sober truth to you. I speak only of what I know by experience; I give witness only to what I have seen with my own eyes. There is nothing secondhand here, no hearsay. Yet instead of facing the evidence and accepting it, you procrastinate with questions. 12 If I tell you things that are plain as the hand before your face and you don't believe me, what use is there in telling you of things you can't see, the things of God? 13 "No one has ever gone up into the presence of God except the One who came down from that Presence, the Son of Man. 14 In the same way that Moses lifted the serpent in the desert so people could have something to see and then believe, it is necessary for the Son of Man to be lifted up - 15 and everyone who looks up to him, trusting and expectant, will gain a real life, eternal life.
God So Loved the World
16 "This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. 17 God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. 18 Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person's failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him. 19 "This is the crisis we're in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. 20 Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won't come near it, fearing a painful exposure. 21 But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is."
He Must Increase, but I Must Decrease
22 After this conversation, Jesus went on with his disciples into the Judean countryside and relaxed with them there. He was also baptizing. 23 At the same time, John was baptizing over at Aenon near Salim, where water was abundant. 24 This was before John was thrown into jail. 25 John's disciples got into an argument with the establishment Jews over the nature of baptism. 26 They came to John and said, "Rabbi, you know the one who was with you on the other side of the Jordan? The one you authorized with your witness? Well, he's now competing with us. He's baptizing, too, and everyone's going to him instead of us." 27 John answered, "It's not possible for a person to succeed - I'm talking about eternal success - without heaven's help. 28 You yourselves were there when I made it public that I was not the Messiah but simply the one sent ahead of him to get things ready. 29 The one who gets the bride is, by definition, the bridegroom. And the bridegroom's friend, his 'best man' - that's me - in place at his side where he can hear every word, is genuinely happy. How could he be jealous when he knows that the wedding is finished and the marriage is off to a good start? 30 This is the assigned moment for him to move into the center, while I slip off to the sidelines.
The Testimony from Heaven
31 "The One who comes from above is head and shoulders over other messengers from God. The earthborn is earthbound and speaks earth language; the heavenborn is in a league of his own. 32 He sets out the evidence of what he saw and heard in heaven. No one wants to deal with these facts. 33 But anyone who examines this evidence will come to stake his life on this: that God himself is the truth. 34 "The One that God sent speaks God's words. And don't think he rations out the Spirit in bits and pieces. 35 The Father loves the Son extravagantly. He turned everything over to him so he could give it away - a lavish distribution of gifts. 36 That is why whoever accepts and trusts the Son gets in on everything, life complete and forever! And that is also why the person who avoids and distrusts the Son is in the dark and doesn't see life. All he experiences of God is darkness, and an angry darkness at that."
Jesus and the Woman of Samaria
4 1 Jesus realized that the Pharisees were keeping count of the baptisms that he and John performed 2 (although his disciples, not Jesus, did the actual baptizing). They had posted the score that Jesus was ahead, turning him and John into rivals in the eyes of the people. 3 So Jesus left the Judean countryside and went back to Galilee.
4 To get there, he had to pass through Samaria. 5 He came into Sychar, a Samaritan village that bordered the field Jacob had given his son Joseph. 6 Jacob's well was still there. Jesus, worn out by the trip, sat down at the well. It was noon. 7 A woman, a Samaritan, came to draw water. Jesus said, "Would you give me a drink of water?" 8 (His disciples had gone to the village to buy food for lunch.) 9 The Samaritan woman, taken aback, asked, "How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?" (Jews in those days wouldn't be caught dead talking to Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered, "If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water." 11 The woman said, "Sir, you don't even have a bucket to draw with, and this well is deep. So how are you going to get this 'living water'? 12 Are you a better man than our ancestor Jacob, who dug this well and drank from it, he and his sons and livestock, and passed it down to us?" 13 Jesus said, "Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. 14 Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst - not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life." 15 The woman said, "Sir, give me this water so I won't ever get thirsty, won't ever have to come back to this well again!" 16 He said, "Go call your husband and then come back." 17 "I have no husband," she said. 18 You've had five husbands, and the man you're living with now isn't even your husband. You spoke the truth there, sure enough." 19 "Oh, so you're a prophet! 20 Well, tell me this: Our ancestors worshiped God at this mountain, but you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place for worship, right?" 21 "Believe me, woman, the time is coming when you Samaritans will worship the Father neither here at this mountain nor there in Jerusalem. 22 You worship guessing in the dark; we Jews worship in the clear light of day. God's way of salvation is made available through the Jews. 23 But the time is coming - it has, in fact, come - when what you're called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter. 24 God is sheer being itself - Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration." 25 The woman said, "I don't know about that. I do know that the Messiah is coming. When he arrives, we'll get the whole story." 26 "I am he," said Jesus. "You don't have to wait any longer or look any further."
27 Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked. They couldn't believe he was talking with that kind of a woman. No one said what they were all thinking, but their faces showed it. 28 The woman took the hint and left. In her confusion she left her water pot. Back in the village she told the people, 29 "Come see a man who knew all about the things I did, who knows me inside and out. Do you think this could be the Messiah?" 30 And they went out to see for themselves. 31 In the meantime, the disciples pressed him, "Rabbi, eat. Aren't you going to eat?" 32 He told them, "I have food to eat you know nothing about." 33 The disciples were puzzled. "Who could have brought him food?" 34 Jesus said, "The food that keeps me going is that I do the will of the One who sent me, finishing the work he started. 35 As you look around right now, wouldn't you say that in about four months it will be time to harvest? Well, I'm telling you to open your eyes and take a good look at what's right in front of you. These Samaritan fields are ripe. It's harvest time! 36 "The Harvester isn't waiting. He's taking his pay, gathering in this grain that's ripe for eternal life. Now the Sower is arm in arm with the Harvester, triumphant. 37 That's the truth of the saying, 'This one sows, that one harvests.' 38 I sent you to harvest a field you never worked. Without lifting a finger, you have walked in on a field worked long and hard by others." 39 Many of the Samaritans from that village committed themselves to him because of the woman's witness: "He knew all about the things I did. He knows me inside and out!" 40 They asked him to stay on, so Jesus stayed two days. 41 A lot more people entrusted their lives to him when they heard what he had to say. 42 They said to the woman, "We're no longer taking this on your say-so. We've heard it for ourselves and know it for sure. He's the Savior of the world!"
Jesus Heals a Nobleman's Son
43 After the two days he left for Galilee. 44 Now, Jesus knew well from experience that a prophet is not respected in the place where he grew up. 45 So when he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, but only because they were impressed with what he had done in Jerusalem during the Passover Feast, not that they really had a clue about who he was or what he was up to. 46 Now he was back in Cana of Galilee, the place where he made the water into wine. Meanwhile in Capernaum, there was a certain official from the king's court whose son was sick. 47 When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and asked that he come down and heal his son, who was on the brink of death. 48 Jesus put him off: "Unless you people are dazzled by a miracle, you refuse to believe." 49 But the court official wouldn't be put off. "Come down! It's life or death for my son." 50 Jesus simply replied, "Go home. Your son lives." 51 On his way back, his servants intercepted him and announced, "Your son lives!" 52 He asked them what time he began to get better. They said, "The fever broke yesterday afternoon at one o'clock." 53 The father knew that that was the very moment Jesus had said, "Your son lives." 54 This was now the second sign Jesus gave after having come from Judea into Galilee.