Love That Results in Courage
Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. 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. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
Once a secret disciple for fear of the Jews, Joseph now boldly petitions Pilate for Jesus’ body. Some followers of Christ may in lesser trials be quite fearful yet in greater difficulties display much courage. This we find in Joseph who honored Christ’s body when Christ could seemingly do nothing for him. Circumstances oftentimes bring out character in unexpected ways. The other gospel writers tell us that Joseph was a wealthy, good, and upright man who was waiting for the Kingdom of God. He was a prominent member of the Council but had not consented to their decision and actions regarding Jesus. Interestingly, Joseph of Arimathea is not mentioned in other places in the New Testament, Only in the burial of our Lord do we read about him. Certainly there are many Christians in this world about whom very little is known.
Out of love, Joseph took off his cloak of secrecy and came forth publically in humble service for our Lord. He did not hesitate to confess his association with Jesus though at the time Romans and Jews alike viewed Jesus as a criminal. Joseph’s actions may have rendered him a marked man among the Jews, he most certainly ruining his character with the high priests and ruling council. And yet, his actions stand in Scripture as a memorial to him. Surely it is the hope of the Church that in every age there are hidden servants unknown to the world yet known well unto God. Joseph is memorialized in all four gospels as showing kindness to the Lord Jesus for no other reason than love.
Not too dissimilar to Joseph in his secrecy while Jesus was alive, we see Nicodemus now coming forth as a volunteer to aid in the burial of Jesus. They both demonstrated more reverence and love towards our Lord when He was dead than they had when He was alive. Nicodemus did not shrink to take part in this good work. Had these men not come forth, our Jesus’ body may have been buried in a common grave for criminals. But that was not God’s intent. He had allowed as much to be done to His Son’s precious body as was going to be done. He therefore empowered and emboldened these once timid followers–at this perfect time–to demonstrate their compassion and mercy for Jesus. God always supplies the grace sufficient to meet a specific need at an appointed time!
Out of immense love, we see in our verses for today, Joseph and Nicodemus together taking Jesus’ body down from the cross and carefully wrapping it in strips of clean linen on which myrrh and aloes has been laid. John is the only one of the gospel writers to include the amount of Nicodemus’ sizeable offering of spices for the holy work of burying Jesus. His actions are quite in contrast to his first timid visit with Jesus’–coming to question Him under the cloak of darkness–fearful of his associates. Nicodemus’ actions show his rapid growth in grace, faith, knowledge, and courage in a mere three year span.
Take It to Heart
What we see here is Joseph and Nicodemus selflessly loving Jesus with seemingly no apparent gain for themselves and certainly some loss in reputation and standing among their peers for their actions. It is important to remember that this kind of service can never be done in our own strength or we will quickly lose our courage. We will weary from the task; we will become bored or burdened or disgruntled or afraid. True love is a love born of God, not of man. It is a love which esteems, cherishes, favors, honors, respects, accepts, prizes, and relishes. It comes from God through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within the believer. If our actions are not motivated with this kind of empowered love, we will soon become discouraged.
God’s love and power are gifts from the Holy Spirit. Ask Him to fill you with His strength and grace.