Secret Disciples

Sermon Titled “A Secret Disciple” by Guest Speaker Ron Beams (John 19:38-42) – Sunday 18th April, 2015

  • John 19:38-42 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. 39 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.[e] 40 Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. 41 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. 42 Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

In the above passage of scripture, we’re introduced to Joseph of Arimathea. From the few times that he is mentioned in the Bible, we know at least three things about him: 1) he was a wealthy man (Matt.27:57), 2) he was an honorable counselor, as in, he was a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin (Mark 15:43), and 3) he was a “secret” disciple of Christ (John 19:38).

John 19:38 says that Joseph kept his faith a secret because he was afraid of the Jewish leaders. It’s not certain why exactly he feared them, but we can assume that a public association or allegiance to Christ would have resulted in some type of disassociation with the Jewish leaders, and possibly even persecution. So rather than risk falling out of favor with those whom he had previously held in high regard (and possibly still did), Joseph secretly followed and worshipped Christ.

On the day of Christ’s crucifixion, Joseph happened to be there. He witnessed the excruciating pain that Christ was forced to endure, and it broke his heart. As he stood there, mourning the inevitable loss of his beloved Savior, the reality of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice became visibly clear. It was impossible at that point to remain a secret disciple, because if God was willing to give up His only son, and if Christ was willing to bear the burden for all of mankind’s sins, then there was no way that Joseph could remain silent.

Joseph did what he needed to do; he found the courage to approach Pilate and ask for permission to take Christ’s body. With the help of another disciple, by the name of Nicodemus, the two men prepared Christ’s body according to Jewish burial customs and they placed him in a new tomb in a nearby garden.

There are a couple of lessons to learn from this:

1. There are “secret” Christians everywhere – lovers and followers of Christ who keep their faith private because they’re afraid of what others might think. Yet God does not give us a spirit of fear (2 Tim. 1:7). Granted, fear is a normal and natural human feeling, but God gives us a “supernatural” spirit that enables us to be bold and courageous, and He expects us to use it.

A story that Ron shared to illustrate this point, is one involving a serious road accident where a person was trapped inside a highly flammable car. A man appeared on the scene and he was somehow able to do what nobody else could; he used his brute strength to tear the driver’s door right off the car. Later, when a journalist asked him how he found the strength to do what he did, his response was, “To be honest, I don’t really know.” Ron’s point is that a man never knows what he can do until he sees another man hurt. If we can find compassion in our hearts to help those who are hurting and in need, we’ll overcome our fears and do great things by the power of God’s Spirit.

2. If we do not step up to the plate and let our light be seen (Matt.5:16), we are throwing away opportunities to help others. When Joseph realized that he needed to stop being a secret disciple, and that he needed to courageously step forward and serve where he was needed, little did he know that another secret disciple (Nicodemus) would observe his actions and bravely follow suit. It’s when we’re bold enough to show a public display of faith and service, that others see what we’re doing and feel led to do the same. Furthermore, if our faith is kept hidden, and our light is not shining, how can we possibly lead the lost to Christ?

It took for Joseph to see with his own eyes, the full magnitude of Christ’s love and sacrifice, to realize that being a secret disciple was no way to honor and follow Him. Being a secret disciple is no way for any of us to honor Christ. If worshipping in secret is something that you’ve been doing, remind yourself that the Spirit of God lives in you and gives you the courage to be a “light” in this dark world.

not ashamed

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