Jesus answered and said to him, Are you a master of Israel, and know not these things?
EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(10) Art thou a master of Israel
?—Better, Art thou the teacher of Israel?
The article is emphatic, and points to the position of Nicodemus as a teacher of repute—“the well-known teacher;” or possibly it is to be understood of the Sanhedrin as represented by him—“Is this the teaching of Israel?” There is something of just indignation here, as everywhere when the words of Jesus Christ are addressed to the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. “You who teach others, have you need to learn the very first lessons of true religion? You who claim to loose and bind men, and place heavy burdens on them which they cannot bear, are you without the simplest real knowledge of what God is, or of what man is? Do teachers of Israel know not these things when they lie beneath every page of the Old Testament Scriptures?”
3:1-8 Nicodemus was afraid, or ashamed to be seen with Christ, therefore came in the night. When religion is out of fashion, there are many Nicodemites. But though he came by night, Jesus bid him welcome, and hereby taught us to encourage good beginnings, although weak. And though now he came by night, yet afterward he owned Christ publicly. He did not talk with Christ about state affairs, though he was a ruler, but about the concerns of his own soul and its salvation, and went at once to them. Our Saviour spoke of the necessity and nature of regeneration or the new birth, and at once directed Nicodemus to the source of holiness of the heart. Birth is the beginning of life; to be born again, is to begin to live anew, as those who have lived much amiss, or to little purpose. We must have a new nature, new principles, new affections, new aims. By our first birth we were corrupt, shapen in sin; therefore we must be made new creatures. No stronger expression could have been chosen to signify a great and most remarkable change of state and character. We must be entirely different from what we were before, as that which begins to be at any time, is not, and cannot be the same with that which was before. This new birth is from heaven, ch. 1:13, and its tendency is to heaven. It is a great change made in the heart of a sinner, by the power of the Holy Spirit. It means that something is done in us, and for us, which we cannot do for ourselves. Something is wrong, whereby such a life begins as shall last for ever. We cannot otherwise expect any benefit by Christ; it is necessary to our happiness here and hereafter. What Christ speak, Nicodemus misunderstood, as if there had been no other way of regenerating and new-moulding an immortal soul, than by new-framing the body. But he acknowledged his ignorance, which shows a desire to be better informed. It is then further explained by the Lord Jesus. He shows the Author of this blessed change. It is not wrought by any wisdom or power of our own, but by the power of the blessed Spirit. We are shapen in iniquity, which makes it necessary that our nature be changed. We are not to marvel at this; for, when we consider the holiness of God, the depravity of our nature, and the happiness set before us, we shall not think it strange that so much stress is laid upon this. The regenerating work of the Holy Spirit is compared to water. It is also probable that Christ had reference to the ordinance of baptism. Not that all those, and those only, that are baptized, are saved; but without that new birth which is wrought by the Spirit, and signified by baptism, none shall be subjects of the kingdom of heaven. The same word signifies both the wind and the Spirit. The wind bloweth where it listeth for us; God directs it. The Spirit sends his influences where, and when, on whom, and in what measure and degree, he pleases. Though the causes are hidden, the effects are plain, when the soul is brought to mourn for sin, and to breathe after Christ. Christ's stating of the doctrine and the necessity of regeneration, it should seem, made it not clearer to Nicodemus. Thus the things of the Spirit of God are foolishness to the natural man. Many think that cannot be proved, which they cannot believe. Christ's discourse of gospel truths, ver. 11-13, shows the folly of those who make these things strange unto them; and it recommends us to search them out. Jesus Christ is every way able to reveal the will of God to us; for he came down from heaven, and yet is in heaven. We have here a notice of Christ's two distinct natures in one person, so that while he is the Son of man, yet he is in heaven. God is the HE THAT IS, and heaven is the dwelling-place of his holiness. The knowledge of this must be from above, and can be received by faith alone. Jesus Christ came to save us by healing us, as the children of Israel, stung with fiery serpents, were cured and lived by looking up to the brazen serpent, Nu 21:6-9. In this observe the deadly and destructive nature of sin. Ask awakened consciences, ask damned sinners, they will tell you, that how charming soever the allurements of sin may be, at the last it bites like a serpent. See the powerful remedy against this fatal malady. Christ is plainly set forth to us in the gospel. He whom we offended is our Peace, and the way of applying for a cure is by believing. If any so far slight either their disease by sin, or the method of cure by Christ, as not to receive Christ upon his own terms, their ruin is upon their own heads. He has said, Look and be saved, look and live; lift up the eyes of your faith to Christ crucified. And until we have grace to do this, we shall not be cured, but still are wounded with the stings of Satan, and in a dying state. Jesus Christ came to save us by pardoning us, that we might not die by the sentence of the law. Here is gospel, good news indeed. Here is God's love in giving his Son for the world. God so loved the world; so really, so richly. Behold and wonder, that the great God should love such a worthless world! Here, also, is the great gospel duty, to believe in Jesus Christ. God having given him to be our Prophet, Priest, and King, we must give up ourselves to be ruled, and taught, and saved by him. And here is the great gospel benefit, that whoever believes in Christ, shall not perish, but shall have everlasting life. God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, and so saving it. It could not be saved, but through him; there is no salvation in any other. From all this is shown the happiness of true believers; he that believeth in Christ is not condemned. Though he has been a great sinner, yet he is not dealt with according to what his sins deserve. How great is the sin of unbelievers! God sent One to save us, that was dearest to himself; and shall he not be dearest to us? How great is the misery of unbelievers! they are condemned already; which speaks a certain condemnation; a present condemnation. The wrath of God now fastens upon them; and their own hearts condemn them. There is also a condemnation grounded on their former guilt; they are open to the law for all their sins; because they are not by faith interested in the gospel pardon. Unbelief is a sin against the remedy. It springs from the enmity of the heart of man to God, from love of sin in some form. Read also the doom of those that would not know Christ. Sinful works are works of darkness. The wicked world keep as far from this light as they can, lest their deeds should be reproved. Christ is hated, because sin is loved. If they had not hated saving knowledge, they would not sit down contentedly in condemning ignorance. On the other hand, renewed hearts bid this light welcome. A good man acts truly and sincerely in all he does. He desires to know what the will of God is, and to do it, though against his own worldly interest. A change in his whole character and conduct has taken place. The love of God is shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost, and is become the commanding principle of his actions. So long as he continues under a load of unforgiven guilt, there can be little else than slavish fear of God; but when his doubts are done away, when he sees the righteous ground whereon this forgiveness is built, he rests on it as his own, and is united to God by unfeigned love. Our works are good when the will of God is the rule of them, and the glory of God the end of them; when they are done in his strength, and for his sake; to him, and not to men. Regeneration, or the new birth, is a subject to which the world is very averse; it is, however, the grand concern, in comparison with which every thing else is but trifling. What does it signify though we have food to eat in plenty, and variety of raiment to put on, if we are not born again? if after a few mornings and evenings spent in unthinking mirth, carnal pleasure, and riot, we die in our sins, and lie down in sorrow? What does it signify though we are well able to act our parts in life, in every other respect, if at last we hear from the Supreme Judge, Depart from me, I know you not, ye workers of iniquity?
A master of Israel - A "teacher" of Israel; the same word that in the second verse is translated "teacher." As such a teacher he ought to have understood this doctrine. It was not new," but was clearly taught in the Old Testament. See particularly Psalm 51:10
, Psalm 51:16-17
; Ezekiel 11:19
; Ezekiel 36:26
. It may seem surprising that a man whose business it was to teach the people should be a stranger to so plain and important a doctrine; but when worldly-minded men are placed in offices of religion when they seek those offices for the sake of ease or reputation, it is no wonder that they are strangers to the plain truths of the Bible; and there have been many, and there are still, who are in the ministry itself, to whom the plainest doctrines of the gospel are obscure. No man can understand the Bible fully unless he is a humble Christian, and the easiest way to comprehend the truths of religion is to give the heart to God and live to his glory. A child thus may have more real knowledge of the way of salvation than many who are pretended masters and teachers of Israel, John 7:17
; Matthew 11:25
; Psalm 8:2
, compared with Matthew 21:16
Of Israel - Of the Jews; of the Jewish nation.
10. master—"teacher." The question clearly implies that the doctrine of regeneration is so far disclosed in the Old Testament that Nicodemus was culpable in being ignorant of it. Nor is it merely as something that should be experienced under the Gospel that the Old Testament holds it forth—as many distinguished critics allege, denying that there was any such thing as regeneration before Christ. For our Lord's proposition is universal, that no fallen man is or can be spiritual without a regenerating operation of the Holy Ghost, and the necessity of a spiritual obedience under whatever name, in opposition to mere mechanical services, is proclaimed throughout all the Old Testament.
Our Saviour doth not so much wonder at as upbraid the ignorance of Nicodemus, and all of his sect, who went for masters, or teachers, and that in Israel; who had the law and the prophets, and yet were ignorant of those things which were necessary to be known to every ordinary person’s salvation. Will any say, But where was there any thing spoken in the books of the law and the prophets about regeneration, or a being born again?
What other things could be meant by the circumcision of the heart, commanded by Moses, Deu 10:16
, promised in Deu 30:6
; by the new heart,
and the new spirit,
promised Ezekiel 36:26
; by the clean heart
prayed for by David, Psalm 51:10
? A teacher in Israel should from hence have understood the necessity of a new and of a clean heart;
but the whole sect of the Pharisees were so taken up with the trifles of the rites and traditions, and the works of the law, that as to these spiritual things of nearer and much higher concernment to people’s souls, they knew and spake little of them.
Jesus answered and said unto him,.... Upbraiding him with his continued and invincible ignorance, which was aggravated by his dignified character:
art thou a master in Israel? or "of Israel", as all the Oriental versions render it, as it literally may be rendered he was one of the , "wise men", or "doctors of Israel" (r), so often mentioned by the Jews. One of the Jewish doctors was answered, by a boy, just in such language as is here used; who, not understanding the direction he gave him about the way into the city, said to him, , "art thou he, a doctor", or "master of Israel?" did not I say to thee so? &c. (s). He was not a common teacher; not a teacher of babes, nor a teacher in their synagogues, or in their "Midrashim", or divinity schools, but in their great sanhedrim; and the article before the word used will admit it to be rendered, "that master", doctor, or teacher; that famous, and most excellent one, who was talked of all over Jerusalem and Judea, as a surpassing one: and now, though he was not only an Israelite, with whom were the laws, statutes, judgments, and oracles of God, the writings of Moses, and the prophets; but a teacher of Israelites, and in the highest class of teachers, and of the greatest fame among them, yet was he ignorant of the first and most important things in religion:
and knowest not these things? which were so plainly to be suggested in the sacred writings, with which he was; or ought to have been conversant: for the same things Christ had been speaking of, are there expressed by a circumcision of the heart; by a birth, a nation's being born at once; by sanctification; by the grace of God signified under the metaphor of water; and by quickening persons, comparable to dry bones, through the wind blowing, and breathing into them, Deuteronomy 30:6.
(r) Derech Eretz, fol. 18. 1.((s) Echa Rabbati, fol. 44. 4. Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)John 3:10
. He opens with an exclamation of surprise, Σὺ εἶ ὁ διδάσκαλος τοῦ Ἰσραήλ καὶ ταῦτα οὐ γινώσκεις
; perhaps there is more of sadness than either of indignation or irony in the words. Is this the state of matters I have to confront? If the teacher is so obtuse what must the taught be? The presence of the article is usually taken as indicating that Nicodemus was recognised as a great teacher, perhaps held the official position of Chakam in the Sanhedrim. But Westcott is right: “the definite article marks the official relation of Nicodemus to the people generally”. It is used to bring out sharply, not the relation he held to other teachers, but the relation he held to the people. “Art thou the teacher
of Israel and knowest not these things?” Bad enough for an Israelite to be blind to such things, but how much worse for one who teaches! But should a teacher of Israel have known these things? Westcott overleaps the difficulty by saying that γινώσκεις
refers to the knowledge of perception, and that Jesus is surprised that Nicodemus should not have been able during this conversation to apprehend what was said.10
. Art thou a master of Israel
] Better, art thou the teacher of Israel
, the well-known Rabbi, a representative of the supreme authority in the Church?John 3:10
. Ὁ διδάσκαλος
, a master
) a teacher
of very many hearers, a veteran, and one somewhat better than the rest, who are altogether corrupt: ch. John 10:8
, “All that ever came before Me were thieves and robbers,” notes. The article is emphatic. Nicodemus was the only one of all the teachers of Israel who had come to Jesus Christ, and who thus would be able to teach Israel the knowledge of Him; and indeed he afterwards acted the part of a teacher of Israel, defending the Just One
, both by his opinion, ch. John 7:50
, [at the consultation of the Pharisees against Jesus, Nicodemus said] “Doth our law judge any man before it hear him?” and by his act, ch. John 19:39
, [he brought for the body of Jesus] “a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight:” in which two passages the Evangelist repeats the mention of this interview by night.—ταῦτα
) these things
, which make Israel [truly] divine.Verse 10.
- Jesus answered and said to him, Art thou the teacher of Israel, and perceivest thou not these things?
The term "Israel" is used four times by John (John 1:31, 49
; John 12:13
; and here). In each place the high dignity, calling, and glory of the nation chosen for the loftiest privilege and destiny are involved. Notice the article, "the Israel" of God. The article before διδάσκαλος
gives a high distinction to Nicodemus. Schottgen and Lucke suppose some special office to be here referred to, either the president of the Sanhedrin, or the hakim
, or chakam
, "the wise man," who sat on his left in the public sessions, or the "father of the house of judgment," who sat on his right; but it may simply mean the teacher of Israel, who has come to me in representative fashion, and who is reminded that he should have been more intimately acquainted with the teaching of his own sacred books (Farrar, 'Life of Christ,' p. 153). Without doubt, the fact of human corruption, and the power of the Spirit of God to renovate, to change utterly down to the very core and heart of human nature, is a great dogma of the Old Testament (cf. Deuteronomy 10:16
; Deuteronomy 30:6
; 1 Samuel 10:9
, where God gave Saul another heart; 1 Samuel 16:13
, the effect upon David; David's own prayer, Psalm 51:10
; and the great promises of God by Ezekiel 11:19
; Ezekiel 18:31
; Ezekiel 36:26
; Jeremiah 4:4
; Jeremiah 31:33
). Nicodemus, an illustrious man, a teacher of ethers, presumably acquainted with the teaching of the Scriptures, need not have been in such doubt and amazement at the searching words of Jesus.
Answered and said
See on John 2:18.
Art thou a master of Israel (σὺ εἶ ὁ διδάσκαλος τοῦ Ισραὴλ)
The σὺ, thou, is emphatic. A master is more correctly rendered by Rev., the teacher. Not ironical, but the article marks Nicodemus' official relation to the people, and gives additional force to the contrast in the following words. Similarly Plato: "Will you (σὺ, emphatic), O professor of true virtue, pretend that you are justified in this?" ("Crito," 51). On "Israel," see on John 1:47. The word occurs four times in John's Gospel; here, John 1:31, John 1:47, John 1:49.
Knowest not (οὐ γινώσκεις)
See on John 2:24. Nicodemus is not reproved for the want of previous knowledge, but for the want of perception or understanding when these truths are expounded to him. Rev., better, understandest not.
LinksJohn 3:10 InterlinearJohn 3:10 Parallel Texts
John 3:10 NIVJohn 3:10 NLTJohn 3:10 ESVJohn 3:10 NASBJohn 3:10 KJV
John 3:10 Bible AppsJohn 3:10 ParallelJohn 3:10 Biblia ParalelaJohn 3:10 Chinese BibleJohn 3:10 French BibleJohn 3:10 German Bible