Two Unlikely Disciples: John 19:38-42

Focus Passage: John 19:38-42 (CEV)

38 Joseph from Arimathea was one of Jesus’ disciples. He had kept it secret though, because he was afraid of the Jewish leaders. But now he asked Pilate to let him have Jesus’ body. Pilate gave him permission, and Joseph took it down from the cross.

39 Nicodemus also came with about seventy-five pounds of spices made from myrrh and aloes. This was the same Nicodemus who had visited Jesus one night. 40 The two men wrapped the body in a linen cloth, together with the spices, which was how the Jewish people buried their dead. 41 In the place where Jesus had been nailed to a cross, there was a garden with a tomb that had never been used. 42 The tomb was nearby, and since it was the time to prepare for the Sabbath, they were in a hurry to put Jesus’ body there.

Read John 19:38-42 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Following Jesus’ death on the cross, two men enter the story that we would not expect to see. The first was a man who John described as a secret disciple. It is possible that no one knew this man was a follower of Jesus until after this event. The second man had previously shown up in Jesus’ story, but it was always at night or behind the scenes.

Here is how John describes what happened following Jesus’ death. “Joseph from Arimathea was one of Jesus’ disciples. He had kept it secret though, because he was afraid of the Jewish leaders. But now he asked Pilate to let him have Jesus’ body. Pilate gave him permission, and Joseph took it down from the cross.” (v. 38)

The first “secret” disciple was Joseph. His key contribution was asking for Jesus’ body, and supplying a place for Jesus’ body to rest.

John continues by describing the second follower. “Nicodemus also came with about seventy-five pounds of spices made from myrrh and aloes. This was the same Nicodemus who had visited Jesus one night.” (v. 39)

The second “semi-secret” disciple was Nicodemus. In an earlier conversation with Jesus, Nicodemus had listened as Jesus paralleled Himself with the serpent that Moses placed on a cross and lifted up for the children of Israel. Perhaps seeing Jesus on the cross reminded Nicodemus of both this Old Testament story as well as that late night conversation several years before.

Nicodemus came with 75 pounds of spices used for burial.

The two men wrapped the body in a linen cloth, together with the spices, which was how the Jewish people buried their dead.” (v. 40)

Nicodemus and Joseph save the Easter story. They prepare Jesus with the spices and laid Him in the tomb. If the expert executioners who performed the crucifixion messed up and left Jesus unconscious, 75 pounds of burial spices would be enough to finish the task. Wrapping Jesus in the cloth with the spices would fully suffocate Him.

The impression we get from reading all the gospel accounts of this evening is that there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Jesus is dead.

Luke includes the detail that several of the women disciples watched Nicodemus and John closely to see where Jesus was buried and they went and prepared their own set of spices to use following the Sabbath. (Luke 23:55-56)

Perhaps the women didn’t feel the men had done a good enough job, or perhaps they wanted to pay their own respects to Jesus. Whatever reason these women used to justify their decision, the stage is set for an amazing resurrection miracle! Joseph and Nicodemus help save the Easter story because they prepare Jesus before the Sabbath. The women who plan to come and redo Jesus’ burial become the first to know of His resurrection.  God is able to use every one of us in His Story of salvation!

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Enduring to the End: Mark 13:1-31


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During the week leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion, we read about a point where Jesus’ three closest disciples have some questions, and they pull Jesus aside to get some answers. To set the stage for this event, and for Jesus’ response, we read about a brief prediction Jesus shares as He and the disciples were leaving the temple.

Our passage is found in several of the gospels, but for our time together in this episode, we will look at Mark’s gospel, chapter 13, and we will read from the New American Standard Bible translation. Starting in verse 1, Mark tells us that:

1 As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, “Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” 2 And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.”

Pausing our reading briefly here, I wonder if the disciples, and perhaps the unnamed disciple who made the original statement, were bothered by Jesus’ prediction that the temple would be destroyed.

Because this was on their minds as the afternoon passed and evening came, we discover that some of the disciples want a little more information.

Picking back up reading in verse 3, Mark tells us that:

3 As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew were questioning Him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?” 5 And Jesus began to say to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. 6 Many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He!’ and will mislead many. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be frightened; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end. 8 For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.

9 “But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them. 10 The gospel must first be preached to all the nations. 11 When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit. 12 Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. 13 You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.

14 “But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where it should not be (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. 15 The one who is on the housetop must not go down, or go in to get anything out of his house; 16 and the one who is in the field must not turn back to get his coat. 17 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! 18 But pray that it may not happen in the winter. 19 For those days will be a time of tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will. 20 Unless the Lord had shortened those days, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom He chose, He shortened the days. 21 And then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ’; or, ‘Behold, He is there’; do not believe him; 22 for false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23 But take heed; behold, I have told you everything in advance.

24 “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken. 26 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven.

28 “Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 Even so, you too, when you see these things happening, recognize that He is near, right at the door. 30 Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.

In this long passage, Jesus shares a broad look at the future of the world. While there are plenty of specific parts we could focus on within Jesus’ response, the part I want to focus in on for the rest of our time together is the last few verses. Jesus concludes this teaching by telling the disciples that they should pay attention to what is happening around them in the world and know that when we hear and see things happening, such as wars and rumors of wars, that we can be reminded that Jesus is coming soon.

While Jesus promises that the current generation of people would not pass away until all these things took place – which is something that is perplexing in itself and something that would take too much time than we have left to dig into – the closing words in Jesus’ message is one of the biggest promises we can find in the entire Bible. Jesus tells these disciples in verse 31 that “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.

This promise is powerful, because it reminds us that whatever happens in this life, and whatever Satan tries to throw at us to take our focus off of God, in the end, Jesus’ words and His message will survive. Jesus’ words last forever. Jesus’ words last longer than sin. Jesus’ words bring eternal life.

We are reminded and challenged with the truth that we will be hated and abused by people in this world because we follow Jesus, but those who endure to the end will be saved. We are challenged to endure to the end of our lives or until Jesus returns, and the reward for our endurance is eternity – specifically an eternity in a sinless, perfect, recreated world.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Be sure to always place God first and to stay loyal to Him. Choose to endure and ignore those who try to challenge our faith because we know from Jesus’ promise that those who endure to the end find salvation.

Also, as I always challenge you to do, be sure to pray and study the Bible for yourself to grow your personal relationship with God each and every day. While pastors, podcasters, authors, or speakers can give you great ideas to think about, only through personal study can you grow a personal relationship, and a personal relationship with God is one key part of being saved!

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, or chicken out of where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year of the Cross – Episode 15: Discover what we can learn when three of Jesus’ closest disciples ask Him about what will happen leading up to the end of the world.

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Testable Faith: Mark 11:12-14, 20-26

Focus Passage: Mark 11:12-14, 20-26 (NCV)

12 The next day as Jesus was leaving Bethany, he became hungry. 13 Seeing a fig tree in leaf from far away, he went to see if it had any figs on it. But he found no figs, only leaves, because it was not the right season for figs. 14 So Jesus said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And Jesus’ followers heard him say this.


20 The next morning as Jesus was passing by with his followers, they saw the fig tree dry and dead, even to the roots. 21 Peter remembered the tree and said to Jesus, “Teacher, look! The fig tree you cursed is dry and dead!”

22 Jesus answered, “Have faith in God. 23 I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, fall into the sea.’ And if you have no doubts in your mind and believe that what you say will happen, God will do it for you. 24 So I tell you to believe that you have received the things you ask for in prayer, and God will give them to you. 25 When you are praying, if you are angry with someone, forgive him so that your Father in heaven will also forgive your sins. [ 26 But if you don’t forgive other people, then your Father in heaven will not forgive your sins.]”

Read Mark 11:12-14, 20-26 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Have you ever wondered or struggled with faith or doubt in your life?

Have you ever experienced complete faith and had no doubt about anything?

In my life, I can answer the first question with an easy “yes”, and the second question with just an easy of a “no”. I imagine that you can relate with me on this. Most of us cannot imagine a life without some sliver of doubt.

And with this in our minds, we come to one of Jesus’ teachings, specifically one that the self-help movement within Christianity has latched on to. In Mark 11:22-24 we read, “Jesus answered, ‘Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, “Go, fall into the sea.” And if you have no doubts in your mind and believe that what you say will happen, God will do it for you. So I tell you to believe that you have received the things you ask for in prayer, and God will give them to you.’

Mark’s gospel clearly states that Jesus says that when we have no doubts in our mind (or “heart” in some other translations) and believe, God will do it for us. However, is there an epidemic of doubt that has swept through the world today since there are not many clear “miracles”?

When I don’t receive a “yes” answer to a prayer, does this passage then tell me that the lack of an answer is because I have doubt in my mind and/or heart?

What if the prayer was something that was against God’s will? Would God change His will if I had enough faith?

This passage/teaching causes my mind to have more questions than answers – and I think Jesus intended it to. It is a challenging teaching, because it speaks into our human condition – we cannot know everything on this side of Heaven, and I wonder if even after we get to heaven, we will still be forever learning.

But does learning and knowledge erase doubt, or is something else the missing piece?

Here we have another question, and a very important one. In Hebrews 11:1, we read “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (KJV) Many modern translations substitute the word “evidence” for “conviction”, and while the Greek word can be translated either way, the “conviction” it refers to comes from something testable (i.e. evidence).

This says that faith is testable; that it is “conviction based on evidence”, and from this idea, we can conclude that a growing track record of experience strengthens our faith. The first disciples had a strong track record of miraculous faith from being with Jesus, but the second, third, and subsequent generations lost this growth experience. This might be one reason why there were fewer miracles recorded following the apostle’s deaths in early church history.

In science, when we have an idea we want to test, there is no doubt that we will find a result, it is just that we don’t really know “what” the result will be. We might have an idea of what we will find, but it is only after we test the idea that we learn what the result actually is.

How does this relate to faith in our lives?

When we approach faith similar to how we approach science, we have little reason to doubt. Our requests and subsequent responses from God help us see our lives differently; these responses help us see how God wants the best life for us – from an eternity perspective.

Some requests are returned unanswered or answered with a “no”, but that is not a reason to doubt in the One who answered, but additional evidence that He knows something that I don’t.

Faith is testable. Experience grows our faith. When we test our faith, this does not mean we doubt God, it means we want to grow into a deeper relationship with Him. When the request returns as a “no”, a “not, yet”, or a “here is something different instead”, we can trust that God knows something we don’t, and that He has our best long-term, eternity-focused interests in mind.

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Jesus Gives a Death Sentence: Matthew 18:7-11

Focus Passage: Matthew 18:7-11 (NASB)

In Jesus’ teaching, probably the greatest warning He ever gives is to those who cause others to stumble or lose faith. When addressing this group of people, Jesus shares some pretty harsh remarks.

Matthew records one of the statements Jesus made. In this statement, Jesus warns us that challenges are destined to come, but we should strive to not be the source of those challenges. Matthew tells us Jesus said, “Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!” (v. 7)

This statement does not mean that we should not challenge other believers regarding sin in their lives. That is a separate issue. This statement has more to do with those who share cynical statements regarding faith and belief in an attempt to shake someone’s faith in God. This warning is directed to the atheist or cynic who is actively trying to break a Christian’s faith in God.

Matthew also includes Jesus’ follow-up statement a few verses later. To add to this warning, Jesus said, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven.” (v. 10)

Mark’s gospel even shares this idea in a more extreme way where He describes Jesus saying, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.” (Mark 9:42)

When I read the phrase “little ones”, my first reaction is to think of children – and this is one very valid way of reading this statement. When someone commits a crime against a child, they should receive little to no sympathy from the courts or jury.

However, another way to read the phrase “little ones” is to think of the brand new Christ-followers. In some ways, this aligns with Mark’s version of Jesus’ statement because Mark included the idea of belief attached to the phrase “little ones”. Regardless of their body’s age, understanding the phrase this way describes people who are starting their faith journey and who are on fire for God.

When understanding that this statement could be applied to brand new Christians, it makes even more sense that there would be those who would “despise” (hate) them. Not many adults truly despise children, but plenty of people who hate God despise those who claim to follow Him.

Jesus tells us that people will challenge our faith, but just because challenges come, we shouldn’t focus on the challenge. Instead, in some ways, we maybe should feel sorry for the person who is giving the challenge. It is the person who challenges another’s faith that Jesus gives this warning to. Our response when challenged is to stay focused on Jesus and to share His love with others – even towards those who despise us.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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