How many secret disciples do you know? Clearly, more than you think! I find this little passage fascinating because it has highlighted an error, or rather, a gap in my own understanding of the scriptures. A few weeks back, on the 3rd of May, I said that I thought Nicodemus might be doomed never to understand Jesus or be born again because he was so concerned with the disapproval of his fellow Pharisees. But it seems that despite his fears, he too had become a secret disciple, like Joseph of Arimathea. The two secret disciples must have felt safer coming forward to claim Jesus now that he was dead. After his death they felt they could serve Jesus in this way, believing secretly in their hearts, but still able to plausibly deny it should they be challenged. They could say, being good conscientious Jews, that they were simply disposing of the body quickly and near by, in time for the Passover.
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. 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. Following Jewish burial custom, they wrapped Jesus’ body with the spices in long sheets of linen cloth. The place of crucifixion was near a garden, where there was a new tomb, never used before. 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.
The two secret disciples were able to step forward and serve their Lord after his death because, like everyone else at the time, they thought it was all over. At that time and at various times since, openly following Jesus and spreading his gospel, was and has been, extremely dangerous. However, it seems it was rejection rather than death that Nicodemus most feared. That is still true of many, many people today who want to follow Jesus, (and perhaps secretly do already), in their hearts. My Goal is help people see that although learning to live a Christian life takes real courage, welcoming Jesus into your heart and feeling the gifts of Holy Spirit flowing through your life, more than compensates for the initial timid steps you need to take on a new lifelong journey of faith.
2 Samuel 17:1-29, John 19:23-42, Psalm 119:129-152, Proverbs 16:12-13