Saturday, April 04, 2015

Secret disciple

"Joseph of Arimathea" 
by James Tissot

Joseph of Arimathea by James Tissot
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Mark 15:40-47

TO CHEW ON: "Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent council member who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, coming and taking courage, went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus." Mark 15:43

Joseph of Arimathea is an interesting character in the story of Jesus' passion. Our focus verse tells us five things about him.

1. "Joseph of Arimathea"
His name and address. Matthew also mentions that he was rich (Matthew 27:57) and Luke describes him as a "good and just man" (Luke 23:50).

2. He was "a prominent council member."
This is the council that Mark mentions several times in his account. After Jesus' arrest, the soldiers delivered him to the council who "sought testimony against Jesus to put him to death but found none" - Mark 14:55. It was in the council meeting that the beatings began (Mark 14:65). And it was the council that the chief priests, elders, and scribes consulted before they led Jesus to Pilate (Mark 15:1).

3. He "was himself waiting for the kingdom of God."
Matthew says more particularly "who himself had become a disciple of Jesus" (Matthew 27:57). John sheds even more light when he describes Joseph as a secret disciple "for fear of the Jews" (John 19:38).

4. "...coming and taking courage..."
Despite his wealth, prominence, and reputation, asking Pilate for Jesus' body demanded courage from Joseph. John's mention of Joseph's fear of the Jews makes us suspect he also needed courage to face them when he finally showed himself loyal to Jesus in this way. He wasn't alone, though. Nicodemus, another secret disciple, joined him in caring for Jesus' body (John 19:38-42).

5. He "asked for the body of Jesus."
He procured Jesus' body and then used his own resources to prepare and bury it in a new tomb, never used, but that he had prepared for himself (Mark 15:45-46; Matthew 27:59-60; Luke 23:53).

Some thoughts about Joseph of Arimathea and us:

1. Even the council had its disciples.  

Still today God has "spies" in the most unusual places.

2. One can only imagine the anguish Joseph went through as he listened to the council discuss Jesus' case. Should he stand up for Jesus or not? What would happen to him if he did? Then, when Jesus was crucified and died, how he must have berated himself. Maybe if he had spoken up, he could have made a difference. 

Are we ever secret disciples? Have we considered what that means in terms of regret, guilt, and final consequence (Mark 8:38; 2 Timothy 2:12)?

3. I love how Joseph finally gave the best that he had, even though it appeared to be too late. He filled a practical need by caring for Jesus with his resources.

His act makes me ask, how can I help? It may be in ways that don't appear remotely spiritual.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea is a sobering character to me. Help me to be a public, not a secret disciple. Amen.

MORE: Joseph of Arimathea - a poem

John Piper has written a lengthy and imaginative poem about Joseph of Arimathea.

Here is one stanza from Part 2, where we see Joseph removing Jesus from the cross:

Then Joseph stood and raised his plain

And heavy ladder high, and placed

It on the bloody beam, and braced

It just above the Savior's pale

Gray arm. He bound with rope the frail,

Limp body of the Lord on beam

And post. And then, against a scream

From Jesus' mother, stifled in

Her hand, he slowly cut through skin

And ligament beside the spikes

With heads made flat by many strikes

From Roman mallets. Then he clenched

The knife between his teeth and wrenched

Each hand of Jesus off its rough

And jagged nail through tendons tough,

But careful not to break a bone.

- By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website:

Read entire: Joseph of Arimathea - Part 1 | Joseph of Arimathea - Part 2

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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