“Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. John 19:38-40
I imagine Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus’s hearts were filled with much sorrow on this night. The Scriptures make it clear both Joseph and Nicodemus were members of the Sanhedrin thus Pharisees. Here we find that they had not consented to the crucifixion and yet they hadn’t tried to stop it either. They both secretly followed Jesus and yet feared the Jews and being thrown out of the synagogue. Yet, here on preparation day Joseph, the Scriptures tell us in Mark 15, had come boldly before Pilate asking for the body of Jesus. In John we find that Nicodemus was with him and that according to Jewish custom they had anointed and prepared Jesus body for burial and placed Him in the tomb. While He was alive they followed Him secretly and I imagine on this night, after they have witnessed first hand the crucifixion and seen the sky grow completely dark and experienced the earthquake as Jesus breathed His last. That like the Jewish guards, they realized that Jesus was indeed the Messiah as He had claimed. I imagine they regretted their fear in the past. I believe they were thinking if only we could do it all again, we would have served Him boldly and without fear. We would have followed Him no matter what.
However, it is here we find two secret disciples and are yet unaware of where the other 11 disciples of Jesus are. The last we have seen of them was on the night of Jesus arrest. The Bible tells us in Mathew 26 that all the disciple deserted Jesus and fled. Peter had followed at a distance but had also denied knowing Jesus and being one of his disciples three times. On preparation day, we don’t really know where the disciples are, but they are not the ones to come and get Jesus body, instead we find Joseph and Nicodemus. Fear had led them to flee for their own lives and I imagine even after the crucifixion, watching Jesus die, they feared for what might happen to them.
In both instances fear has led to regret. Fear has impacted how these men act, what they do or don’t do and what they say or don’t say. Fear is indeed a powerful emotion. It can paralyze us and keep us from doing the right thing. Fear can overwhelm us and control us. We all know it’s power, but how does this fear affect us as Christians? In the above Scriptures, fear had led Joseph and Nicodemus to be secret disciples, it had kept them from truly following Jesus. Fear had led to the rest of the disciples scattering and not remaining true to Jesus.
I can’t tell you the number of people I have met who are afraid to be sold out for Jesus because of fear of what He might ask them to do. Those who are afraid to tell others about Jesus for fear of being ridiculed. Fear of what others think if they really take a stand for Christ. I know personally how strong this fear can be. There was a time when I feared surrendering fully to Jesus for fear that He’d send me to Africa or somewhere like it. Times when I cared more for what others think than what the Lord thinks. Other times when instead of boldly sharing Jesus with people, I trembled in fear not knowing how they might respond. I allowed fear to keep me from truly following Jesus and allowed fear to keep me from being true to Him. The truth is, I still struggle with such fears. Yet, I’m learning that He is and always will be faithful. I’m learning I can trust Him no matter what. He’s teaching me that fear is the opposite of faith and how displeasing to Him it truly is.
I challenge you to ask yourself how fear affects you personally as a disciple of Christ. Ask the Lord to examine your heart and to show you areas fear has consumed. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to get to the end of my life and look back with regret for all the times I allowed fear to impact me. For all the times I missed out on truly serving, truly surrendering to Jesus. I want to look back and know I have served Him with all I have and that I have trusted Him. Do I have regrets now? Sure, but praise God tomorrow is a new day and great indeed is His faithfulness!