Saturday, April 07, 2007


TWO Secret Disciples Who Met Jesus and had a second chance .. (JOHN 19: 31-42)

Dr. Wilbur Smith has said, “We know more about the burial of Jesus than we do of any other person in ancient history.”
The Lord Jesus was crucified at about 9 am Good Friday morning. This evening is the early evening of the Jewish day which is 3 P.M. to 6 P.M., the closing out of the day, the Sabbath day will begin around 6 P.M. and run from evening to evening. And so it is three in the afternoon on Friday. It is the early evening. A very important note. By 3 P.M. Jesus was dead.
And then following that they would give what Edersheim calls "the death stroke." And they would ram a spear into the heart. The idea was to cause the victim to die immediately. And therefore take the body down off the cross and maintain the sacredness of the Sabbath. The spear wound, by the way, was so deep in Him that He could say to Thomas at a later time, "Thrust thy hand into My side and be not faithless but believing," when Thomas needed assurance that this indeed was the risen Christ. By the way, the blood and water show that He was truly human and they also show that He was truly dead...truly dead.
Now once this happened the body had to be taken off the cross. And when taken off the cross it would be thrown into a common criminal's grave. And it's very likely that that would be a pit somewhere where they threw the criminals or it might be Gehenna, the valley of Hinnom, where the city dump in Jerusalem was and they might have just throw the bodies there to be consumed by the always smoldering fire or to be ripped and shredded and eaten by wild animals. The Romans customarily did nothing more than throw the bodies of criminals into pits to be burned or eaten by scavengers. And that was what would have been assigned to Jesus. Isaiah 53 says in verse 9 He would be assigned with the wicked in His death...but He would wind up with the rich.
How would this happen? And who would care for His body? The disciples were all fled. Even John doesn't seem to be around at this particular time. And certainly the rest haven't shown their faces at all. And the women don't have any resource to bury Jesus Christ, they're from Galilee, they don't have any grave in the city of Jerusalem. Who is going to care for this? And how fast it must be cared for so that Jesus should be in the grave by six o'clock so that He can be there part of Friday because by His own prophecy He has to be in the ground three days. And so, God the Father in a miraculous and marvelous way moves on the heart of a man, and we pick the scene up in verse 57 right where God would have us pick it up, "When the evening," that is when it came to be between three and six, "was come, there came a...what kind of man?...a rich man."
The only thing we know about Arimathea is a statement made by Luke in chapter 23 verse 51 that Arimathea was a city of the Jews. Now that designation puts it in Judea rather than Galilee. Galilee was known as Galilee of the Gentiles because it had been populated by so many Gentiles from other surrounding areas. But Judea, the southern part, was distinctively Jewish, so when it says it was a city of the Jews it is to say it was in Judea.
Now we assume that it was in great proximity to the city of Jerusalem because the fact is that Joseph of Arimathea had his own grave in there, in the city, right outside the city--I should say--of Jerusalem where he would put Christ eventually. So we assume that he wouldn't have lived very far from there. Many Bible scholars feel that the Arimathea is just a form of the old word Ramah which is the city from which Samuel came approximately three or four miles north of Jerusalem, which is very likely.
Still. Cold. Death has claimed its greatest trophy. He is not asleep or resting or comatose; he is dead. No air in his lungs. No thoughts in his brain. No feeling in his limbs. His body is lifeless.
The executioners made sure of it. When Pilate learned that Jesus was dead, he asked the soldiers if they were certain. They were. Had they seen the Nazarene twitch, had they heard even one moan, they would have broken his legs to speed his end. But there was no need. The thrust of a spear removed all doubt. The Romans knew their job. And their job was finished. They pried loose the nails, lowered his body, and gave it to Joseph and Nicodemus. Joseph of Arimathea. Nicodemus the Pharisee.
" And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury. Now in the place where he was crucified, there was a garden ; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews' preparation day ; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand." The funeral was over ; the two men stood before the tomb. They had known a long, grim struggle ; and although they had suffered many setbacks, their courage had ultimately triumphed gloriously.

When You Meet Jesus You Might Find Cowardice In Your Heart.
John 3:1 seems to be their story: There was a man from the • Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Him at night and said, “• Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher, for no one could perform these signs You do unless God were with him.” 3 Jesus replied, “• I assure you: Unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Nicodemus and Joseph had one thing in common—they looked for the Messiah. It would appear that whereas the ruler of the synagogue was governed by intellect, Joseph of Arimathea was ruled by his heart. One man was pre-eminently a thinker—the teacher of Israel; the other was an honourable counsellor, of whom all men spoke well. We know that the teacher visited Christ under cover of darkness. Probably aware that Daniel had foretold the time of Messiah's coming, and that the stipulated time had already elapsed, Nicodemus wanted to know if Jesus of Nazareth were the Messiah. Thus he planned his night visit (John 3). We do not know how Joseph first made contact with Christ. Possibly he stood on the edge of a crowd and heard the greatest sermon of his life. He saw also the sick being healed, and his doubts were instantly dispelled. Confidence was born in the hearts of both men, yet neither of them had the courage to make open confession of his faith. Nicodemus carefully preserved the secret of his visit to Jesus ; and of Joseph, the Scriptures declare that he was " a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews" (John 19:38).
Nicodemus had come to Jesus once before, at night. He was like many today, fearful to really own Christ. Why they know of Him. They have even met Him! But own Jesus publicly? No let them visit at night for awhile. When no one need see nor know.
Why be known as a fanatic? Why lose the prestige they had gained. Why suffer mocking from friends? No Jesus could wait. He was happy with a part discipleship.
And Joseph was somewhat the same John 19:38 After this, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus—but secretly because of his fear of the Jews
Although it had been close. Nicodemus had almost nailed his colours to the mast!
On one occasion it is recorded that Nicodemus made an attempt to support Christ. When the conference chamber was in an uproar; when the Sanhedrin was incensed because the officers of the law had failed to bring in their prisoner; when tempers were frayed, and anger threatened violence, " Nicodemus saith unto them. . . . Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth? They answered and saith unto him. Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet" (John 7:50-52). Nicodemus remained silent. His intellectual capabilities might have provided a glorious defence for Jesus, but rather than risk the animosity of his fellow rulers, he withdrew into obscurity. At a later meeting, when the council decided to crucify the Lord, " Joseph did not consent to their deed." He hated the decision of his fellow counsellors, but decided that discretion was the better part of valour. There were others who similarly remained silent (John 12: 42 Nevertheless, many did believe in Him even among the rulers, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, so they would not be banned from the • synagogue.
43 For they loved praise from men more than praise from God.
Perhaps they had been at the trial before Annas and Caiaphas because their Sanhedrin membership would give them access. Maybe even there at the trial before Pilate. But they had not spoken up. Perhaps the words caught in their throats. They realized that they ought to speak up. They knew He is the Son of God. But when it came to standing up before Annas and Caiaphas, these men found weakness in their souls.
Some have wondered why both Joseph and Nicodemus came together now. It has ever been true that the scholarly type have often found favour with the rich men of their community. Nicodemus was obviously a sincere seeker after the truth. A man who knew well the Word of God. And Joseph seems to have been his supporter, his financier. In a different century Erasmus needed the support of Henry the viith.
It was Luther who found a supporter in the Frederick, the Prince Protector of Germany! Perhaps Joseph felt that he and Nicodemus could do something about reforming the Jewish religion, bringing it back to the Messiah, Jesus, while they played a calm quiet silent hand.
Sometimes the scholarly type is not a strong confident speaker, and like Erasmus needs a Luther as a mouthpiece! But there was no Luther in Nicodemus’ time. And it all fell back on him.
And when it did, he failed.
Yes Nicodemus and Joseph had both been there when, in response to the wonderful miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead, .. John’s gospel reads:
John 11:46 But some of them went to the • Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 So the • chief priests and the Pharisees convened the • Sanhedrin and said, “What are we going to do since this man does many signs? 48 If we let Him continue in this way, everybody will believe in Him! Then the Romans will come and remove both our place and our nation.” 49 One of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all! 50 You’re not considering that it is to your advantage that one man should die for the people rather than the whole nation perish.” 51 He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to unite the scattered children of God. 53 So from that day on they plotted to kill Him.
Yes they had both been there. Yes they had had the opportunity to speak. In fact they were expected to speak. But fear held them in its grip. And they could not bring themselves to utter the nay to the motion that Jesus be crucified!
Fear had swallowed them up. The opportunity was there! I guess after the Sanhedrin meeting, Jospeh and Nicodemus both imagined what they should have said:
“There are many witnesses to this miracle!
The Sanhedrin could meet and speak to Lazarus himself!
Jesus is the Messiah! He is The Christ!”
Yes they could have made that statement, but… when push came to shove…
On the Night of Jesus trial we read John 18:12 Then the company of soldiers, the commander, and the Jewish temple police arrested Jesus and tied Him up. 13 First they led Him to Annas, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. 14 Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was advantageous that one man should die for the people.[
Undoubtedly both Joseph and Nicodemus were there too!
Yes one word could have changed the vote that night, but fear gripped their hearts. Terror held them in its sway! And again, they were silent. Nothing would they say.
As members of the Sanhedrin and they were found out to be following Jesus, it would be the end of their Sanhedrin rights. It would be the end of their wealth because they wouldn't be able to do business with anybody. It would be the end of their social status, their families would be alienated and ostracized. It would be the end of everything. The price would be very, very high to identify themselves with the Lord Jesus. And the price is high today!
Perhaps you have not openly identified yourself as a Christian at work? Your workmates would call you a hypocrite. They’d mock you. Life could indeed become difficult for you. Perhaps you have not openly identified yourself as a Christian at school! Its just too hard in school. What would my friends say? I remember thinking that in year 11 at High school. It wasn’t until 2 good friends died in tragic circumstances just 6 months after my own conversion and went to hell that I realized I had an obligation to speak up! I remember Kyle a friend in deep shock and distress at our friend’s death confronting me and holding my collar and asking me, shaking me, demanding of me “what does a person have to do to get to heaven!” and I had to quietly just walk away. I didn’t know then what to tell him.
I made sure in the coming weeks that I did know what to tell him!
I guess there comes a time when a man has to do what a man has to do. But for these men, no. The task was far too hard. Let’s not be too hard on them. Haven’t you stood where they stood? Haven’t you had opportunity to speak up for the Lord Jesus? And you have said to yourself, “No. no the time is not opportune. I’ll wait a little longer.”
Sometimes we take so long “building bridges” to someone else, and never never cross those bridges to speak up for the Lord Jesus. We have gotten to enjoy the person’s company too much, and we cannot risk losing their friendship to speak up for the Lord.

When You Meet Jesus You Might Find Confidence In your Heart.
It was all over; they had lost their chance to kneel before a living Christ. Joseph, haunted by memories, and ashamed of his earlier cowardice, decided to do the only decent thing left to do. He made himself responsible for the funeral of his Lord. In another part of the city, Nicodemus, driven by remorse, and utterly ashamed of his unworthiness, determined upon a similar course of action. It seemed a thousand pities that he was unable to confess his faith before Christ, but at least he could be true to his memory.
But God moves on his heart. Supernaturally wonderfully, And Mark says he summoned up courage...he summoned up courage.
Do you need to summon up courage? To own Jesus Christ before men? To speak up for the Lord?
To be baptized as a confession of your own faith in the Lord Jesus?
So here comes Joseph and he went to Pilate in verse 58. That was something, folks. I mean, you can't imagine the price he paid when he did that. In the first place, he didn't know what Pilate would do to him. Pilate had had enough of Sanhedrinists. Pilate had enough of those intimidating blackmailers who were going to tell Caesar on him if he didn't do what they wanted. The Sanhedrin had forced him to kill an innocent man. The Sanhedrin has forced him to violate his conscience. The Sanhedrin had even given nightmares to his wife. The Sanhedrin had put him in a humiliating position for a haughty Roman. And he didn't like them, you can be sure of that. And why would he be generous to a member of the Sanhedrin and give him the body?
He polluted himself in a traditional ceremonial sense by even going to Pilate, he sort of polluted himself for the Sabbath. And then he further, as I said, polluted himself by carrying the dead body of Jesus which we assume he must have carried himself. No doubt the soldiers took Him down and then Joseph took Him away.
And it says that Nicodemus brought myrrh and aloes, aromatic spices. They didn't embalm, they just anointed the body with a heavy load of spices to keep the wretched smell of death from polluting the area around. Myrrh was a liquid and aloe's a powder and they mixed it. And Joseph got the fine linen, it says in verse 59. So they must have worked out a deal where you buy that and I'll buy this. The only time anybody ever got anointed with 72 pounds of that stuff was when they were royalty. And these two dear men are saying, in effect, the world may not offer you that kind of respect that a king should have, but we will even in your death. And they bury Him with a burial of a king. And the women helped, too. And they wrapped each limb, arms and legs, and then the torso and a special napkin for the head. And as they wound those robes...those linens around Him, they filled the linen with all the spices and put Him in the grave.
And verse 59 says, "When Joseph had taken the body..." My belief that he carried it himself. You say, "Well, was it a long way?" Well not according to the latest archaeological discoveries. Those of you who have been to Israel know that what they believe to be the burial place of Jesus Christ now called Gordon's Calvary, that area, and the Garden Tomb is completely adjacent.

IT’S TIME TO BRING YOUR CHRISTIANITY OUT OF THE CLOSET. Are you a secret believer? Ask God for the courage to step it up in front of your friends, your coworkers, your neighbors, and your family members. Take a deep breath, say a quick prayer, and courageously communicate that you are a Christ-follower. One way to do that this week is to bring up the Passion movie and talk about what Jesus means to you. You could also invite someone to come to church with you.
ITS TIME TO USE YOUR RESOURCES FOR GOD’S PURPOSES. Joseph and Nicodemus gave what they had in service to Jesus. How might God want to use you, and your resources, for His purposes?
ITS TIME TO ALLOW JESUS TO REWRITE YOUR STORY. Perhaps you’re ready to surrender your life to the Saviour right now. I’m going to help you do that in just a minute. I read something that was stunning to me. A man went to the see the Passion and when it was over, he was so overcome with his guilt and the gift of forgiveness, that he turned himself into the authorities and confessed to them that he had murdered someone. After viewing what Jesus did for him, he was compelled to do whatever it took to make things right
ITS TIME TO TELL HIS STORY TO OTHERS. This is a great time of the year to tell others about what Jesus did for them, and why He did it.
ITS TIME TO TELL YOUR STORY. People want to know what Jesus went through and they also want to know your story. Look for ways to share how He has impacted your life. Simply share your story as God gives you opportunity.

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