Today’s Scripture: John 19:38-42
38 Afterward Joseph of Arimathea, who had been a secret disciple of Jesus (because he feared the Jewish leaders), asked Pilate for permission to take down Jesus’ body. When Pilate gave permission, Joseph came and took the body away. 39 With him came Nicodemus, the man who had come to Jesus at night. He brought about seventy-five pounds of perfumed ointment made from myrrh and aloes. 40 Following Jewish burial custom, they wrapped Jesus’ body with the spices in long sheets of linen cloth. 41 The place of crucifixion was near a garden, where there was a new tomb, never used before. 42 And so, because it was the day of preparation for the Jewish Passover and since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.
After Jesus was executed someone had to step up and take care of the body. All four Gospels tell us that person was Joseph of Arimathea. Apparently, Joseph was a man of high standing. One Gospel tells us that he was a member of the High Council. We also learn that he was a man who was “waiting for the Kingdom of God to come.” All of those are nice descriptions of the man. But John’s description seems to be a little harsher. Notice, in our passage today, Joseph is called a “secret disciple because he feared the Jewish leaders.”
It’s easy to throw Joseph of Arimathea under the bus. At some point he had an opportunity to support Jesus publicly, but chose fear instead. Even though he was “waiting for the Kingdom of God”, he still hid his support when the King showed up. His discipleship was secret. But while it’s easy to deride J of A, I wonder how often our own discipleship is secret?
I know for me, I sometimes cringe when someone I’ve just met asks me what I do for a living. They will make assumptions about me that I would rather not have them make. I wonder if I can tell them “I work in sales?” There are other times I would rather people not know I’m a disciple because they might assume that I am like the caricature of Christians that exists in the US today. In that same vein, there are times I tell people I pastor a Baptist church and feel like I have to add “but not that kind of Baptist” in case they get the wrong impression. Yeah, I see a lot of Joseph in myself.
But in the end Joseph’s discipleship was not so secret. He walked right up to Pilate and asked for the body. He got his friend Nicodemus to come with him. He bought 75 pounds (75 POUNDS??) of ointment and prepared Jesus’ body for burial.
I may be like the early Joseph at times – but I’d rather be like this Joseph: laser focused on doing the job of being a disciple with no regard for keeping it secret.
Maybe the opportunity will present itself to us today where we will have a choice to be a secret disciple, or a public one. What will we choose?
God we pray that fear will not be a driver of whether we follow you in public or in private. Help us to continue to grow into what it means to follow you with everything we are and everything we have.