Lesson 62: John 3

New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual, 2016


Introduction

One night a Pharisee named Nicodemus approached Jesus and conversed with Him. Jesus taught Nicodemus that all men must be born again to enter the kingdom of God. Later, John the Baptist explained to his disciples that his role was to prepare the way for Jesus Christ.

Suggestions for Teaching

John 3:1–21

Jesus teaches Nicodemus spiritual truths

Invite students to imagine that one day while they are discussing religion with some friends, one says, “As long as I am a good person, I can go to heaven.” Invite students to ponder how they would respond to this friend.

Encourage students to look in John 3 for what we must do to enter God’s kingdom.

Explain that near the beginning of His ministry, the Savior went to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. Many people in Jerusalem believed in Jesus after they saw the miracles He performed (see John 2:23–25).

Invite a student to read John 3:1–2 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what happened while the Savior was in Jerusalem.

  • Who visited Jesus?

Explain that as “a ruler of the Jews” (John 3:1), Nicodemus was a member of the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was a governing council made up of Pharisees and Sadducees that directed many of the civil and religious affairs of the Jewish people.

Nicodemus and Jesus

Nicodemus visits Jesus

  • Why do you think Nicodemus may have come to visit Jesus at night?

  • According to verse 2, what did Nicodemus acknowledge about Jesus?

Explain that Nicodemus’s acknowledgment that Jesus was “a teacher come from God” (verse 2) suggests that Nicodemus wanted to learn from Jesus. Invite a student to read John 3:3–5 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Savior taught Nicodemus.

  • According to verse 3, what did the Savior teach Nicodemus?

  • What did Nicodemus think the Savior meant by the phrase “born again” (verse 3)?

Explain that to be born again is “to have the Spirit of the Lord cause a mighty change in a person’s heart so that he [or she] has no more desire to do evil, but rather desires to seek the things of God” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Born Again, Born of God,” scriptures.lds.org; see also Mosiah 5:2; Alma 5:14–15; Moses 6:59).

  • According to verse 5, what two things did Jesus teach Nicodemus are necessary to enter the kingdom of God? What do you think it means to be “born of water and of the Spirit”?

  • How would you summarize what these verses teach about what is necessary for being spiritually reborn and entering the celestial kingdom? (After students respond, write the following principle on the board using students’ words: Being baptized and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost are necessary for being spiritually reborn and receiving exaltation in the celestial kingdom.)

Remind students of the scenario with the friend. Divide students into pairs. Invite one student in each pair to be the friend who thinks that all that is necessary to enter the kingdom of God is to be a good person. Invite the other student in each pair to practice clarifying the misunderstanding using John 3:5.

Summarize John 3:6–12 by explaining that Nicodemus asked Jesus what makes it possible for someone to be born again. Jesus responded by asking how Nicodemus could be a religious leader and teacher in Israel and not know that spiritual rebirth is necessary and what makes spiritual rebirth possible.

In John 3:13–21 we read that the Savior explained to Nicodemus how it is possible for someone to be born again. Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from John 3:13–15. Ask the class to follow along and look for how Jesus answered Nicodemus’s question.

video iconInstead of inviting students to read John 3:13–15 aloud, you may want to show the video “Heavenly Things” (8:55) from time code 5:30 to the end. This video depicts the Savior teaching Nicodemus. Ask students to follow along in their scriptures, looking for how Jesus answered Nicodemus’s question. This video is available on LDS.org.

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  • What did the Savior say about Himself in John 3:13? (He testified of Himself as the Son of God who came down from heaven.)

Moses and the Brass Serpent

Display the picture Moses and the Brass Serpent (Gospel Art Book [2009], no. 16; see also LDS.org). Ask students to explain the account from the scriptures that the picture represents. If necessary, explain that during the time of Moses the Lord sent poisonous serpents in consequence of the Israelites sinning against God. The Israelites were poisoned when the serpents bit them. The Lord directed Moses to raise up a brass serpent on a pole and promised that any Israelite who looked at the serpent on the pole would be healed. (See Numbers 21:4–9.)

  • According to John 3:14, what did Jesus say the brazen serpent represented?

The Crucifixion

Display the picture The Crucifixion (Gospel Art Book [2009], no. 57; see also LDS.org).

  • According to verse 15, what blessing comes to those who look to the Savior?

  • What doctrine can we learn from these verses about the Atonement of Jesus Christ? (Students may use different words, but be sure to emphasize the following truth: All mankind can obtain eternal life through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Write this principle on the board.)

Invite a student to read John 3:16–17 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for a doctrine we can learn about Heavenly Father.

  • What did Heavenly Father send His Son to do?

  • What doctrine can we learn from these verses about Heavenly Father? (Students may use different words to identify the following doctrine: Heavenly Father loves His children so much that He sent His Only Begotten Son to suffer for their sins. Add this doctrine to those already listed on the board.)

  • How did Heavenly Father sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to the earth show His love for each of us?

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Ask the class to consider how knowing of Heavenly Father’s love for them makes them feel.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks

“There is no greater evidence of the infinite power and perfection of God’s love than is declared by the Apostle John [in John 3:16]. … Think how it must have grieved our Heavenly Father to send His Son to endure incomprehensible suffering for our sins. That is the greatest evidence of His love for each of us!” (“Love and Law,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2009, 26).

  • How do you feel knowing that Heavenly Father loves you so much that He sent His Only Begotten Son to suffer and die for you?

  • According to John 3:16–17, how can we be saved through the Atonement? (After students respond, add the following principle to the board: If we believe in Jesus Christ, which includes repenting of our sins and obeying His word, we can have everlasting life through His Atonement.)

Invite students to review the truths Jesus taught Nicodemus that are listed on the board.

  • How do these truths relate to each other?

  • What are some ways in which we can show our belief in Jesus Christ?

Testify that as we demonstrate our belief in Jesus Christ by repenting and following Him, we can be saved and receive eternal life through the Atonement.

Write the following phrase on the board: I will show my belief in Jesus Christ by … Ask students to finish this phrase in their class notebooks or scripture study journals by writing what they will do to show their belief in Jesus Christ.

John 3:22–36

John the Baptist teaches that Jesus is the Christ

Display a clear container full of water. Add a drop or two of food coloring to the water.

  • How might the food coloring be compared to our influence upon others?

Invite a student to read aloud the following statements by President David O. McKay. Ask the class to listen for what we can learn about our influence in the lives of others.

President David O. McKay

“Every person who lives in this world wields an influence, whether for good or for evil (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay [2003], 227).

“The effect of our words and acts is tremendous in this world. Every moment of life you are changing to a degree the lives of the whole world” (Teachings: David O. McKay, 227).

Ask students to look for a principle in John 3:22–36 that teaches us how we can influence others for good.

Summarize John 3:22–26 by explaining that some of John the Baptist’s disciples were concerned because people were following Jesus instead of John the Baptist.

Invite a student to read John 3:27–30 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what John the Baptist understood about his role in relation to Jesus Christ.

  • What did John the Baptist want his disciples to understand about his role? (He had been sent before Jesus Christ to prepare others for Him.)

  • What analogy did John the Baptist use (verse 29)?

Explain that the bridegroom represents Jesus, the bride can represent those who were coming unto Christ, and the friend of the bridegroom represents John the Baptist.

  • What do you think John the Baptist meant when he said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (verse 30)? What does this show about the character of John the Baptist?

  • What could Jesus Christ do for people that John the Baptist could not do?

  • What can we learn from John the Baptist’s example about what we can do to influence others for good? (Students may identify a variety of truths, but make sure it is clear that we can influence others for good by directing them to Jesus Christ.)

  • Why is it so important that we use our influence to direct others to Jesus Christ?

  • When have you seen someone direct others to the Savior?

Invite students to consider ways in which they can direct others to the Savior. Encourage them to seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost in their efforts to do so.

Summarize John 3:31–36 by explaining that John the Baptist declared that Jesus had been sent by God and that all who believe in Him can receive everlasting life.

scripture mastery iconScripture Mastery—John 3:5

To help students memorize John 3:5, invite students to write the first letter of each word in the verse in their scripture study journals. Encourage students to practice saying the scripture aloud using the first letters and referring to the scripture passage as needed. When students can say the entire passage using the first letters, invite them to practice reciting the passage from memory. You could invite them to practice reciting this scripture at the beginning or end of class for several days.

Commentary and Background Information

John 3:3. To be born again

Like Nicodemus, some people may wonder how to be born again. President Ezra Taft Benson taught: “In addition to the physical ordinance of baptism and the laying on of hands, one must be spiritually born again to gain exaltation and eternal life” (“Born of God,” Ensign, July 1989, 2–4). Therefore, being born again requires more than simply being baptized and confirmed. In order to be born again one needs to live in such a manner that the Holy Ghost changes the heart.

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught:

“We begin the process of being born again through exercising faith in Christ, repenting of our sins, and being baptized by immersion for the remission of sins by one having priesthood authority. …

“Total immersion in and saturation with the Savior’s gospel are essential steps in the process of being born again” (“Ye Must Be Born Again,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2007, 21).

Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained that to be born again is a process that requires time:

“You may ask, Why doesn’t this mighty change happen more quickly with me? … For most of us, the changes are more gradual and occur over time. Being born again, unlike our physical birth, is more a process than an event. And engaging in that process is the central purpose of mortality.

“At the same time, let us not justify ourselves in a casual effort. Let us not be content to retain some disposition to do evil. Let us worthily partake of the sacrament each week and continue to draw upon the Holy Spirit to root out the last vestiges of impurity within us. I testify that as you continue in the path of spiritual rebirth, the atoning grace of Jesus Christ will take away your sins and the stain of those sins in you, temptations will lose their appeal, and through Christ you will become holy, as He and our Father are holy” (“Born Again,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2008, 78).

John 3:5. We need ordinances in order to gain salvation

The Savior’s teaching in John 3:5 affirms that ordinances are necessary to enter the kingdom of God. As the Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “Being born again, comes by the Spirit of God through ordinances” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 95).

President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles likewise stated, “Good conduct without the ordinances of the gospel will neither redeem nor exalt mankind; covenants and the ordinances are essential” (“The Only True Church,” Ensign, Nov. 1985, 82).

John 3:7–8. Why did Jesus compare being “born again” to the wind?

In response to Nicodemus’s confusion about being born again, the Savior compared being born of the Spirit to the wind. (The Greek word for spirit is pneuma, which may also be translated as breath or wind.) Just as the wind is difficult to see, so it is difficult to see the process of being born again. We can see the effects of the wind but struggle to know when it starts and when it ends as well as where it comes from. A similar conclusion can be drawn about the process of being born again. It is difficult to see exactly when it starts or when it ends, but its effects are very visible as actions and desires change.

John 3:16. “For God so loved the world”

Of this verse Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles declared:

“This is perhaps the most famous and powerful single verse of scripture ever uttered. It summarizes the whole plan of salvation, tying together the Father, the Son, his atoning sacrifice, that belief in him which presupposes righteous works, and ultimate eternal exaltation for the faithful.

“… Similarly, our Lord ‘so loved the world that he gave his own life, that as many as would believe might become the sons of God.’ (D&C 34:3.)” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 1:144).