Some people are secret Christians. For whatever reason, the are afraid to identify with Jesus.
Joseph of Arimathea was a secret disciple. Maybe it was because of his position as a member of the Jewish Leaders (Sanhedrin). Maybe it was because he was successful and rich and to follow Jesus would cost Him too much.
Joseph is one of the few people mentioned in all four gospels. But he is not mentioned until after Jesus’ death. Along with Nicodemus (another secret disciple and Jewish leader), he prepared and buried the body of Jesus. It was Joseph’s new tomb in which Jesus was buried.
You can read the story in Mark 15:42-47.
Have you ever wondered what motivates a secret disciple? Why do they keep their faith hidden? What motivates them to ‘come out of secrecy’? I discovered three life principles from the story of Joseph.
The cross has power to overcome fear and failure.
Joseph acted contrary to the other disciples, especially Peter. Peter spoke out boldly before Jesus was arrested, but soon denied Him. Joseph was a secret disciple, but he became bold.
What made the difference in Joseph’s life? The cross! The cross did for Joseph what even the life of jesus could not do. Jesus had said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” (John 12:32).
Many things make people fearful about confessing Jesus openly: pressures from family and friends, co-workers and classmates or weak faith. Take courage from Joseph’s example to stand and speak boldly. If you feel fearful, look to the cross. It will give you strength and courage.
Doing right sometimes means risking it all.
When Joseph demanded the dead body of Jesus, it was an immensely dangerous and risky move.
First, Pilate was still smarting from being manipulated by the Sanhedrin into killing Jesus. He could have easily implicated Joseph under the charge of treason.
Second, by making this request, Joseph was running the risk of being expelled from the Sanhedrin and coming under the scorn of the common people for identifying himself with this false, failed Messiah.
Third, Joseph would himself be touching the corpse during hte hours of preparation for the Sabbath. This would make him ceremonially defiled.
Fourth, all this risk and there was absolutely nothing in it for Joseph. Jesus was dead. The dream was over. Why should he risk it for a dead man?
Obedience to Christ and ‘over the top’ love for Jesus means to risk our reputation, our pride, and our even our life. But following Jesus is always worth whatever risk we take.
Love Jesus even when you’re disappointed and defeated.
If it were me, I don’t know if I would be in any mood to care for the body of the guy who turned out to be such a sham. I think I would have had a lot of doubts, coupled with a mixture of devastation and anger.
After all, this was not he way any of the disciples (secret or not) imagined it all happening. Maybe they felt Jesus had let them down. Maybe they felt He had lied to them. Maybe now they second-guessed everything He had ever said. That’s what we do when we are hurt by someone we love don’t we?
But somehow in the midst of all this disappointment, Joseph found a way to love Jesus anyway. He loved Him enough to care for His body and gently lay Him to rest. Even having no idea He was actually going to be resurrected, He loved Jesus anyway.
We know the end of the Easter story. We know Jesus didn’t stay in the tomb. He didn’t stay dead. But Joseph loved Jesus before Good Friday was good.
Sometimes I feel hurt or disappointed with God. Events, even life, don’t turn out like I thought it should. I suppose most of the time I’m disappointed because i don’t know what I don’t know now. In other words, I think I’ve been hurt, cheated or gotten the short end of whatever stick, because I don’t know the whole story. I don’t realize how wrong I am.
It reminds me of the only survivor of a shipwreck when he was thrown on an inhabited island. He built himself a hut, in which he placed the little he had saved from the wreck. He prayed to God for deliverance and watched the sea for any passing ships. He was horrified when he came back from a search for food to find his hut in flames. It was a horrible day. But he had to have this horrible day before he could have his victory day. The next day a ship arrived to save him. “We saw your smoke signal”, said the captain.
I want to love Jesus like Joseph did. Even when I can’t see beyond my own hurts and disappointments, I want to find a way to love Him anyway.
There is one thing I have learned about being a secret disciple. You can’t remain a secret disciple. The reality of knowing Jesus finds its way to give us courage and opportunity to share our faith. Like Joseph, it may take a momentous event. But a true disciple will eventually reveal the reality of his faith in Christ.