The Face of Fear: Joseph Part 2
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
Frequently both our Lord and the Apostle Paul indicate the bringing together of faith and a confession. Confession with the mouth does not bring about the reality of belief in the heart, but it gives evidence of it.
The final thing to see in this story is the cure for fear.
The cross of Jesus has the power to cure our fears by allowing us to see the end of fear.
As Joseph and Nicodemus saw Jesus hanging on the cross, they could see the end of cowardly actions. Deep within they knew their silence had played a part in this terrible tragedy. Realizing what their silence had done prompted them to take action. Do you realize that Jesus’ body might have been thrown in the trash heap or buried in a common grave with the thieves if these two had not acted?
Here’s a question, “Have you ever considered the end of your fearful life?” Well, here’s some good news. The cross of Jesus cures our fears by revealing God’s love for us.
Nicodemus probably remembered his first meeting with Jesus. In the protective shadows of the night, Jesus had said to him, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so, must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:14-15). Here Jesus is using an event in the Old Testament for an analogy of His purpose in coming to earth. In this story, God punished the Israelites in the wilderness with deadly serpents after they had complained and spoken against God and Moses. Many people were bitten and died. When the people repented and begged for mercy, God told Moses to lift a fiery serpent high upon a pole within the camp. God promised that anyone looking at the raised bronze serpent would be healed of the snake’s venomous bite and saved from death. This Old Testament incident pointed to Jesus, who would be lifted up on a Cross as the sacrifice necessary for salvation.
As Nicodemus and Joseph looked at Jesus hanging there on the cross, Nicodemus must have told Joseph about his earlier conversation with Jesus. As He hung there on that rough wooden cross, they could see just how far He was willing to go for them. How could they be silent before such love?
Let’s look again at our scriptures and consider their actions. “After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury” (John 19:38-40).
Remember, these two men were both prominent men. Joseph of Aramethia was a rich man and Nicodemus is the ruler of the Jews who had come to Jesus by night. They were both secret disciples but now they had come out in the open for the first time.
Let’s not be too critical of these men. They had stayed in the background, but now that the Lord’s disciples had all scattered like sheep and gone undercover, these two men come out in the open, and they have decided to care for the body of Jesus.
Because the children of Israel had lived in Egypt, some believed that they were the ones who perfected the method of embalming that the Egyptians used. The child of God in the Old Testament, as well as the New Testament, has always believed that the body will rise again. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in weakness; it will be raised in power. It will be a glorified body. For that reason, the child of God has a reverence and a care for the body.
The custom was to use about half the body weight of spices; so we can guess that the Lord Jesus weighed about two hundred pounds. They would prepare the body by rubbing it with myrrh and aloes, then wrapping it with linen strips. They would seal it and keep it out of the air. They would begin with a finger, then wrap all of the fingers that way, then the hand, the arm, and the whole body. In other words, they wrapped the body of the Lord Jesus like a mummy.
Now John mentions specifically that they wrapped the body in the linen cloth using the spices because this is a very important detail for him. You remember that on the resurrection morning when John saw the linen lying there and the body not in it, he understood that the resurrection had taken place, and he believed.
Let’s read again the last two verses.
“Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews’ Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby” (John 19:41-42).
They had to hurry because of the approaching Passover, and apparently, they didn’t get the embalming process completely finished. This explains why the women brought more spices and planned to come to care for the Lord’s body after the feast day.
In the light of the love of the Lord Jesus Christ, I call you to action. I call on you to cast aside your secrecy and your fears and to boldly declare Him as your Lord. Let the entire world know that you rest your hopes of eternal life on Christ alone. He promises, “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33). To confess Jesus means to acknowledge that you belong to Him.
In reality, secret discipleship is practically impossible. Jesus constantly called for an open confession of Himself by His followers. We must be able to acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior. He says that we are to make our confession before men, and that clearly indicates that a public confession of true Christian faith is a necessity.
“Whosoever shall deny me” does not refer to one moment of denial (such as Peter’s), but to an entire lifelong resistance to Christ. Therefore, it is not a single act of denial which makes one unworthy of being a disciple, but it is a refusal to confess Christ at all that eliminates one from being a true follower of Christ.
I pray that I will never again be a secret disciple, and I pray for you also, that you will be a bold witness for Christ. We don’t need to fear if Jesus is our Lord and Savior. The Hymn writer put it this way.
Jesus, the name that calms my fears,
That bids our sorrows cease,
’Tis music in the sinner’s ears,
’Tis life and health and peace.
If you have never asked Him to save you, it is not too late. Ask Him to forgive your sins and to save you. Then you can sing this song with me.
And when, before the throne,
I stand in Him complete,
‘Jesus died my soul to save,’
My lips shall still repeat.
Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.