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5. THE PHARISEE AND THE BRONZE SNAKE (John 3:1-16)

BACKGROUND: Although Nicodemus is a so-called professional in religious matters, he nevertheless hasn’t entered the kingdom of God, which cannot be seen. It seems a bit strange that Nicodemus comes to discuss these matters with Jesus who is younger than him, and is neither as educated, nor in as high a social position as himself. Nicodemus is a member of the Sanhedrin in Israel, a kind of MP.
  1. From what you see in this text, what are both the strong and weak points in the character of Nicodemus? (What does it show about Nicodemus that he didn’t come to meet Jesus during the day but by night?)
    • What is it that Nicodemus came to talk with Jesus about?
       
  2. Why didn’t Nicodemus have any assurance of salvation, even after having believed in God all his life?
    • For what reasons may we also lack assurance of salvation?
       
  3. Next we consider the expression Jesus uses here: “being born again”. What will be changed when somebody is born again (verses 3-8)?
    • What might it mean that one must be born “of water and the Spirit” (verse 5)?
       
  4. Nicodemus asks Jesus: “How can this (being born again) happen?” (verse 9). Explain in your own words what Jesus says to him in reply (verses 10-16).
     
  5. When explaining the new birth, Jesus takes an example from Israel’s journey in the wilderness, the incident where God sent venomous snakes to punish the sins of his people. Later on, however, God gave a remedy for this poison: whoever looked at the bronze snake hoisted by Moses, was saved (Num.21:4-9). What does that incident have common with the death of Jesus on the cross? Think of as many similarities as possible (verses 13-16).
     
  6. What did those people believe who decided to look at the bronze snake?
    • The Bible tells us that many people died that day. Why didn’t everybody believe in the remedy provided by God?
    • What does this incident in the Old Testament have to do with being born again?
       
  7. In the Bible, the snake is almost always a symbol of Satan, God’s adversary. Why do you think Jesus drew a parallel in this case between himself and the serpent?
     
  8. What does verse 16 teach us about being born again?
     
  9. (If there is any time left:) What kinds of misunderstandings have you had concerning the new birth? Discuss them in the light of this text.

GLAD TIDINGS: God so loved you that he gave his one and only Son, so that if you want to believe in him you shall not perish but have eternal life.

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