It's A Risk Worth Taking

Bible Book: John 
Subject: Salvation; Hypocrisy; Nicodemus

Do you remember Nicodemus, the intriguing character who interviewed Jesus Christ? Three events in his life reveal he was a risk taker.  Dr. Rex M. Rogers states, “All gambling involves risk, but not all risk is gambling. Risk is a necessary and defensible part of a stewarded life in a fallen world.”1 Dr. Kenneth S. Kantzer (1917-2002), explains, “Gambling is an artificially contrived risk, taken for selfish gain at another’s expense, with no constructive product or social good as its goal.”2

Nicodemus had impeccable manners, irreproachable morals, and an inquiring mind, but something was missing. Dr. Adrian Rogers (1931-2005) writes, “Have you ever wondered what a church full of Pharisees would be like? 1. They would all attend every service. 2. They would all tithe. 3. They would all work in the church. 4. They would all go to hell.”3  Dr. Adrian Rogers provides the following description of many in our day: “What they do not realize is that no one is so bad that he cannot be saved and no one is so good he need not be saved.  They fail to see the worst form of badness is human goodness when human goodness becomes a substitute for the new birth.”4

Notice three scenes from the life of Nicodemus.

I. Scene One: A face-to-face communication with Jesus. This involved a minimal risk.

Dr. J. C. Ryle (1916-1900) explains, “The conversation between Christ and Nicodemus, which begins with these verses, is one of the most important passages in the whole Bible.”5

There are three things to note in this significant story of the monumental meeting of Jesus and Nicodemus.

First, notice the introduction of Nicodemus in John 3:1, “There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.”

Second, notice the investigation by Nicodemus in John 3:2-10, “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.’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ 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?’ Jesus answered, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.’ Nicodemus answered and said to Him, ‘How can these things be?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?”

Third, notice the information for Nicodemus in John 3:11-21, “Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. ‘He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.’” Here, Nicodemus took a minimal risk.

II. Scene Two: A favorable comment for Jesus. This involved a moderate risk.

John 7:45-53 reads, “Then the officers came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, ‘Why have you not brought Him?’ The officers answered, ‘No man ever spoke like this Man!’ Then the Pharisees answered them, ‘Are you also deceived? Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in Him? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.’ Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said to them, ‘Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?’ They answered and said to him, ‘Are you also from Galilee? Search and look, for no prophet has arisen out of Galilee.’ And everyone went to his own house.”

In John 3:1-21 we find Nicodemus in a clandestine meeting with Jesus; and in John 7:45-53 we find Nicodemus in a clandestine meeting about Jesus.  Observe three things about Nicodemus in the second scene recorded in John 7:45-53.

The first thing we find is the confusion Nicodemus encountered about Jesus. John 7:46 reads, “The officers answered, ‘No man ever spoke like this Man!’” Matthew 7:28-29 reads, “And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” Mark 10:24 reads, “And the disciples were astonished at His words.” Luke 4:22, and 36 reads, “So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, ‘Is this not Joseph’s son?’ . . . Then they were all amazed and spoke among themselves, saying, ‘What a word this is! For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.’” Luke 19:47-48 reads, “And He was teaching daily in the temple. But the chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people sought to destroy Him,  and were unable to do anything; for all the people were very attentive to hear Him.”  Dr. Robert J. Morgan explains, “Jesus didn’t come with fallible human opinions. When He spoke it was as though God Himself were speaking; and, in fact, it was God Himself speaking. If you want to know what God thinks, read the words of Jesus. If you want to know God’s insights into any subject, listen to Jesus. If you want the wisdom of God, listen to the words of Jesus.”6 Psalm 35:4b reads, “Let those be turned back and brought to confusion Who plot my hurt.” Psalm 40:14 reads, “Let them be ashamed and brought to mutual confusion Who seek to destroy my life; Let them be driven backward and brought to dishonor Who wish me evil.” Notice the confusion that came to those who conspired against Jesus before the time appointed for Him to be crucified.  

The second thing we find is the contempt Nicodemus observed toward Jesus. John 7:47-49 reads, “Then the Pharisees answered them, ‘Are you also deceived? Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in Him? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.’” John 7:52 reads, “‘Are you also from Galilee? Search and look, for no prophet has arisen out of Galilee.’” Remember Jonah! 2 Kings 14:25 reads, “He restored the territory of Israel from the entrance of Hamath to the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the Lord God of Israel, which He had spoken through His servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet who was from Gath Hepher.” Jonah 1:1-2 reads, “Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.’” Matthew 12:38-41 reads, “Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, ‘Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.’ But He answered and said to them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.”

The third thing we find is the concern Nicodemus voiced for Jesus. John 7:50-51 reads, “Nicodemus. . . said to them, ‘Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?’”  Likely, calling attention to Exodus 23:1 reads, “You shall not circulate a false report. Do not put your hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness.” Deuteronomy 1:16-17 reads, “Then I commanded your judges at that time, saying, ‘Hear the cases between your brethren, and judge righteously between a man and his brother or the stranger who is with him. You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small as well as the great; you shall not be afraid in any man’s presence, for the judgment is God’s. The case that is too hard for you, bring to me, and I will hear it.’” Here, Nicodemus took a moderate risk.

III. Scene Three: A faithful commitment to Jesus. This involved a major risk.

John 19:38-42 reads, “After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury. Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews’ Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby.”

It is interesting to note each passage in the Gospel of John refers to Nicodemus in the same way.  John 3:2 reads, “This man came to Jesus by night. . . .” John 7:50 reads, “he who came to Jesus by night. . . .” John 19:39 reads, “who at first came to Jesus by night . . . .”

There are three things to remember about Nicodemus in this third scene recorded in John 19:38-42.

Remember the courage of Nicodemus in the burial of Jesus. John 19:39 reads, “And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came. . . .”  Nicodemus who first came privately, finally came publicly. Drs. Henry M. Morris (1918-2006) and Martin E. Clark explain, “There can be no doubt that this act and those which followed cost Joseph and Nicodemus very dearly. John 12:42 indicates that ‘many among the chief rulers’ actually believed on Christ, but ‘because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue.’ Not only would Joseph and Nicodemus have been excommunicated, but they would quite likely have lost their possessions and possibly even their lives because of this.”7

Remember the contribution of Nicodemus for the burial of Jesus. John 19:39 reads, “And Nicodemus. . . also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds.” Nicodemus provided the shroud of a king, for Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords.  Isaiah 53:9 reads, “And they made His grave with the wicked—But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth.”

Remember the cooperation of Nicodemus at the burial of Jesus. John 19:40 reads, “Then they took the body of Jesus. . . .” Dr. Charles Stanford explains, “The companion of Joseph was Nicodemus, a man like himself in station, in wealth, and in being ‘a disciple of Jesus, but secretly.’ . . . The heroism of faith is almost always kindled by desperate circumstances. The heroism of Joseph began in Christ's hour of darkness. When the only voice lifted up for Him all that day had been the voice of a dying thief—then it was that he openly declared himself. He had ‘waited for the kingdom;’ and perhaps this poor man's prayer made him resolve to identify himself with the King. ‘Boldly’ is the fit word for describing his errand to Pilate. Such a request, in later days, has cost men their lives. But the brave deed was successful. At the same time it helped to kindle similar courage in the heart of Nicodemus. They had often met in the high places of life, each knowing the other had faith in Christ that he was afraid to profess; they now met at the cross as at the altar of decision.”8

Note how Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus went from timidity at the trial of Jesus to boldness at the burial of Jesus. Remember, both were members of the Sanhedrin.  In the matter of Jesus Christ, both Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were either absent from the meeting or they abstained from the voting. Remarkably, right after the death of Jesus, they were prepared to quickly come forward and provide a burial fit for a king. Any cowardice was replaced by courage!  Here, Nicodemus took a major risk.


Where are you in the story of Nicodemus?  Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe explains, “It is evident that Nicodemus came ‘out of the dark’ and finally became a born again Christian. Here in John 3, we see Nicodemus in the darkness of confusion; in John 7:45-53, we see him in the dawn of conviction, willing to give Christ a fair hearing; and in John 19:38-42, we see Nicodemus in the daylight of confession, openly identifying himself with Christ.”9  No matter where you are, come to Jesus, it’s a risk worth taking!

Dr. Francis Dixon (1910-1985), former pastor of Lansdowne Baptist Church, Bournemouth, England, asks, “How can a man be sure that he has been born again? In the only way that it is possible for anyone to be sure, Jesus made it quite clear (we read His words in John 3:14-16; compare Numbers 21:6-9), that anyone is born again by looking in simple faith to the Lord Jesus, who died on the Cross to save us, who rose again, and who lives now at God’s right hand to be the Saviour of all who will put their trust in Him. Anyone who looks away from sin and from self, and looks to the Saviour for salvation, will experience His saving grace. He will experience the grace of the Lord Jesus in salvation in a moment of time, as these verses and many other promises in the Bible teach us. Think about this and ask yourself, Where do I stand? Have I been born again? Have I looked away in simple faith to the Lord Jesus for salvation? Look up Isaiah 45:22. Is all my trust in Him for time and for eternity?”10

Romans 16:3-4 reads, “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.”  As I share in Don’t Miss the Revival!, “If you enjoy the rush of risk remember if you are a real Christian you will risk your life and livelihood in the will of God.”11 

Are you born again?  If not, come to Jesus, it’s a risk worth taking!

1Rex M. Rogers, Gambling: Don’t Bet On It (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2005), 99.

2Kenneth Kantzer, “Gambling: Everyone’s A Loser,” Christianity Today (Carol Stream, IL: Christianity Today Intl., Nov. 25, 1983), 12-13.

3AZ Quotes, Adrian Rogers, Accessed: 07/09/17 .

4Adrian Rogers, Unveiling the End Times in Our Time: The Triumph of the Lamb in Revelation (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2013), 243.

5John Charles Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: St. John (New York, NY: Robert Carter and Brothers, 1874), 1:118.

6Robert J. Morgan, “Jesus Spoke More Powerful Than Anyone in History Accessed: 07/01/17 .

7Henry M. Morris & Martin E. Clark, The Bible Has the Answer (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 1986), 286. Database © 2007 WORDsearch Corp. 

8Charles Stanford, From Calvary to Olivet, A Sequel to ‘Voices from Calvary’, a Course of Homilies (London: The Religious Tract Society, 1884), 13, 21-22.

9Warren W. Wiersbe, Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the New Testament (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 1992), 219-220.

10Francis Dixon, “Nicodemus the Pharisee” Sermon Notes, (John 3:1-16).

11Franklin L. Kirksey, Don't Miss the Revival!: Messages for Revival and Spiritual Awakening from Isaiah, 419.


Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey, pastor First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort 30775 Jay Drive Spanish Fort, Alabama 36527

Author of Don’t Miss the Revival! Messages for Revival and Spiritual Awakening from Isaiah and

Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice [Both available on in hardcover, paperback and eBook] & /   / (251) 626-6210

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