I WAS HIS SECRET DISCIPLE (John 19:34).
I am Joseph of Arimathea. I am the man that did not have enough courage to stand up for my Teacher. Yes, Jesus was my Teacher and I regarded myself as one of His students. Only, and because of my social position, I considered it unwise and impractical to declare in public my loyalty to Jesus of Nazareth. In my heart, I became convinced that He was God’s Chosen Anointed. His deeds and miracles persuaded me to believe in Him. I am very sorry that I did not take His side when He was alive. I did nothing to let Him be crucified. I did nothing, when my fellow members of our highest council concocted ways how to trick Jesus into saying things that would hurt Him. I did nothing to stop His betrayal. Yes, I am a disciple that did nothing when it counted. I crawled out of my comforting hole when there were no more risks. I was afraid to put my reputation and wealth on the line. I was a rich ruler from the Jewish town of Arimathea. I could have defended Jesus. Instead, I remained silent, and a silent voice is as guilty as a vocal one.
Yes, I am the Joseph that could no longer stand the degradation of my Teacher. I could not allow Him being degraded by remaining on that shameful cross. He did not deserve that kind of treatment. I had watched long enough from the sideline. At last, I decided to do something decent and proper for my Teacher. I went to Pilate the governor and asked for the body of my Teacher. Pilate was a bit surprised that I, of all people, showed up. It was, after all, the council that demanded that Jesus was to be crucified. From his willingness, I sensed a sigh of relief that his soldiers did not have to dispose of Jesus’ body in a criminal and disgracing way. He almost seemed pleased that a ranking member of the highest council in the land would arrange for the burial of Jesus. From my colleagues, I had learned that the governor was not at all willing to comply with their insistence that Jesus be crucified. My fellow leaders tricked him into doing what was wrong, even by Roman law. My request to give Jesus a proper burial and resting-place met with the governor’s approval. At last, something honorable was going to be done for this “Just Man.”
With permission from the governor and the help of my friend Nicodemus, we took down the body of Christ. Nicodemus, like I, was a secret disciple. He was braver than I. He dared to ask the council, “Whether it was right to condemn a person without hearing his side?” They silenced him by demanding that he show them that there was a prophecy of a prophet that came from Galilee. Both of us determined to give our Teacher a burial that was in accordance with our Jewish customs. Nicodemus brought seventy-five pounds of a mixture of spices which the rich people used and I brought expensive wrappings. We embalmed the body and wrapped it neatly and took it to my own grave in my private garden that was nearby. No one had ever been placed in it before. When death occurred before the Sabbath began, our customs demanded that the dead had to be put in a prepared grave temporarily. I had no such intentions for Jesus. I was going to let Him have my sepulcher. We laid Him to rest facing Jerusalem. I, too, believed in the resurrection of the dead and in a New Jerusalem. And we sealed the grave with an already prepared headstone. While we were laying our Teacher to rest, some women were watching us. We found it strange; however, that none of His close followers came to assist us. We understood that they feared the same fate that their Teacher suffered. Hence, we had no service. We just did not have time to arrange one.
While Nicodemus and I were closing the tomb, soldiers appeared. They told us to step aside and began to roll a huge stone on top of the headstone. Then they placed the governor’s seal on top of it. It signified that anyone that tampered with the rock would be punished, even with death. Then they left two soldiers to guard the tomb. We became curious and demanded what this was all about. Hesitantly, the soldiers told us that they were doing all this to put the minds of the leaders to rest. They had this superstition that Jesus might come back from the dead, as He had apparently promised. That would embarrass them more than the fact that they had crucified their own King. Nicodemus and I knew that they were in for the shock of their lives. We did believe in the resurrection and in the teachings of Jesus. We knew that the grave was not the end, but a door to eternity. We were still to learn that Jesus was that door. Early on the first day of the week, the door opened by angels, the ground shook, the guards were stunned, and our leaders paid them to lie about the disappearance of Jesus’ body. Jesus disappeared, but not by the hands of men, but by the power of the Living God. And He took with Him, on His way to heaven, many others that were ready to join Him. On the day Jesus arose many graves opened up and those that had died appeared visible to their loved ones. Jesus, Himself, appeared to His own for forty days. He did this to prove to all of us that He was the Resurrection and the Life and that no one could come to the Father, but by Him, and Him alone. My only regret is that I hid my discipleship from my Lord. I did not set a good example and I pray sincerely that you do not copy me. I wish I had confessed my Lord before my peers so that He could confess me before His. I just do not know what the Lord will say to me when we meet. I do hope He will remember that I gave Him my grave.