“Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.” (John 19:38-40, NIV)
Let’s hear it today for “secret disciples.” Let’s hear it for the folks who do not wear the religious pendant on a chain; who do not put the fish on their business card; who do not have the license plate with a scripture citation.
When Jesus was being crucified, the most vocal disciple (Peter) was hiding in silence; and the 10 other disciples (Judas having committed suicide) were also keeping out of sight for fear that what had happened to Jesus would also happen to them.
Then there was Nicodemus and Joseph. Their discipleship succeeded where the commitment of the Eleven had failed: Joseph goes to Pilate — the very person who had sentenced Jesus to die — for permission to take the body of Jesus; and Nicodemus totes 75 pounds of myrrh and aloes. Together, they give Jesus a proper burial in a brand-new tomb.
These were not small acts. They did the risky thing (remember Pilate?). They performed the practical act. They did the literal dirty work (retrieving, washing, and preparing a bloody corpse for burial). They did the costly thing (have you ever priced myrrh and aloes?) They did the literal heavy lifting (75 pounds is a lot when you’re a 130-pound man).
Be very slow to pass judgment on disciples who don’t wear their faith on the sleeve. In fact, be like such “secret disciples” as Joseph and Nicodemus in your daring for what is good and true; your enthusiasm for the small task; the dirty job; the extravagant expression; and the heavy lifting.
Remember the empty tomb? It was only empty on Resurrection Sunday because “secret disciples” Joseph and Nicodemus acted as they did on Good Friday! – Luther