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Now (δε). So often in John δε is explanatory and transitional, not adversative. Nicodemus is an instance of Christ's knowledge of men (John 2:25) and of one to whom he did trust himself unlike those in John 2:24. As a Pharisee "he belonged to that party which with all its bigotry contained a salt of true patriotism and could rear such cultured and high-toned men as Gamaliel and Paul" (Marcus Dods).
Named Nicodemus (Νικοδημος ονομα). Same construction as in John 1:6, "Nicodemus name to him." So Revelation 6:8. It is a Greek name and occurs in Josephus (Ant. XIV. iii. 2) as the name of an ambassador from Aristobulus to Pompey. Only in John in N.T. (here, John 7:50; John 19:39). He was a Pharisee, a member of the Sanhedrin, and wealthy. There is no evidence that he was the young ruler of Luke 18:18 because of αρχων (ruler) here.
The same (ουτος). "This one."
By night (νυκτος). Genitive of time. That he came at all is remarkable, not because there was any danger as was true at a later period, but because of his own prominence. He wished to avoid comment by other members of the Sanhedrin and others. Jesus had already provoked the opposition of the ecclesiastics by his assumption of Messianic authority over the temple. There is no ground for assigning this incident to a later period, for it suits perfectly here. Jesus was already in the public eye (John 2:23) and the interest of Nicodemus was real and yet he wished to be cautious.
Rabbi (Ραββε). See on John 1:38. Technically Jesus was not an acknowledged Rabbi of the schools, but Nicodemus does recognize him as such and calls him "My Master" just as Andrew and John did (John 1:38). It was a long step for Nicodemus as a Pharisee to take, for the Pharisees had closely scrutinized the credentials of the Baptist in John 1:19-43.1.24 (Milligan and Moulton's Comm.).
We know (οιδαμεν). Second perfect indicative first person plural. He seems to speak for others of his class as the blind man does in John 9:31. Westcott thinks that Nicodemus has been influenced partly by the report of the commission sent to the Baptist (John 1:19-43.1.27).
Thou art a teacher come from God (απο θεου εληλυθας διδασκαλος). "Thou hast come from God as a teacher." Second perfect active indicative of ερχομα and predicative nominative διδασκαλος. This is the explanation of Nicodemus for coming to Jesus, obscure Galilean peasant as he seemed, evidence that satisfied one of the leaders in Pharisaism.
Can do (δυνατα ποιειν). "Can go on doing" (present active infinitive of ποιεω and so linear).
These signs that thou doest (ταυτα τα σημεια α συ ποιεις). Those mentioned in John 2:23 that convinced so many in the crowd and that now appeal to the scholar. Note συ (thou) as quite out of the ordinary. The scorn of Jesus by the rulers held many back to the end (John 12:42), but Nicodemus dares to feel his way.
Except God be with him (εαν μη η ο θεος μετ' αυτου). Condition of the third class, presented as a probability, not as a definite fact. He wanted to know more of the teaching accredited thus by God. Jesus went about doing good because God was with him, Peter says (Acts 10:38).
Except a man be born anew (εαν μη τις γεννηθη ανωθεν). Another condition of the third class, undetermined but with prospect of determination. First aorist passive subjunctive of γενναω. Ανωθεν. Originally "from above" (Mark 15:38), then "from heaven" (John 3:31), then "from the first" (Luke 1:3), and then "again" (παλιν ανωθεν, Galatians 4:9). Which is the meaning here? The puzzle of Nicodemus shows (δευτερον, verse John 3:4) that he took it as "again," a second birth from the womb. The Vulgate translates it by renatus fuerit denuo. But the misapprehension of Nicodemus does not prove the meaning of Jesus. In the other passages in John (John 3:31; John 19:11; John 19:23) the meaning is "from above" (δεσυπερ) and usually so in the Synoptics. It is a second birth, to be sure, regeneration, but a birth from above by the Spirit.
He cannot see the kingdom of God (ου δυνατα ιδειν την βασιλειαν του θεου). To participate in it as in Luke 9:27. For this use of ιδειν (second aorist active infinitive of οραω) see John 8:51; Revelation 18:7.
Being old (γερων ων). Nicodemus was probably familiar with the notion of re-birth for proselytes to Judaism for the Gentiles, but not with the idea that a Jew had to be reborn. But "this stupid misunderstanding" (Bernard) of the meaning of Jesus is precisely what John represents Nicodemus as making. How "old" Nicodemus was we do not know, but surely too old to be the young ruler of Luke 18:18 as Bacon holds. The blunder of Nicodemus is emphasized by the second question with the μη expecting the negative answer. The use of δευτερον adds to the grotesqueness of his blunder. The learned Pharisee is as jejune in spiritual insight as the veriest tyro. This is not an unheard of phenomenon.
Of water and the Spirit (εξ υδατος κα πνευματος). Nicodemus had failed utterly to grasp the idea of the spiritual birth as essential to entrance into the Kingdom of God. He knew only Jews as members of that kingdom, the political kingdom of Pharisaic hope which was to make all the world Jewish (Pharisaic) under the King Messiah. Why does Jesus add εξ υδατος here? In verse John 3:3 we have "ανωθεν" (from above) which is repeated in verse John 3:7, while in verse John 3:8 we have only εκ του πνευματος (of the Spirit) in the best manuscripts. Many theories exist. One view makes baptism, referred to by εξ υδατος (coming up out of water), essential to the birth of the Spirit, as the means of obtaining the new birth of the Spirit. If so, why is water mentioned only once in the three demands of Jesus (John 3:3; John 3:5; John 3:7)? Calvin makes water and Spirit refer to the one act (the cleansing work of the Spirit). Some insist on the language in verse John 3:6 as meaning the birth of the flesh coming in a sac of water in contrast to the birth of the Spirit. One wonders after all what was the precise purpose of Jesus with Nicodemus, the Pharisaic ceremonialist, who had failed to grasp the idea of spiritual birth which is a commonplace to us. By using water (the symbol before the thing signified) first and adding Spirit, he may have hoped to turn the mind of Nicodemus away from mere physical birth and, by pointing to the baptism of John on confession of sin which the Pharisees had rejected, to turn his attention to the birth from above by the Spirit. That is to say the mention of "water" here may have been for the purpose of helping Nicodemus without laying down a fundamental principle of salvation as being by means of baptism. Bernard holds that the words υδατος κα (water and) do not belong to the words of Jesus, but "are a gloss, added to bring the saying of Jesus into harmony with the belief and practice of a later generation." Here Jesus uses εισελθειν (enter) instead of ιδειν (see) of verse John 3:3, but with the same essential idea (participation in the kingdom).
That which is born (το γεγεννημενον). Perfect passive articular participle. The sharp contrast between flesh (σαρξ) and Spirit (πνευμα), drawn already in John 1:13, serves to remind Nicodemus of the crudity of his question in John 3:4 about a second physical birth.
Marvel not (μη θαυμασηις). "Do not begin to wonder" (ingressive first aorist active subjunctive with μη), as clearly Nicodemus had done. In John the word θαυμαζω usually means "unintelligent wonder" (Bernard).
Ye must be born anew (δε υμας γεννηθηνα ανωθεν). Jesus repeats the point in verse John 3:3 (δε and the infinitive instead of εαν μη and the subjunctive) with ανωθεν (from above) only and not εξ υδατος.
The wind (το πνευμα). In Greek πνευμα means either wind or spirit as spiritus does in Latin (so also in Hebrew and Syriac). Wycliff follows the Latin and keeps spirit here and Marcus Dods argues for it. The word πνευμα occurs 370 times in the N.T. and never means wind elsewhere except in a quotation from the O.T. (Hebrews 1:7 from Psalms 104:4), though common in the LXX. On the other hand πνεω (bloweth, πνε) occurs five times elsewhere in the N.T. and always of the wind (like John 6:18). So φωνη can be either sound (as of wind) or voice (as of the Spirit). In simple truth either sense of πνευμα can be taken here as one wills. Tholuck thinks that the night-wind swept through the narrow street as Jesus spoke. In either case the etymology of πνευμα is "wind" from πνεω, to blow. The Spirit is the use of πνευμα as metaphor. Certainly the conclusion "of the Spirit" is a direct reference to the Holy Spirit who works his own way beyond our comprehension even as men even yet do not know the law of the wind.
How? (Πωσ;) Nicodemus is not helped either by the use of υδωρ or πνευμα to understand δε γεννηθηνα ανωθεν (the necessity of the birth from above or regeneration). He falls back into his "stupid misunderstanding." There are none so dull as those who will not see. Preoccupation prevents insight. Literally one must often empty his mind to receive new truth.
The teacher of Israel (ο διδασκαλος του Ισραηλ). The well-known or the authorized (the accepted) teacher of the Israel of God. Note both articles.
And understandest not these things? (κα ταυτα ου γινωσκεισ;). After being told by Jesus and after so propitious a start. His Pharisaic theology had made him almost proof against spiritual apprehension. It was outside of his groove (rote, rut, rot, the three terrible r's of mere traditionalism).
We speak that we do know (ο οιδαμεν λαλουμεν). Jesus simply claims knowledge of what he has tried to make plain to the famous Rabbi without success. John uses λαλεω some 60 times, half of them by Jesus, very little distinction existing between the use of λαλεω and λεγω in John. Originally λαλεω referred to the chatter of birds. Note John's frequent use of αμην αμην and λεγω (double emphasis).
And bear witness of that we have seen (κα ο εωρακαμεν μαρτυρουμεν). The same use of neuter singular relative ο as before. Perfect active indicative of οραω. He is not a dreamer, guesser, or speculator. He is bearing witness from personal knowledge, strange as this may seem to Nicodemus.
And ye receive not our witness (κα την μαρτυριαν ημων ου λαμβανετε). This is the tragedy of the matter as John has shown (John 1:11; John 1:26) and as will continue to be true even today. Jesus probably associates here with himself ("we") those who have personal experience of grace and so are qualified as witnesses. Note the plural in 1 John 1:1. Bernard thinks that John has here read into the words of Jesus the convictions of a later age, a serious charge to make.
If I told (ε ειπον). Condition of the first class, assumed to be true.
Earthly things (τα επιγεια). Things upon the earth like τα επ της γης (Colossians 3:2), not things of an earthly nature or worldly or sinful. The work of the kingdom of God including the new birth which Nicodemus did not understand belongs to τα επιγεια.
If I tell you heavenly things (εαν ειπω υμιν τα επουρανια). Condition of the third class, undetermined. What will Nicodemus do in that case? By τα επουρανια Jesus means the things that take place in heaven like the deep secrets of the purpose of God in the matter of redemption such as the necessity of the lifting up of Christ as shown in verse John 3:14. Both Godet and Westcott note that the two types of teaching here pointed out by Jesus (the earthly, the heavenly) correspond in general to the difference between the Synoptics (the earthly) and the Fourth Gospel (the heavenly), a difference noted here in the Fourth Gospel as shown by Jesus himself. Hence the one should not be pitted against the other. There are specimens of the heavenly in the Synoptics as in Matthew 11:25; Luke 10:18.
But he that descended out of heaven (ε μη ο εκ του ουρανου καταβας). The Incarnation of the Pre-existent Son of God who was in heaven before he came down and so knows what he is telling about "the heavenly things." There is no allusion to the Ascension which came later. This high conception of Christ runs all through the Gospel and is often in Christ's own words as here.
Which is in heaven (ο ων εν τω ουρανω). This phrase is added by some manuscripts, not by Aleph B L W 33, and, if genuine, would merely emphasize the timeless existence of God's Son who is in heaven even while on earth. Probably a gloss. But "the Son of man" is genuine. He is the one who has come down out of heaven.
Moses lifted up the serpent (Μωυσης υψωσεν τον οφιν). Reference to Numbers 21:7 where Moses set the brazen serpent upon the standard that those who believed might look and live. Jesus draws a vivid parallel between the act of Moses and the Cross on which he himself (the Son of man) "must" (δε, one of the heavenly things) "be lifted up" (υψωθηνα, first aorist passive infinitive of υψοω, a word not used about the brazen serpent). In John υψοω always refers to the Cross (John 8:28; John 12:32; John 12:34), though to the Ascension in Acts (Acts 2:33; Acts 5:31). Jesus is complimenting the standing and intelligence of Nicodemus as "the teacher of Israel" by telling him this great truth and fact that lies at the basis of the work of the kingdom of God (the atoning death of Christ on the Cross).
That whosoever believeth may in him have eternal life (ινα πας ο πιστευων εν αυτω εχη ζωην αιωνιον). Final use of ινα with present active subjunctive of εχω, that he may keep on having eternal life (a frequent phrase in John, always in John αιωνιος occurs with ζωη, 16 times in the Gospel, 6 in 1John, ageless or endless life, beginning now and lasting forever). It is more than endless, for it is sharing in the life of God in Christ (John 5:26; John 17:3; 1 John 5:12). So here εν αυτω (in him) is taken with εχη rather than with πιστευων. The interview with Nicodemus apparently closes with verse John 3:15. In verses John 3:16-43.3.21 we have past tenses constantly as is natural for the reflection of John, but unnatural for Jesus speaking. There are phrases like the Prologue (verse John 3:19; John 1:9-43.1.11). "Only begotten" does not occur elsewhere in the words of Jesus, but is in John 1:14; John 1:18; 1 John 4:9. John often puts in explanatory comments (John 1:16-43.1.18; John 12:37-43.12.41).
For so (ουτως γαρ). This use of γαρ is quite in John's style in introducing his comments (John 2:25; John 4:8; John 5:13, etc.). This "Little Gospel" as it is often called, this "comfortable word" (the Anglican Liturgy), while not a quotation from Jesus is a just and marvellous interpretation of the mission and message of our Lord. In verses John 3:16-43.3.21 John recapitulates in summary fashion the teaching of Jesus to Nicodemus.
Loved (ηγαπησεν). First aorist active indicative of αγαπαω, the noble word so common in the Gospels for the highest form of love, used here as often in John (John 14:23; John 17:23; 1 John 3:1; 1 John 4:10) of God's love for man (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:16; Romans 5:8; Ephesians 2:4). In John 21:15 John presents a distinction between αγαπαω and φιλεω. Αγαπαω is used also for love of men for men (John 13:34), for Jesus (John 8:42), for God (1 John 4:10).
The world (τον κοσμον). The whole cosmos of men, including Gentiles, the whole human race. This universal aspect of God's love appears also in 2 Corinthians 5:19; Romans 5:8.
That he gave (ωστε εδωκεν). The usual classical construction with ωστε and the indicative (first aorist active) practical result, the only example in the N.T. save that in Galatians 2:13. Elsewhere ωστε with the infinitive occurs for actual result (Matthew 13:32) as well as purpose (Matthew 10:1), though even this is rare.
His only begotten Son (τον υιον τον μονογενη). "The Son the only begotten." For this word see on John 1:14; John 1:18; John 3:18. The rest of the sentence, the purpose clause with ινα εχη precisely reproduces the close of John 3:15 save that εις αυτον takes the place of εν αυτω (see John 1:12) and goes certainly with πιστευων (not with εχη as εν αυτω in verse John 3:15) and the added clause "should not perish but" (μη απολητα αλλα, second aorist middle subjunctive, intransitive, of απολλυμ, to destroy). The same contrast between "perish" and "eternal life" (for this world and the next) appears also in John 10:28. On "perish" see also John 17:12.
For God sent not the Son (ου γαρ απεστειλεν ο θεος τον υιον). Explanation (γαρ) of God's sending the Son into the world. First aorist active indicative of αποστελλω. John uses both αποστελλω from which comes αποστολος (John 3:34; John 5:36; John 5:38, etc.) and πεμπω (John 4:34; John 5:23; John 5:24; John 5:30, etc.) for God's sending the Son and πεμπω more frequently, but with no real difference in meaning. All the Gospels use ο υιος in the absolute sense in contrast with the Father (Mark 13:32; Matthew 11:27; Luke 10:22).
To judge (ινα κρινη). Final clause with ινα and the present (or aorist) active subjunctive of κρινω. The Messiah does judge the world as Jesus taught (Matthew 25:31; John 5:27), but this was not the primary or the only purpose of his coming. See on Matthew 7:1 for κρινω, to pick out, select, approve, condemn, used so often and in so many varying contexts in the N.T.
But that the world should be saved through him (αλλ ινα σωθη ο κοσμος δι' αυτου). First aorist passive subjunctive of σωζω, the common verb to save (from σως, safe and sound), from which σωτηρ (Saviour) comes (the Saviour of the world, John 4:42; 1 John 4:14) and σωτηρια (salvation, John 4:22 here only in John). The verb σωζω is often used for physical health (Mark 5:28), but here of the spiritual salvation as in John 5:34.
Is not judged (ου κρινετα). Present passive indicative. Trust in Christ prevents condemnation, for he takes our place and pays the penalty for sin for all who put their case in his hands (Romans 8:32). The believer in Christ as Saviour does not come into judgment (John 5:24).
Hath been judged already (ηδη κεκριτα). Perfect passive indicative of κρινω. Judgment has already been passed on the one who refuses to believe in Christ as the Saviour sent by the Father, the man who is not willing to come to Christ for life (John 5:40).
Because he hath not believed (οτ μη πεπιστευκεν). Perfect active indicative of πιστευω, has taken a permanent attitude of refusal. Here οτ μη states the reason subjectively as the judgment of the Judge in any such case (ο μη πιστευων already mentioned) while in 1 John 5:10 οτ ου πεπιστευκεν gives the reason objectively (ου instead of μη) conceived as an actual case and no longer hypothetical. See John 1:12 for εις το ονομα with πιστευω (believing on the name) and John 1:14 for μονογενους (only begotten) and also John 3:16.
And this is the judgment (αυτη δε εστιν η κρισις). A thoroughly Johannine phrase for sequence of thought (John 15:12; John 17:3; 1 John 1:5; 1 John 5:11; 1 John 5:14; 3 John 1:6). It is more precisely the process of judging (κρι σις) rather than the result (κρι μα) of the judgment. "It is no arbitrary sentence, but the working out of a moral law" (Bernard).
The light is come (το φως εληλυθεν). Second perfect active indicative of ερχομα, a permanent result as already explained in the Prologue concerning the Incarnation (John 1:4; John 1:5; John 1:9; John 1:11). Jesus is the Light of the world.
Loved darkness (ηγαπησαν το σκοτος). Job (Job 24:13) spoke of men rebelling against the light. Here το σκοτος, common word for moral and spiritual darkness (1 Thessalonians 5:5), though η σκοτια in John 1:5. "Darkness" is common in John as a metaphor for the state of sinners (John 8:12; John 12:35; John 12:46; 1 John 1:6; 1 John 2:8; 1 John 2:9; 1 John 2:11). Jesus himself is the only moral and spiritual light of the world (John 8:12) as he dared claim to his enemies. The pathos of it all is that men fall in love with the darkness of sin and rebel against the light like denizens of the underworld, "for their works were evil (πονηρα)." When the light appears, they scatter to their holes and dens. Πονηρος (from πονος, toil, πονεω, to toil) is used of the deeds of the world by Jesus (John 7:7). In the end the god of this world blinds men's eyes so that they do not see the light (2 Corinthians 4:4). The fish in the Mammoth Cave have no longer eyes, but only sockets where eyes used to be. The evil one has a powerful grip on the world (1 John 5:19).
That doeth ill (ο φαυλα πρασσων). The word φαυλος means first worthless and then wicked (usually so in N.T.) and both senses occur in the papyri. In John 5:29 see contrast between αγαθα ποιεω (doing good things) and φαυλα πρασσω (practising evil things).
Hateth the light (μισε το φως). Hence talks against it, ridicules Christ, Christianity, churches, preachers, etc. Does it in talk, magazines, books, in a supercilious tone of sheer ignorance.
Cometh not to the light (ουκ ερχετα προς το φως). The light hurts his eyes, reveals his own wickedness, makes him thoroughly uncomfortable. Hence he does not read the Bible, he does not come to church, he does not pray. He goes on in deeper darkness.
Lest his works should be reproved (ινα μη ελεγχθη τα εργα αυτου). Negative final clause (ινα μη) with first aorist passive subjunctive of ελεγχω, old word to correct a fault, to reprove, to convict. See also John 8:46; John 16:8. To escape this unpleasant process the evil man cuts out Christ.
That doeth the truth (ο ποιων την αληθειαν). See 1 John 1:6 for this striking phrase.
Comes to the light (ερχετα προς το φως). Is drawn by the light, spiritual heliotropes, not driven from it.
That may be made manifest (ινα φανερωθη). Final ινα with first aorist passive subjunctive of φανεροω.
They have been wrought in God (εν θεω εστιν ειργασμενα). Periphrastic perfect passive indicative of εργαζομα. He does not claim that they are perfect, only that they have been wrought in the sphere of and in the power of God. Hence he wants the light turned on.
After these things (μετα ταυτα). Transition after the interview with Nicodemus. For the phrase see John 5:1; John 6:1; John 7:1.
Into the land of Judea (εις την Ιουδαιαν γην). Into the country districts outside of Jerusalem. The only example of this phrase in the N.T., but "the region of Judea" (η Ιουδαια χωρα) in Mark 1:5.
He tarried (διετριβεν). Descriptive imperfect active of διατριβω, old verb to rub between or hard, to spend time (Acts 14:3).
Baptized (εβαπτιζεν). Imperfect active of βαπτιζω. "He was baptizing." The six disciples were with him and in John 4:2 John explains that Jesus did the baptizing through the disciples.
John was also baptizing (ην δε κα ο Ιωανης βαπτιζων). Periphrastic imperfect picturing the continued activity of the Baptist simultaneous with the growing work of Jesus. There was no real rivalry except in people's minds.
In Aenon near to Salim (εν Αινων εγγυς του Σαλειμ). It is not clearly known where this place was. Eusebius locates it in the Jordan valley south of Beisan west of the river where are many springs (fountains, eyes). There is a place called Salim east of Shechem in Samaria with a village called 'Aimen, but with no water there. There may have been water there then, of course.
Because there was much water there (οτ υδατα πολλα ην εκε). "Because many waters were there." Not for drinking, but for baptizing. "Therefore even in summer baptism by immersion could be continued" (Marcus Dods).
And they came, and were baptized (κα παρεγινοντο κα εβαπτιζοντο). Imperfects both, one middle and the other passive, graphically picturing the long procession of pilgrims who came to John confessing their sins and receiving baptism at his hands.
For John had not yet been cast into prison (ουπω γαρ ην βεβλημενος εις την φυλακην Ιωανης). Periphrastic past perfect indicative of βαλλω explaining (γαρ) why John was still baptizing, the reason for the imprisonment having been given by Luke (Luke 3:19).
A questioning (ζητησις). Old word from ζητεω. See Acts 15:2 for the word where also ζητημα (question) occurs. Ζητησις (process of inquiry) means a meticulous dispute (1 Timothy 6:4).
With a Jew (μετα Ιουδαιου). So correct text, not Ιουδαιων (Jews). Probably some Jew resented John's baptism of Jesus as implying impurity or that they were like Gentiles (cf. proselyte baptism).
About purifying (περ καθαρισμου). See John 2:6 for the word. The committee from the Sanhedrin had challenged John's right to baptize (John 1:25). The Jews had various kinds of baptisms or dippings (Hebrews 6:2), "baptisms of cups and pots and brazen vessels" (Mark 6:4). The disciples of John came to him with the dispute (the first known baptismal controversy, on the meaning of the ceremony) and with a complaint.
Rabbi (Ραββε). Greeting John just like Jesus (John 1:38; John 3:2).
Beyond Jordan (περαν του Ιορδανου). Evident reference to John's witness to Jesus told in John 1:29-43.1.34.
To whom thou hast borne witness (ω συ μεμαρτυρηκας). Note avoidance of calling the name of Jesus. Perfect active indicative of μαρτυρεω so common in John (John 1:7, etc.). These disciples of John are clearly jealous of Jesus as a rival of John and they distinctly blame John for his endorsement of one who is already eclipsing him in popularity.
The same baptizeth (ουτος βαπτιζε). "This one is baptizing." Not personally (John 4:2), as John did, but through his six disciples.
And all men come to him (κα παντες ερχοντα προς αυτον). Linear present middle indicative, "are coming." The sight of the growing crowds with Jesus and the dwindling crowds with John stirred John's followers to keenest jealousy. What a life-like picture of ministerial jealousy in all ages.
Except it have been given him from heaven (εαν μη η δεδομενον αυτω εκ του ουρανου). See the same idiom in John 6:65 (cf. John 19:11). Condition of third class, undetermined with prospect of determination, εαν μη with the periphrastic perfect passive subjunctive of διδωμ. The perfect tense is rare in the subjunctive and an exact rendering into English is awkward, "unless it be granted him from heaven." See 1 Corinthians 4:7 where Paul says the same thing.
I said (ειπον). As in John 1:20; John 1:23. He had always put Jesus ahead of him as the Messiah (John 1:15).
Before him (εμπροσθεν εκεινου). "Before that one" (Jesus) as his forerunner simply.
I am sent (απεσταλμενος ειμ). Periphrastic perfect passive indicative of αποστελλω.
The bridegroom (νυμφιος). Predicate nominative without article. Both νυμφη (bride) and νυμφιος are old and common words. Jesus will use this metaphor of himself as the Bridegroom (Mark 2:19) and Paul develops it (2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:23-49.5.32) and so in Revelation (John 19:7; John 21:2). John is only like the paranymph (παρανυμφιος) or "the friend of the bridegroom." His office is to bring groom and bride together. So he stands expectant (εστηκως, second perfect active participle of ιστημ) and listens (ακουων, present active participle of ακουω) with joy ( rejoiceth greatly , χαρα χαιρε, "with joy rejoices") to the music of the bridegroom's voice.
This my joy therefore is fulfilled (αυτη ουν η χαρα πεπληρωτα). Perfect passive indicative of πληροω, stands filled like a cup to the brim with joy.
Must (δε). It has to be (see John 3:14). He is to go on growing (present active infinitive αυξανειν) while I go on decreasing (present passive infinitive ελαττουσθα, from comparative ελαττων, less). These are the last words that we have from John till the despondent message from the dungeon in Machaerus whether Jesus is after all the Messiah (Matthew 11:2; Luke 7:19). He went on to imprisonment, suspense, martyrdom, while Jesus grew in popular favour till he had his via dolorosa. "These last words of St. John are the fulness of religious sacrifice and fitly close his work" (Westcott).
Is above all (επανω παντων). Ablative case with the compound preposition επανω. See the same idea in Romans 9:5. Here we have the comments of Evangelist (John) concerning the last words of John in verse John 3:30 which place Jesus above himself. He is above all men, not alone above the Baptist. Bernard follows those who treat verses John 3:31-43.3.36 as dislocated and put them after verse John 3:21 (the interview with Nicodemus), but they suit better here.
Of the earth (εκ της γης). John is fond of this use of εκ for origin and source of character as in John 1:46; 1 John 4:5. Jesus is the one that comes out of heaven (ο εκ του ουρανου ερχομενος) as he has shown in John 1:1-43.1.18. Hence he is "above all."
What he hath seen and heard (ο εωρακεν κα ηκουσεν). Perfect active indicative followed by aorist active indicative, because, as Westcott shows, the first belongs to the very existence of the Son and the latter to his mission. There is no confusion of tenses here.
No man (ουδεις). There were crowds coming to Jesus, but they do not really accept him as Saviour and Lord (John 1:11; John 2:24). It is superficial as time will show. But "no one" is not to be pressed too far, for it is the rhetorical use.
Hath set his seal (εσφραγισεν). First aorist active indicative of σφραγιζω for which verb see Matthew 27:66. The metaphor of sealing is a common one for giving attestation as in John 6:27. The one who accepts the witness of Jesus attests that Jesus speaks the message of God.
The words of God (τα ρηματα του θεου). God sent his Son (John 3:17) and he speaks God's words.
By measure (εκ μετρου). That is God has put no limit to the Spirit's relation to the Son. God has given the Holy Spirit in his fulness to Christ and to no one else in that sense.
Hath given all things into his hand (παντα δεδωκεν εν τη χειρ αυτου). John makes the same statement about Jesus in John 13:3 (using εις τας χειρας instead of εν τη χειρ). Jesus makes the same claim in John 5:19-43.5.30; Matthew 11:27; Matthew 28:18.
Hath eternal life (εχε ζωην αιωνιον). Has it here and now and for eternity.
That obeyeth not (ο απειθων). "He that is disobedient to the Son." Jesus is the test of human life as Simeon said he would be (Luke 2:34). This verb does not occur again in John's Gospel.
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright © Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on John 3". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany