English Standard Version ESV
The Message Bible MSG
1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.
There was a man of the Pharisee sect, Nicodemus, a prominent leader among the Jews.
2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him."
Late one night he visited Jesus and said, "Rabbi, we all know you're a teacher straight from God. No one could do all the God-pointing, God-revealing acts you do if God weren't in on it."
3 Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God."
Jesus said, "You're absolutely right. Take it from me: Unless a person is born from above, it's not possible to see what I'm pointing to - to God's kingdom."
4 Nicodemus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?"
"How can anyone," said Nicodemus, "be born who has already been born and grown up? You can't re-enter your mother's womb and be born again. What are you saying with this 'born-from-above' talk?"
5 Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
Jesus said, "You're not listening. Let me say it again. Unless a person submits to this original creation - the 'wind hovering over the water' creation, the invisible moving the visible, a baptism into a new life - it's not possible to enter God's kingdom.
6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
When you look at a baby, it's just that: a body you can look at and touch. But the person who takes shape within is formed by something you can't see and touch - the Spirit - and becomes a living spirit.
7 Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.'
"So don't be so surprised when I tell you that you have to be 'born from above' - out of this world, so to speak.
8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."
You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it's headed next. That's the way it is with everyone 'born from above' by the wind of God, the Spirit of God."
9 Nicodemus said to him, "How can these things be?"
Nicodemus asked, "What do you mean by this? How does this happen?"
10 Jesus answered him, "Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?
Jesus said, "You're a respected teacher of Israel and you don't know these basics?
11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony.
Listen carefully. I'm speaking sober truth to you. I speak only of what I know by experience; I give witness only to what I have seen with my own eyes. There is nothing secondhand here, no hearsay. Yet instead of facing the evidence and accepting it, you procrastinate with questions.
12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?
If I tell you things that are plain as the hand before your face and you don't believe me, what use is there in telling you of things you can't see, the things of God?
13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.
"No one has ever gone up into the presence of God except the One who came down from that Presence, the Son of Man.
14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
In the same way that Moses lifted the serpent in the desert so people could have something to see and then believe, it is necessary for the Son of Man to be lifted up -
15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
and everyone who looks up to him, trusting and expectant, will gain a real life, eternal life.
16 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
"This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.
17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.
18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person's failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.
19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.
"This is the crisis we're in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God.
20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.
Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won't come near it, fearing a painful exposure.
21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God."
But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is."
22 After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing.
After this conversation, Jesus went on with his disciples into the Judean countryside and relaxed with them there. He was also baptizing.
23 John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized
At the same time, John was baptizing over at Aenon near Salim, where water was abundant.
24 (for John had not yet been put in prison).
This was before John was thrown into jail.
25 Now a discussion arose between some of John's disciples and a Jew over purification.
John's disciples got into an argument with the establishment Jews over the nature of baptism.
26 And they came to John and said to him, "Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness--look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him."
They came to John and said, "Rabbi, you know the one who was with you on the other side of the Jordan? The one you authorized with your witness? Well, he's now competing with us. He's baptizing, too, and everyone's going to him instead of us."
27 John answered, "A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.
John answered, "It's not possible for a person to succeed - I'm talking about eternal success - without heaven's help.
28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, 'I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.'
You yourselves were there when I made it public that I was not the Messiah but simply the one sent ahead of him to get things ready.
29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.
The one who gets the bride is, by definition, the bridegroom. And the bridegroom's friend, his 'best man' - that's me - in place at his side where he can hear every word, is genuinely happy. How could he be jealous when he knows that the wedding is finished and the marriage is off to a good start?
30 He must increase, but I must decrease."
This is the assigned moment for him to move into the center, while I slip off to the sidelines.
31 He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all.
"The One who comes from above is head and shoulders over other messengers from God. The earthborn is earthbound and speaks earth language; the heavenborn is in a league of his own.
32 He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony.
He sets out the evidence of what he saw and heard in heaven. No one wants to deal with these facts.
33 Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true.
But anyone who examines this evidence will come to stake his life on this: that God himself is the truth.
34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure.
"The One that God sent speaks God's words. And don't think he rations out the Spirit in bits and pieces.
35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.
The Father loves the Son extravagantly. He turned everything over to him so he could give it away - a lavish distribution of gifts.
36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
That is why whoever accepts and trusts the Son gets in on everything, life complete and forever! And that is also why the person who avoids and distrusts the Son is in the dark and doesn't see life. All he experiences of God is darkness, and an angry darkness at that."
The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved.