Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews.2He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” 3Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” 4Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” 5Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’8The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 9Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? 11“Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. 12If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?13No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Translation: But there was a person out of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Judeans. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you have come from God, a teacher, for no one is able to do these signs which you do except God be with him." Jesus answered and said to him, "Truly, truly I say to you, unless someone be born from above, that one is not able to know the kingdom of God."
Nicodemus said to him, "How is a person able to be born, being old? That one is not able to enter into his mother's womb a second time and be born." Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a person be born out of water and Spirit, that one is not able to enter into the kingdom of God. That having been born of flesh is flesh, and that being born of Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, 'It is necessary for you to be born from above.' The Spirit blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but you have not known from where it comes and where it goes. So it is (with) everyone who has been born out of the Spirit."
Nicodemus answered (and )said to him, "How are these things able to be?" Jesus answered (and) said to him, "You are the teacher of Israel and you do not know these things? Truly, truly I say to you, that what we have known we speak, and what we have seen, we witness, and you do not receive our witness. If I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not trust, how will you trust if I speak to you of heavenly things? And no one has gone up into heaven except the one who came down out of heaven, the son of humanity. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so it is necessary for the son of humanity to be lifted up so that anyone trusting in him might have life eternal. For God so loved the cosmos that he gave the only-begotten son that anyone trusting into him might not perish but might have life eternal, for God did not send the son into the cosmos so that the cosmos might be judged but so that the cosmos might be saved through him."
Background and situation: This story, like several others in the fourth gospel, is primarily addressed to persons living c. AD 90 who were flirting with joining the Johannine community, but were reluctant to come forward publicly and do so. The fourth gospel encouraged them to be bold and embrace the new world of God as it was represented in the Community of the Beloved Disciple. The fourth gospel often addresses its contemporaries and tells them, as we used to say on the farm, "It's time to get the dog off the porch!"
The passage is preceded by the wedding at Cana, where Jesus did "the first of his signs." Following that, the fourth gospel tells the story of Jesus driving out the moneychangers in the Temple during passover. Then follows the narrator's comment that "many believed" because of "the signs that he was doing." Jesus, however, was unimpressed. He "would not entrust himself to them." (2:24-25)