“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33
Have you ever done anything that was scary to you? The scariest thing I have ever done was jump out of an airplane. But my wife had done it and I did not want to be a chicken so I closed my eyes, leaned forward, and took the plunge.
We meet a man in the gospels who was also afraid, but over time, as he spent time with and witnessed Jesus, developed a bold faith. In John 3:1-15, we read about a man named Nicodemus. He was a ruler of the Jews and came to Jesus at night to ask questions. Question: Why would a ruler come at night to see Jesus? It was because he was afraid! He did not want to be seen with Jesus. The Jewish leaders did not like Jesus or his teachings and threatened to throw people out of the synagogue if they believed in Jesus (John 9:22). Even though this man was a ruler, at the same time he was a coward.
What is very interesting is that we hear about Nicodemus two more times in the gospel and each time he becomes bolder and is willing to have a courageous faith. In John 7:50-52, while some wanted to arrest Jesus without a trail, Nicodemus stands up for Jesus and protests that Jesus would need a hearing. Nicodemus is portrayed as a man who does not want Jesus silenced but wants to hear more and is willing to go against others so Jesus is not silenced unfairly.
Then in the last episode of John 19:39-42, Nicodemus takes 75 pounds of myrrh and aloes, a very large amount, sufficient for a royal burial and gives Jesus a proper burial. “Of course, when the two men touched His dead body, they defiled themselves and could not participate in Passover. But, what difference did it make? They had found the Lamb of God!” Nicodemus has thrown off his religious duties, touched a dead body, and proclaimed to all the world Jesus was a king. What a radical change and bold statement Nicodemus made for Jesus!
So how did Nicodemus make this radical shift? John 16:33 seems to indicate the answer, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” After seeing what happened to Jesus on the cross, Nicodemus realized that the tribulation or persecution he might face for following Jesus was something he did not have to worry about. He realized that Jesus was the Messiah, the king, and he had nothing to be afraid of.
Being afraid is not a bad thing. God gave us fear to be like our spidey sense that says, wait a minute, let’s think about this, let’s be careful. But fear was not meant to keep us from ever trying. “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.” – Franklin Roosevelt
And we have something much more important than fear that drives us to follow Jesus. We have Jesus’ example that he faced death and conquered it and now calls us to follow in his footsteps. If Jesus can conquer this world’s most powerful enemy, then there is nothing to be afraid of. Jesus has won the victory, now we only have to live like it.