The Unlikely Pair

John 19

April 16

Each year, we talk extensively about Jesus’ death on Friday and resurrection on Sunday. The in-between often gets skipped in our remembrance, those long hours of grieving—and for Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus—burying Jesus’ body.  

Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. 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. 

Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were both secret disciples. They feared making their public allegiance to the controversial Jesus. Both were members of the Sanhedrin, the highest Jewish council—the same institution that crucified Jesus. They used their status as religious elite to approach Pilate and ask for Jesus’ body to bury properly. 

They used to follow Jesus in hushed voices and under the veil of night. Now, they are boldly professing their faith in the same circle they once feared persecution. 

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.  At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. (John 19:38-42)

Although Joseph and Nicodemus were an unlikely pair to care for Jesus’ body, they were chosen by God for two apparent reasons. 

First, belief in the resurrection hinged on the testimony of those who witnessed Jesus’ lifeless body. Joseph and Nicodemus weren’t one of Jesus’ ragamuffin friends whose testimony would likely be questioned. No, they were respected and trusted as members of the religious elite. In this way, Joseph and Nicodemus were two of the first agents of Christian apologetics. 

Second, ordinarily, crucified criminals like Jesus would have been buried anonymously in a field. Joseph, however, brings the body to his own designated tomb. This fulfilled the prophecy that Jesus would be buried with the rich (Isaiah 53:9)

He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. (Isaiah 53:9)

Ultimately, God positions people for His purposes. Joseph and Nicodemus were perfectly positioned for this holy task, which begs the question: what has God positioned you to do? 

Child of God, you are chosen and well-equipped. 

-Mackenzie McClain

Discussion Questions: 

  1. What has God positioned you to do? Can you recall any circumstances in your life that God used for His purposes?

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