John 19:38-42: Secret Disciple
December 19, 2021
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Many legends have been told of Joseph of Arimathea, but so little is truly known about him. Yet what we do know of him is itself instructive. He was a secret disciple of Jesus. But that he was secret—out of fear of the Jewish leaders’ reprimands and reprisals—did not any the less stop him from being a disciple or acting with commendation. He took care of the body of Jesus. He truly was a disciple of Jesus. Secret, yes; ideal, no; but a disciple nonetheless.
We can be too harsh with our criteria towards other Christians on occasion. We can make the necessary qualification so high that, if truth be told, we ourselves would not have entered if that had been the high gate that we had had to climb. Let us accept those that want to follow Jesus, even if they are not doing it in quite the right way. How will they learn better if we do not give them the opportunity to be in a community where they might study the Bible and encounter more of Christ?
Nicodemus, it appears, is also by now a disciple. The text does not explicitly tell us that he is, but that his actions and name and situation is associated with Joseph of Arimathea’s, suggests that Nicodemus (like Joseph) is a secret believer. Nicodemus’ conversion was at night, equally clandestine in its beginning, as apparently it still was, but yet he too was a follower of Jesus.
Let us not fall into the trap of Elijah, thinking that there are no more prophets and that only he was left. There are more believers and followers of Jesus around than we fear. And sometimes it is these “secret disciples” who will do commendable deeds—as Nicodemus and Joseph did.
John makes sure we hear these details about the tomb of Jesus for another reason. We are to be assured that Jesus died and was buried, and that the location was precise. No fainting fit did Jesus succumb to; no mistaken case of identity; no going to the wrong tomb. He was dead. He was buried. And, as we shall see, he rose again!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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