Afterward Joseph of Arimathea, who had been a secret disciple of Jesus (because he feared the Jewish leaders), asked Pilate for permission to take down Jesus’ body. When Pilate gave permission, Joseph came and took the body away. With him came Nicodemus, the man who had come to Jesus at night. He brought about seventy-five pounds of perfumed ointment made from myrrh and aloes. Following Jewish burial custom, they wrapped Jesus’ body with the spices in long sheets of linen cloth. The place of crucifixion was near a garden, where there was a new tomb, never used before. And so, because it was the day of preparation for the Jewish Passover and since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.
Dear God, this is the story that made me love and appreciate Nicodemus. John seems to have a soft spot in his heart for Nicodemus (and Pilate for that matter, but that is a subject for another prayer journal). John 3 never references anyone being with Jesus and Nicodemus but Jesus, although it’s feasible that John and some other disciples could have been there. But the story in chapter 7 about Nicodemus trying to passively defend Jesus must have been relayed to John by someone else. Perhaps Nicodemus himself after Jesus’s death and resurrection. I assume John and Nicodemus had a personal relationship. Otherwise, why would John be the only Gospel writer to mention him? And why did he go to great pains in chapters 7 and 19 to not only call Nicodemus by name, but intentionally reference his conversation with Jesus in chapter 3?
So now for this story. Why do I like it so much? Mainly because It is Nicodemus at his lowest point, and yet he shows so much love for Jesus. His anger and anguish drives him into action. He loves this man he believed to be your Messiah, and he is going to show it to the world regardless of the consequences. And although we never read his name again after this story, I’m sure this act cost him his place in the temple and in the community. I would bet that this was his last Passover as a Pharisee.
Afterward Joseph of Arimathea, who had been a secret disciple of Jesus (because he feared the Jewish leaders), asked Pilate for permission to take down Jesus’ body. When Pilate gave permission, Joseph came and took the body away.
First, however, let’s talk about Joseph of Arimathea. Luke and Mark tell us that Joseph was a prominent member of the council, but he did not consent to the death sentence Jesus had received. He was a secret disciple of Jesus. Did he and Nicodemus know this about each other all along, or was this something they figured out over the previous 12 hours?
With him came Nicodemus, the man who had come to Jesus at night. He brought about seventy-five pounds of perfumed ointment made from myrrh and aloes.
John is careful to tell us that Nicodemus brought 75 pounds of perfumed ointment with him. I don’t know how this worked, but I would imagine they did the work right there at the foot of the cross. I would think that they would want to put the ointment on the body and wrap it up before they transported it to the tomb. I have this image in my mind of Nicodemus, grief stricken, disillusioned, and angry carrying this ointment in silence. Then he and Joseph take the body and start to handle the bloody mess. Where would you start? Blood would have to be everywhere. Did they clean the body with the ointment? But they did it.
Following Jewish burial custom, they wrapped Jesus’ body with the spices in long sheets of linen cloth.
This is where I want to spend some time with the other Pharisees. This scene is amazing to me. I picture it completely silent except for hushed murmurs between the Pharisees, wondering what Joseph and Nicodemus were doing. And why were they doing it. Then I imagine no words between Joseph and Nicodemus themselves. Just looks. Glances. Tears. Confusion. I would imagine that the Pharisees were furious and there was hell to pay on Sunday–especially after the resurrection. Joseph was highly respected. Did his exhibited love for Jesus make any of them doubt? How about Nicodemus? Did his demonstration of discipleship and belief make them second guess their own beliefs, if only for a moment? Joseph and Nicodemus said more through their actions than they could ever have said through words.
The place of crucifixion was near a garden, where there was a new tomb, never used before. And so, because it was the day of preparation for the Jewish Passover and since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.
I wonder what it was like that night and the rest of the Sabbath and Passover for both Nicodemus and Joseph. Were they afraid? If not for their lives, for their careers and standing in the community? Did they talk to their wives? Their children? Were their families mad at them, or had they already told them how they felt about Jesus? And what about after the resurrection? Did the two men who had lost their standing in the community as well as, likely, their livelihoods join “The Way?” Did Nicodemus and John become friends. Did Joseph get to know all of the apostles? So many unanswerable questions. But I am certain that they both had to pay a price. The questions is, how big?
Father, I have followed you in the past and been disappointed. Even now, part of my soul is comforted by you through these prayer journals. I find camaraderie with characters like Nicodemus. We are all sojourners on this road. We are community, even though 2,000 years separates our earthly lives. Thank you for that. Thank you for loving me even when I question you and half-heartedly acknowledge my love for you. Thank you for forgiving me.
In Jesus’s name I pray,