Some years ago, I was significantly affected by the writings of John White. He was a Christian and a psychiatrist, and he wrote some penetrating, insightful books about Christianity. His book, ‘The Fight’, remains a classic. I still remember many thoughts and ideas from another book of his, ‘The Race’. In one chapter he spoke about how evangelism is fundamentally about honesty. You are not in hiding. You are a Christian and you are not ashamed of the fact. You don’t wear a disguise. You are who you are. You let your light ”shine” rather than hiding it ”under a bushel”.
This lovely ending to John 19 shows the power of the Cross to put courage, nerve and sinew into timid souls. We are told that Joseph of Arimathea, who was evidently a wealthy man, ”was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews” (38). It is always fear of something or someone that causes a person to keep their faith under wraps. Previously, Nicodemus ”had visited Jesus at night” (39). That may or not have been about fear. I’m not sure. But now, at a time when the majority of Disciples had run away; an uneasy time when a sense of danger hung in the air, these two men did a loving and brave thing. This was not about courting popularity. There was nothing in it for themselves as far as I can see. But they summoned courage to get the body of Jesus, with ”Pilate’s permission” (38b). They wanted to do the right thing (40b) – to give Jesus a decent burial. It’s a charming story of bravery, love and loyalty. I find in it an abiding to challenge to publicly identify with Christ in faithful witness, and to use what He blesses us with as good stewards. Our material blessings should all be consecrated to the service of Jesus. The tomb was Joseph’s. It would have been a cave hewn out of rock, and would have taken a considerable amount of work to create. But he gave this thing of value to Jesus. It has been pointed out that the spices brought were many times more than Mary’s earlier offering (12:3), and it was thought that she was extravagant. This was the kind of quantity (and quality) you would bring to a King. That is surely the point. These two men, on a united mission of love, agreed with Pilate’s notice, but for vastly different reasons.
Well, this quote seems a good way to prepare ourselves for the wonders ahead:
”John, we may be sure, intends us to remember the last time we stood before a tomb. Jesus wept outside Lazarus’s tomb (11.35), but when they rolled the stone away there was no smell of decomposition (11.41). Wait, John says to us. Watch with me through this sabbath, this quiet, sad rest. Wait for this, the final day, the seventh day, to pass. God rested on the seventh day. So must Jesus. But this whole book has been about new creation. Wait for the eighth day.” Tom Wright: ‘John for everyone’, part 2, p.139.
”It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I want to stand with with you and for the whole world to know that I am yours. Please forgive me for times when I have lacked courage and gone into hiding.