“The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. The man who has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”
John 3:31-36 (NIV)
There are several verses in the New Testament that speak very clearly about who Jesus really is, and this is one of them! Commentators differ as to whether this is a continuation of Jesus statement to Nicodemus, or if it is John’s commentary on their meeting. But it really doesn’t matter, because this paragraph paints a wondrously clear picture of Jesus that totally agrees with the picture painted by both Jesus and John throughout John’s gospel.
Jesus wasn’t just this guy. People from His day onward have tried to make of Him a mere mortal – a human being just like the rest of us, who maybe had a more religious temperament, and who did some pretty amazing things, but who was still just a person. To think or teach that Jesus was anything more than that is very controversial these days, and it makes a lot of people very uncomfortable. As long as we can restrict Jesus to simple humanity, even if His humanity was extraordinary in some ways, we are much more comfortable.
But this passage tells us very clearly that, even though Jesus was in fact a genuine human being very much like us, He was at the same time infinitely more than that. Jesus didn’t come from the earth, like we do. He wasn’t simply the product of good genetics. He came from above. And because He came from above, He is above all (John’s code for “God”). In a nutshell, John is telling us that Jesus is the boss. What He says goes. And He is the ultimate authority for all things God. When He tells us about heaven, it’s not mere theological speculation on His part, just one opinion among the billions of opinions out there. Instead, it is the truth spoken directly from the lips of someone for whom heaven is their hometown!
The sad fact is that even though Jesus knew first-hand what He was talking about when He shared with people the truths about God, and heaven, and sin, and hell, very, very few people were willing to accept what He was telling them. Just like Nicodemus, they all showed a frustrating closedness to the truths that He was presenting to them; a seeming inability to understand what He was saying. Part of that was because, as Paul wrote to the Corinthians, The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14 NIV) Even Nicodemus and the teachers of Israel were spiritually dead, so many of the things that Jesus said, they found impossible to understand.
The key to understanding the amazing spiritual truths that Jesus taught hinges on Jesus Himself! If we are willing to believe that He really is who He says He is (the Son of God in the flesh), that He really did what He said He came to do (to die to pay the price for our sins), then our spirits will suddenly come alive, and those great spiritual truths will start to come into focus. If we reject Jesus, His person and His work, then we will never come close to understanding the things that He said, and we will end up experiencing God’s wrath instead of eternal life.
Jesus said in more than one place that we human beings are like sheep. I have owned a couple of sheep, and I have to tell you that that’s not a compliment. Sheep are not very smart. They are shortsighted and impulsive, and can be very willful to boot, and those characteristics continually seem to land them in situations that the shepherd has to rescue them from.
Even though it’s not a very complimentary picture, it’s all too true of us. Especially with regards to spiritual things, we are not very smart. And so, Jesus made the key to the kingdom really simple, accessible to whoever really wants to come in: Simply believe in Jesus. When we are willing to believe wholeheartedly in the Messenger, the message will suddenly become crystal clear.