John 19:38 – Secretly for Fear

Immediately following the crucifixion of Jesus, two men showed their allegiance to and faith in Him. They received permission from Pilate to remove His body from the cross and to place it in a tomb.  The one man, Joseph of Arimathea, had not previously been mentioned in Scripture.  We know from Luke 23:50-51 and Mark 15:43 that Joseph was a good and righteous man, and that he was looking for the kingdom of God.   We also know that he had not consented to the decision of the Sanhedrin, of which he was a respected member, and that he took courage in order to gain Pilate’s permission.  We see in John 19:38 the reason behind this:

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.

As a Jew and part of the ruling council, he feared his peers.  Because of that, he executed his actions in secret.

Joseph’s co-conspirator in this operation was Nicodemus. He is the man famous for his late-night interaction with Jesus in John 3. Nicodemus had come to Him in the dark of night, so as not to be seen. He wasn’t just any ordinary member of the Sanhedrin. When Jesus spoke to him, He asked a pointed question that gives us more information about Nicodemus’ identity. John 3:10 recounts:

Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?

Nicodemus was THE teacher of Israel; he was well-known and respected for his Scriptural knowledge.  Yet, Jesus effectively rebuked him by asking why he didn’t know about these various things of God that they discussed.  We don’t see in the text what he thought about after departing from Jesus, or how the process of salvation worked within him, however, the fact that he participated with Joseph tells us definitively that he became a believer.

The thing to understand here is that though they had come to believe that Jesus was the Son of God, their faith was weak.  Yes, they had enough belief to take Jesus and bury Him, but fear ruled in their lives.  They didn’t want any others in the ruling class of Pharisees or Saduccees to know their actions.  They buried Jesus in the dark of night because they feared for their positions in the council if it became known what they did.  Despite this, we honor them for taking courage.  Their having done this enabled Jesus to rise from that very tomb in three days, and it’s upon the resurrection that we base our faith.

The question for us is whether in these last days we should sneak around in the proverbial  dark as disciples of Jesus, or if we should let boldness rule in our lives.  The time of shaking is at hand with the end of all things in sight.  Darkness is rapidly closing in as we approach the time of the Rapture, the removal of the Restrainer, and the unleashing of lawlessness.  Deception is rampant.  People are living in fear.

Should we as true believers in Jesus Christ remain hidden in the hope that no one knows our faith, or should we now stand up, be counted as one of the elect and the remnant of the church, and proclaim boldly the Name above all names and His Gospel?

We can be meek and remain in the shadows or, like our brothers and sisters in hostile and restricted nations around the globe, we can choose to publicly live for Jesus and, if necessary, die for Him.  That’s a hard concept for us to comprehend in the West because of how easy our Christianity has been up till now.  But, that is changing and very rapidly.  I believe it will cause those of us who profess Christ as Savior to also make the difficult decision either to declare Him also as Lord, or to renounce Him.  There will be no fence-straddling, no being of two minds as to whom we serve, Christ or Baal.

If we desire to be counted as one of Christ’s own, we cannot be ashamed of the Gospel.  Look at what Jesus said in Luke 9:26:

“For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”

Paul admonishes us in Ephesian 6:10:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.

He then went on to show us what that looks like as we engage this battle in the spiritual realm.  The bottom line is that we are to stand boldly.

Have we built our house of faith on sand or rock?  Will we be swept away when – not if – the winds and waves come against us?  Or will the faith we’ve constructed be on the firm foundation of Christ that enables us to withstand all that opposes us?

Will we work in the daylight despite the mockery, or worse, from those who hate the Lord?  Be ready.  It’s coming.  As Joshua 24:15 urges us:

“… choose this day whom you will serve…as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

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