Secret Disciple

Secret Disciple

22 November 2018

GraceNotes – A Journey of Discovery
Jim Stephens

Scripture: John 19:38-39 (Click link for scripture in Bible Gateway)

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. (John 19:38-39 NLT)

Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were members of the Jewish high council. Nicodemus had secretly come to Jesus a couple of years before to learn from him (John 3) and later had tried to defend him in a council meeting (John 7:50-52). They had been, no doubt, voices of reason in the council meetings, but fear of change and love for power and greed for gain had won out anyway. Now Jesus was dead.

I’d like to think that if I had been in Palestine back then, I’d have believed in Jesus! But I might have been a secret disciple as well, because I’m just not sure at my age I could have managed three and a half years of hiking and camping all up and down the country with Jesus and his band of twenty- and thirty-something hippies! But I think I would have loved his passion and his grace and his message of care for the poor, the sick, the wrongly imprisoned, and the stranger. And his courage in the face of constant opposition from the establishment. Maybe they were a bunch of hippies!

Joseph had been watching from a distance, and as soon as he saw the spear driven into Jesus’ side and knew he was dead, he went quickly to Pilate and asked permission to take Jesus’ body from the cross and give him a decent and respectful burial. The corpse cart was on its way to pick up the bodies of the two criminals who had been crucified with Jesus, and Joseph wasn’t about to let Jesus’ body be dumped with the others in the Valley of Hinnom. He sent a message to Nicodemus, “Hey, old friend, Pilate has given me Jesus’ body. Can you come and give me a hand? We couldn’t keep him alive, but at least we can give him a decent burial!”

Joseph bought strips of new linen cloth as he came out to Skull Hill, and Nicodemus brought burial spices. The secret disciples were secret no more!


Father, Thank you for these two old guys who loved Jesus from afar! I love that they found the courage to be secret no longer and to do what they could to honor Jesus! I hope you did something nice for them! Amen.

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