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!

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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