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. 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. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. 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. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. John 19:38-42 NIV I was reading through John 19 a few weeks ago. When I got to this verse near the end of the chapter something really hit me. I don't think I've ever really paid attention to this verse or ever heard anyone talk about it. Joseph of Arimathea was a disciple of Jesus but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. So wait a minute. I thought if you were a disciple of Jesus the first rule was you couldn't be secretive about it. All those years of feeling guilty about not being more active sharing the gospel and thinking maybe I'm not a true disciple and am I ashamed of the gospel and will Jesus will be ashamed of me. A secret disciple? I looked up Joseph of Arimathea to find out more about him. Turns out he was wealthy and a Pharisees and he was also the great uncle of Jesus. His first mistake, trying to live by the law, for many years, my mistake as well.
So what exactly is it like to be a disciple of Jesus? Do you have to be out speaking the gospel in order to prove you are a disciple and if you are not does that mean you are ashamed of the gospel? I recently heard someone talk on being a true disciple of Jesus. There are actually three levels of being a disciple. First you believe and become a follower of Jesus. During this time you just get to know Jesus and practice being with Him constantly. Whether you are at work or at play, just being aware that Jesus is constantly with you. Second, a disciple learns Jesus' ways, much like an apprentice. He becomes a helper but for the most part he is learning who Jesus is and how He lives and practices becoming like Him. Then the third level is when Jesus finally sends His disciples out to do what He has taught them and who He has made them to be. Some people spend their entire life just practicing being aware that Jesus is constantly with them. Some get to level two and that's as far as they get. Then there are those who make it to all three levels and are out doing the work Jesus calls them to do. No matter what level you are in, you are a disciple of Jesus if you believe in Him and are following Him. Our natural desire should be to attain all three levels but as in any apprenticeship program, you don't go out and do the work on your own until you have gone through the program. I think our mistake often is we feel we need to be doing things for Jesus and sometimes we try to do it on our own, in our own way before we are led to do it, in His way and how He shows us and in His time. I did notice another thing about this verse. There came that point in time when no matter how private Joseph was as a disciple, it was time to step up and risk everything. First he, as a Pharisee, voted against putting Jesus to death then he goes and asks for the body that the group he was part of just put to death. It's very probable that every disciple of Jesus will at one point be put to the test to risk everything, no matter how secretive they may be. I think Joseph probably never even really thought about what needed to be done, he just did it. maybe that is what happens with us in being disciples of Jesus. As we practice being His apprentices we get to where we will automatically do what needs to be done because of constantly being with Jesus, then learning how He did things, and finally becoming ready to go and do the work He sends us to do. My hope and belief is that I will do whatever I'm asked to do and will never be ashamed to risk everything for Him. In the mean time I will just keep practicing being aware that Jesus is always with me in whatever I am doing and trust I will always be willing to do whatever needs to be done as He trains me to be His journeyman, remembering it is often not so much what we say but how we live that is most effective.
by Ken Edgerly