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.
Imagine that one day while you are discussing religion with some friends, one of them says, “As long as I am a good person, I can go to heaven.” Think about how you would respond to your friend.
As you study John 3, look for the things Jesus taught we must do to enter the kingdom of God.
Near the beginning of His ministry, the Savior went to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. Many people in Jerusalem believed in Jesus when they saw the miracles He performed (see John 2:23–25).
Read John 3:1–2, looking for who came to visit the Savior while He was in Jerusalem.
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.
Why do you think Nicodemus may have come to visit Jesus at night?
Nicodemus’s acknowledgment that Jesus was “a teacher come from God” (John 3:2) suggests that he wanted to learn from Jesus.
Jesus taught Nicodemus that everyone needed to be born again. What did Nicodemus think the Savior meant by the phrase “born again” (John 3:3)?
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 Mosiah 5:2; 27:25–26).
You may want to mark the two things in John 3:5 that Jesus taught are necessary to enter the kingdom of God.
Being born of the water means being baptized, and being born of the Spirit means receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Complete the following truth based on what you learned from John 3:5: are necessary for being spiritually reborn and receiving exaltation in the celestial kingdom. Consider writing this truth in your scriptures next to John 3:5.
President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles declared: “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).
In your scripture study journal, write a response to a friend who said that just being a good person is enough to enter the kingdom of God. Remember to use what Jesus said in John 3:5 in your response.
In John 3:6–12 we read that after Jesus taught Nicodemus that everyone must be born spiritually, Nicodemus asked Jesus what makes it possible for someone to be born again. Jesus responded by asking how Nicodemus could be a religious leader of the people and not understand what He was teaching.
Read John 3:13–15, looking for how Jesus answered Nicodemus’s question about what makes spiritual rebirth possible. Notice in John 3:13 that Jesus testified of Himself as the Son of God who came down from heaven.
In John 3:13, Jesus taught Nicodemus that no one can ascend up to heaven through their own efforts. Christ is the only one who can ascend to heaven on His own.
During the time Moses and the children of Israel were wandering in the wilderness, the Lord sent fiery, or poisonous, serpents in consequence of the Israelites sinning against God. The Israelites were poisoned when the serpents bit them. The Lord directed Moses to make a serpent out of brass that looked like the fiery serpents and to raise it up on a pole. He promised that any Israelite who looked at the serpent on the pole would be healed. (See Numbers 21:4–9.)
In what ways is the experience of Moses’s raising the brass serpent similar to what Jesus Christ would do for everyone?
Note the blessing stated in John 3:15 that comes to those who look to the Savior.
Jesus taught Nicodemus that all mankind can obtain eternal life through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
The Savior also taught Nicodemus an important doctrine about Heavenly Father. Read John 3:16–17, looking for a doctrine we can learn about Heavenly Father.
John 3:16–17 teaches that Heavenly Father loves His children so much that He sent His Only Begotten Son to suffer for their sins.
Ponder how sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to the earth shows Heavenly Father’s love for each of us.
As you read the following statement by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, consider how you feel when you realize how much Heavenly Father loves you: “There is no greater evidence of the infinite power and perfection of God’s love than is declared by the Apostle John: ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son’ (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).
Read John 3:16 and Doctrine and Covenants 34:3, looking for what we can learn about the love of the Father and the love of Jesus Christ. Then, in your scripture study journal, write how you feel knowing that Heavenly Father loves you so much that He sent His Only Begotten Son to suffer and die for you.
An additional principle we can learn from John 3:16–17 is that if we believe in Jesus Christ, which includes repenting of our sins and obeying His word, we can have everlasting life through His Atonement.
Review the truths listed in this lesson that Jesus taught Nicodemus. Write in your scripture study journal how these truths relate to each other. Then write the following phrase: I will show my belief in Jesus Christ by … Finish this phrase by writing what you will do to show your belief in Jesus Christ.
The scripture mastery passage in John 3:5 teaches an important doctrine needed by all of Heavenly Father’s children. Memorizing it will help you to share it with others throughout your life. Write the entire verse in your scripture study journal. Recite the verse repeatedly, and cross out a few of the words each time you recite it. Do this until you can recite it from memory. You may want to recite it for a family member or friend to make sure you know it.
If possible, fill a clear drinking glass or container with water and add a drop or two of food coloring to the water. Watch the color spread throughout the container. Think about how the food coloring could be compared to our influence upon other people.
Read the following statements by President David O. McKay, looking for what you can learn about your influence in the lives of others:
“Every person who lives in this world wields an influence, whether for good or for evil. It is not what he says alone, it is not alone what he does. It is what he is” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay , 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).
As recorded in John 3:22–26, some of John the Baptist’s disciples were concerned. They told John that Jesus was baptizing and that He “receiveth of all people who come unto him” (Joseph Smith Translation, John 3:27 [in John 3:26, footnote a]). They were concerned that many people were following Jesus instead of John the Baptist.
Read John 3:27–30, looking for how John the Baptist humbly described his role in relation to Jesus Christ.
In John the Baptist’s analogy, 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 did John the Baptist understand about his role in relation to Jesus Christ? What kind of an influence do you think John’s words would have had on you if you had been one of John’s disciples?
One truth we can learn from John the Baptist’s example is 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?
Think of someone whom you have seen direct others to Jesus Christ. In your scripture study journal, describe the characteristics of this person that contributed to his or her being able to influence others to love and accept the Savior.
Consider ways in which you can direct others to the Savior. You can seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost in your efforts to do so.
In John 3:31–36, John the Baptist declared that Jesus had been sent by God and that all who believe in Him can receive everlasting life.
Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied John 3 and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: