John 19, 38
Something to read
And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.
New Revised Standard Version
Something to think about
Is it possible to be a secret follower of Jesus? Those of us who have not experienced the terror of living in an oppressive regime cannot answer this question with any confidence.
It seems wrong, somehow, after all that talk of lights under bushels and beacons on hills, but when we read of Peter, skulking along the walls of the palace, pretending not to know Christ, we recognise ourselves all too easily.
It is easy, then, to sympathise with Joseph of Arimathea. On the other hand, what difference might it have made to Christ’s ministry if some support had come from among the ranks of the rich and powerful, as Joseph clearly is?
Or what difference would it have made to Joseph, had he been bold enough to associate publicly with Jesus and his disciples? Keeping quiet deprives us of the fellowship we need so desperately, and so this is a sacrificial path, too.
The thing with Joseph, though, is that he eventually wins through, throwing caution to the wind, facing Pilate, making himself ritually unclean by associating with a dead body, donating his grave to enable Jesus to be buried — and at a time when Jesus’s closest disciples cowered in a locked room.
Something to do
There have been examples in the news of Christians who choose to stand out by wearing a cross, or by wishing to preserve their right to discriminate against others.
Distinguish yourself by acts of generosity. Fight against the way of the world, which is to choose carefully whom to associate with, seeking popularity. Be indiscriminate.
Something to pray
Give us the courage to be known as Christians, people who stand alongside anyone who is oppressed and scorned by society. Reveal to us other followers, so that we can stand together as champions of love and justice. Amen
Today’s contributor is Paul Handley, Managing Editor of The Church Times