North Texas Conference Cabinet Holy Week Devotional For Saturday
“Secret Disciples” by Rev. Andy Lewis
Scripture: John 19:38-42
Focus: “After this Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate if he could take away the body of Jesus.” (38a)
This is a brief passage about a changed life – the life of Joseph of Arimathea.
Who was Joseph of Arimathea? Matthew’s Gospel simply describes him as a rich man and a disciple (27:57). Mark adds that he was “a prominent [Jewish] council member who also eagerly anticipated the coming of God’s kingdom” (15:43). Luke elaborates a bit further, saying he was “a good and righteous man … who hadn’t agreed with the plan and actions of the council” (23:50-51). It is John alone who paints a less-than-glowing picture. “[Joseph] was a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one because he feared the Jewish authorities” (19:38).
Joseph kept his admiration of and allegiance to Jesus to himself out of fear of what his friends and colleagues on the council might say. Maybe he feared it would tarnish his reputation among them. Maybe he wanted to avoid the inevitable conflict his affiliation with Jesus would spark. After all, he had worked hard to earn his place on the council and valued his relationships with the other members. Maybe he felt underprepared to answer the questions they would ask. Whatever the reasons, he was a quiet disciple. A secret disciple. A disciple who flew under the radar.
I suspect that, at times, many of us can relate to Joseph. We have a sincere devotion to Jesus. His teachings shape what we value and how we treat others. We do our best to follow him in many ways. But, in certain settings, we find that it’s just easier to keep our Christian faith under the radar and be a secret disciple.
But then in John 19, Joseph does something previously out of character. He steps forward and asks Pilate for the privilege of caring for the body of Jesus. By doing so, he makes his devotion to Jesus public. His secret is out. He risks his reputation, his status and his relationships with his peers.
Here’s the question: What changed Joseph? What moved Joseph to step out of hiding and wear his faith on his sleeve?
I think it was the Passion of Jesus. He saw him suffer and die for no fault of his own. He saw and somehow understood the depth of Jesus’ love for the world – a wondrous love that ultimately led to his death. Seeing and grasping this incomparable love changed Joseph and moved him to lay it all on the line for Jesus and his kingdom. No more secrets. No more fear. No more holding back.
My favorite Passion hymn often sung in this season is “Wondrous Love.” It’s an American folk hymn with a lovely, haunting melody. I can imagine Joseph thinking the words of the first verse:
“What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul,
what wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul!”
On this Holy Saturday, as we reflect on the Passion of Jesus, may we like Joseph see and truly grasp the wondrous love of Jesus and may it move us to overcome our fears and hesitations and to be bold witnesses to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Question for Reflection
- In what situations do I tend to keep my devotion to Jesus a secret?
Holy and loving God, open my eyes to see the depth of your wondrous love for me and for the whole world. Change me. Fill me with your Holy Spirit and empower me to declare your praises – on Easter morning when it’s easy and in the days to follow when it’s harder. Amen.
Rev. Andy Lewis is the director of the Center for Missional Outreach
Published: Saturday, April 11, 2020