Secret Disciples

    All of the gospel writer record a man by the name of Joseph of Arimathea going to Pilate and asking to take the body of Jesus to bury him.  He’s described by the first three writers as a disciple of Jesus, a respected member of the Council, one who was looking for the kingdom of God, and a good and righteous man.  Writing his gospel form a different perspective and much a different reason John record another detail about this man that the others leave out.   “After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission.  So he came and took away his body.”

    The surprising detail is that he was a disciple but a secret one.  That’s how the NASB words that same passage: “…Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one, for fear of the Jews,…” (Jn. 19:38).  He’s also joined, interestingly enough, by another secret disciple.  John 19:39 tells us that Joseph is joined by Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, (John 3).  Isn’t it interesting that just after Jesus yields up His spirit and tastes death for everyone that out of everyone who could have come to take His body to bury, it was two disciples who up until this point had kept their belief and faith a total secret?

    Where were the disciples who had been with Him for so much of His ministry?  Where were the eleven disciples who had left everything to follow Him?  Where were the eleven disciples that at times had vowed they would go with Him even to their own deaths and would never forsake or deny him?  Well, those disciples were found hiding in a room “the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews…” (John 20:19)  These disciples were with him almost everywhere Jesus went and even spent time out on their own evangelizing and now they’re hiding.  Not only are they all hiding but they all doubted.  Not just Thomas, but every single one of them. When told of His resurrection by the women Luke records in 24:11 “but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.”

What I learn from this is that in my discipleship:

Moments Of Weakness Can Follow Moments Of Courage.  We learn that in the case of the eleven disciples who had so many times shown great faith but now have shrunk back. “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.” (Heb. 3:12

Moments Of Courage Can Follow Moments Of Weakness.  We learn that in the case of Joseph and Nicodemuc who for so long had hidden their faith and belief and yet not openly ask for the body of Jesus. “Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the Council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, TOOK COURAGE and went to Pilate…” (Mark 15:43)

I’m Not the Only One.  We learn this in the case that both sets of disciples had moments of great faith and weakness.  Though we try not to we often find ourselves comparing ourselves to others and we often feel inadequate.  Hebrews 13:7 says  to “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God.  consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.”  What we learn is those with great faith have achieved that faith by coming through those times of weakness, not because they’ve never had them