Jesus answered and said unto him,
Are you a Teacher of Israel, and know not these things?
Read Chapter 3
Cornelius a Lapide
Jesus answered, &c. It was thy duty, O Nicodemus, being a Rabbi, who teachest the Law and the Scriptures to the rest of the Israelites, to know and teach those very things. For these things which I have spoken concerning the regeneration of baptism are clearly foretold by Ezekiel ( Ezekiel 36:24): "I will pour clean water upon you, and ye shall be cleansed from all your iniquities, &c. And I will give you a new heart and a new spirit." The same things have been foretold by other prophets, and have been clearly explained by Me. Wherefore then art thou ignorant of them? In truth it is because thou art a Jew, and only comprehendest Judaic washings, and corporeal ceremonies: but as yet thou knowest not the mysteries of Christ, although they were foretold by the Prophets, because they are spiritual. But by degrees, under My teaching, thou shalt know them.
By one Christ convicts all, that adorned with the name of teachers, and clothed with the mere repute of being learned in the law, they bear a mind full of ignorance, and unable to understand one of those things, which they ought not only to know, but also to be able to teach others. But if he that instructeth be in this condition, in what is he that is instructed, seeing that the disciple exceedeth not the measure of his master, according to the word of the Saviour? For the disciple, saith He, is not above his master. But since they were thus uninstructed, true is Christ in likening them to whited sepulchres. Most excellently doth Paul too say to the ruler of the Jews, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall.
And knoweth not these things. That is, of baptism given by in a visible manner, and you understand not, how will you comprehend greater and heavenly things, if I speak of them? (Witham)
Many passages, both in the law and the prophets, implied this doctrine of regeneration; for what else can be the meaning of the circumcision of the heart, commanded by Moses; (Deuteronomy x. 16.) of the renewal of a clean and right spirit, prayed for by David; (Psalm l.) of God's giving his people a new heart and a new spirit. (Ezechiel xxxvi. 26) But the Pharisees, taken up with their rites and traditions, paid little attention to spiritual things of greater moment.