Joseph of Arimathea is described differently by Luke and John. Luke describes him as good, righteous, and looking forward to the kingdom of God. John describes him as a secret disciple of Jesus. On the surface, these appear to be different. And, depending on the audience, they can be very different indeed. However, Joseph’s attitude toward Jesus was fairly clear. Joseph greatly admired Jesus. He also did (to a point) follow Jesus as “the women” from Galilee were with him, indicating that he did have a place in the larger circle of disciples.
Joseph of Arimathea was part of the Sanhedrin. The religious and civil ruling council of the Jews is the “body” that pushed for Jesus’ crucifixion. Earlier in the Gospels, it seemed that the Sanhedrin was unanimous in its thinking. Joseph of Arimathea shows that there wasn’t unanimity in Sanhedrin. Joseph was concerned, however, with his place in the Sanhedrin. John calls it out as fear of “the Jews”. Luke doesn’t specify that, but as Luke does only note that Joseph went to Pilate, Joseph definitely did it cautiously and did try to avoid making a scene.
John even pulls Nicodemus into the conversation. Nicodemus is first seen at night meeting Jesus (John 3:1–21). Next Nicodemus is seen defending (in a roundabout way) Jesus. Then we see him now bringing an amount of myrrh and aloe that was excessive (culturally). Nicodemus is still not declaring anything in the name of Jesus, but his actions show a heart turned toward Jesus.
The actions of both men could seem to be contrary to Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:32–33. In fact, many of us might well be guilty of this. It all depends on how one defines “deny”. It could be like Peter, who denied Jesus 3 times. That’s pretty blatant, yet God’s grace carried Peter forward to be the first leader of the Church. Peter, like Joseph and Nicodemus, was afraid.
In the world, fear drives many of our actions. Around the world, Christians are hated and hunted. Muslims that have converted to Jesus (and often in mysterious ways) hide their conversion in fear, as they are (justifiably in many cases) afraid of being killed for the family’s honor. In India, Hindu extremists target Christians regularly. There have been a number of bombings of churches recently. Are these Christians denying Christ by not proclaiming Jesus from the rooftops, street corners, family gatherings, their homes?
Many preachers, who are living in and are accustomed to religious and speech freedom, have said exactly that over the years.
1) If you are not declaring Jesus to everyone you meet, especially to every family member who is not a Christian, why not? In light of Jesus words, then, what is failing to acknowledge Jesus?
2) What is the difference, if any, between denying Jesus, and not acknowledging Jesus?
3) When was the last time you acted like Peter, Joseph of Arimathea, or Nicodemus out of fear?