Weekly Devotion – John 19:38
Published 4:57 pm Thursday, October 13, 2022
By Mike Caton
John 19:38, “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.”
Joseph of Arimathea is mentioned in all four of the gospels, but only in this context. Mark and Luke tell us he was a member of the council, probably referring to the Sanhedrin itself. But they also point out he didn’t approve of Jesus’ death. We see that Joseph was a follower of Jesus. Can you imagine the audacity it took for this man; a member of the council that had sentenced Jesus to death, a rich man, an important man, to go to Pilate and ask for the body of this condemned criminal? Pilate granted his request, and Joseph came and took Jesus’ body down.
John tells us Joseph was a secret disciple of Jesus, because he feared the Jews. That has always been an interesting thing to me. I’ve often wondered what it means to be a secret disciple of Jesus. One of the steps in the plan of salvation is to confess Jesus as Lord and your faith in him. There are many passages we can consider here, but let’s just quote one. Matthew 10:32-33 tells us, “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.” How does that square with being a secret disciple? We too often consider the confession simply to be before the church, right before we are baptized. But we must confess Christ in our daily lives as well, wherever we go and whatever we do. Luke tells us that Joseph had not consented to the council’s treatment of Jesus, that could have been part of his stand for Jesus. Asking for the body of Jesus would certainly reveal Joseph’s concern and connection with Jesus. So clearly Joseph was not ashamed of Jesus or avoiding any connection or association with him.
Maybe Joseph was one of those guys who simply blended in with the background. You know the type, you might even be the type: quiet, unassuming, committed to getting their job done, not drawing any attention to themselves. But some of those folks are the most dependable people in the organization, they are the ones you count on when things simply have to be done and have to be done right. These are not the loud guys, not the ones who draw attention. But these are the ones you can count on when the chips are down. Maybe the secret part was not that Joseph didn’t tell anyone or want anyone to know he was a follower of Jesus, but that he simply didn’t brag and make a show of it. Remember, many if not most of the members of the Sanhedrin were Pharisees, and they were the ones who called attention to themselves and their righteousness. They loved to flaunt their good and pious acts. Compared to those guys, maybe Joseph’s faith did seem like a secret.
But there really is no secret to where Joseph’s faith was. He took his stand against the condemnation and crucifixion of Jesus, even though he lost. And he boldly went to Pilate to ask for Jesus body. Usually crucified criminals’ bodies simply hung on the cross until it rotted away and fell off. The Jews didn’t want that because of the special Sabbath, as was mentioned earlier. But Joseph takes the body to bury it. And we will see it is not just tossed into a grave somewhere, he gives Jesus a proper burial. This does not sound like someone who hides their faith. Clearly, there is no self promotion here, but there is also no denying it.
Father, help my faith in you shine. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Mike Caton is the preacher at Mount Olive Church of Christ in Belhaven. He volunteers at the Ponzer Fire Department and works full time with Hyde County EMS. If you would like to receive daily devotions in your inbox, email firstname.lastname@example.org.