Secret disciples

The unthinkable had happened. The Messiah – at least they thought he was the Messiah – had been crucified. None of his close followers had come to the place of execution, except for one, the one who is referred to as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 19:26).

A strange darkness had descended on the land at noon. The sun disappearing at mid-day was unprecedented. Although some suggested an eclipse was happening, no eclipse had lasted more than ten minutes or so and this went on for three hours! Besides, being the Passover, the moon was full, so it couldn’t have been between the earth and the sun.

When three o’clock came Jesus cried out with a loud voice and breathed his last. At the same time the temple curtain was torn in two, from the top to the bottom. Even the Roman centurion, on duty for this execution, was moved by what happened (not that he knew that the curtain had been torn in the temple). After seeing how Jesus died he even said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!” (Mark 15:39 NET).

But where were the disciples? Although the men were nowhere to be found, the women had remained. “There were also women, watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. When he was in Galilee, they had followed him and given him support. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were there too” (Mark 15:40-41). Perhaps the women were braver than the men.

But then one disciple did come forward. But no one knew that he was a disciple. But come forward he did! “Now when evening had already come, since it was the day of preparation (that is, the day before the Sabbath), Joseph of Arimathea, a highly regarded member of the council, who was himself looking forward to the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate was surprised that he was already dead. He called the centurion and asked him if he had been dead for some time. When Pilate was informed by the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph. After Joseph bought a linen cloth and took down the body, he wrapped it in the linen and placed it in a tomb cut out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone across the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body was placed” (Mark 15:42-47).

We don’t know much about Joseph. He was a “highly regarded member of the council” which means he was a member of the Sanhedrin, the highest Jewish court. Had he sat through the proceedings the previous night as Jesus was subjected to a mock trial? Had he finally had all he could take and had to come forward? In the other gospels he is linked with Nicodemus, who was a known sympathizer of Jesus. Perhaps because he was Nicodemus’ friend, both were not invited to the court session to condemn Jesus the previous night. We will never know if they were there or not.

What is important is that he was finally willing to declare his support for Jesus by taking his body and lovingly burying it in his own new tomb. May it not take such drastic events to prompt us to declare our loyalty to Jesus the Messiah! May we be willing to take a stand for Jesus by obeying what he has asked of us – to simply go through a death, burial and resurrection like he went through, only we are putting to death our sinful life, burying it in a watery grave, and rising to live a new life for him.

Readings for next week:
2 May – Mark 16
3 May – 1 Corinthians 1
4 May – 1 Corinthians 2-3
5 May – 1 Corinthians 4-5
6 May – 1 Corinthians 6

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