Pastor Barry/ The Gathering Church: All Things New Series #3 “Born Again” Easter Sunday
Dark Friday John 19:38-42, John 3:1-3, 16-18
Joseph of Arimathea was a wealthy man (Matthew 27:57). The source of his wealth is unknown, but we know from scripture that he was “good and upright” (Luke 23:50), but then Joseph was a part of the Sanhedrin (Luke 23:51)— that group of elite Jewish religious leaders who called for Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, but Joseph was opposed to the Council’s decision to arrest Jesus and was in fact a secret disciple of His. (Mark 15:43). Joseph of Armathea was once ashamed of following Jesus, but no longer!
Nicodemus was an influential man, a Pharisee (religious leader) and also a member of the Sanhedrin (Surely another vote against Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, but the Bible doesn’t say so). Nicodemus made an appointment at one time with Jesus after dark so that he would not be seen by his peers and the public (John 3:1-2). We later read that Nicodemus stood “halfway up” for Jesus among his peers (John 7:45-52) sometime after that encounter with Him. By that time he may have also been a “secret disciple” like Joseph. Nicodemus was also once ashamed of following Jesus, but no longer!
On the morning of that dark Friday Jesus carried His cross to Golgotha, that hill the people called the place of the skull where so many had been crucified before. Those were thieves, murderers, and those who had broken Roman laws, but not Jesus. Pilate, the governor of Rome himself, proclaimed “I find no basis for a charge against him” (John 19:6). The Jewish leaders could find no charge against Jesus either. Their cry to crucify Him arose from the fact that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God (John 5:18, 18:23)…and He was and is… say His disciples! Are you one of them?
Jesus was nailed to a cross and lifted up so that everyone could see Him and mock Him. In fact He is still being mocked by many today— so many who believe in Him, like Joseph of Armathea and Nicodemus, are also “secret disciples” for fear of what others may think, say or do. Are you a “secret disciple” of Jesus? Do you stand up for Him everywhere you go or are you like His disciples who “deserted Him and fled” when He was arrested (Mark 14:50)?
Jesus, an innocent Lamb, hung on that cross for six excruciating hours, in the last three “darkness came over the whole land” (Mark 15:33). Darkness always comes without Christ. Are you in darkness today? His disciple John was there at the cross with Mary. Did John remember the Passover dinner he had just shared with Jesus and the other disciples? Did he remember what Jesus said as He offered the third cup of redemption at the table?: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28). Did he remember what John the Baptist had called Jesus on the banks of the Jordan?: “Behold the ‘Lamb of God’ who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29,35)? Jesus, the willing sacrifice for our sin. Jesus, our Passover Lamb. And the prophet Isaiah said of Him:
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, he opened not his mouth”. Isaiah 53:7
Were the “secret disciples”, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus at the crucifixion? The Bible doesn’t say. Other members of the Sanhedrin were likely there…mocking. Were the “secret disciples” there standing in shocked silence? How do we respond when co-workers, friends or family mock Christ or use His name in vain…do we use His name in vain?
If Nicodemus was at that crucifixion was he thinking about the incognito conversation he had with Jesus when the Christ said: “No one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again”(John 3:3)? Are you “Born Again?” Did Nicodemus remember that Jesus said “the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life” (John 3:14-15)? How quickly do we forget that “God so loved the world” that He sent Jesus to save it , but without Jesus we are condemned (John 3:16-18). Jesus said “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)? Did the “secret disciples” finally realize, on that dark Friday, that in the end all die… and there is only one who can raise us up? Do you realize that?
All Things New John 19:38-42, Matthew 10:32-33,
After the death of Christ all appeared to be lost, but we see something new! We always see new life in Christ (Revelation 21:5). We see the results of being “born again” in two men. We no longer see two “secret disciples” in Joseph and Nicodemus. We see strength and resolve. Joseph goes boldly to Pilate and asks for the body of Christ. He could have been sentenced to death himself for such an act! Nicodemus and Joseph spend a great deal of money and time lovingly wrapping the body of Jesus and laying Him in Joseph’s own tomb. He gave Christ his tomb and Christ gives resurrection. This fulfilled a 700 year old prophecy by Isaiah which says: He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Isaiah 53:9
Certainly Joseph and Nicodemus were thrown out of the Sanhedrin and lost their positions of respect and authority in Jerusalem, but they would move on as true disciples of Christ who said: “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven… (Matthew 10:32-33).
Believe! Matthew 28:1-10, John 11:25-26
Whatever became of Joseph and Nicodemus we do not know for sure, the Bible doesn’t say. Much has been made of them in legend, proclaiming them both to be active missionaries of the gospel, but two things are sure. They were greatly rewarded for their faith only three days later when Jesus raised up from the dead (Matthew 28:1-10). We who believe also know that they are with Christ for He has said: “I am the resurrection and the life… ” (John 11:25-26). At that time Jesus asked Mary if she believed. Later He would tell Thomas to believe (John 20:24-31). Now it is your turn… all that is written is so that you too will believe and that by believing you may have life in His name (John 20:30-31). Do you believe? If you do then live it out, shout it out! No secret disciples. He Lives!