The Secret Faith of Half-BelieversJoanna Callender - 14 Apr 2017
“These two trembling half-believers show loyalty at a time when loyalty was hardest to muster….”
The crucifixion of Jesus was a gruesome, brutal spectacle. The cross may be displayed as a symbol of hope in countless churches all over the world today, but back then, it was a symbol of oppression; of torture.
Can you imagine what it must have looked like? Jesus, the radical teacher and prophet. One who claimed to be the son of God with a loyal, growing fanbase backing him up. Killed brutally. Defeated by the government. Reputation destroyed; disciples scattered.
One of them had betrayed him. Another had denied him - not once, but three times. Others ran in fear of what might happen to them.
In his dying breath, Jesus was alone.
“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. 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.” - John 19
At his death, all seemed lost.
Yet, in the hours following his death, two unlikely followers bury the corpse of the son of God. Not Peter, James or John - men who journeyed with him from the beginning. In fact, none of Jesus’ original disciples are up to the task.
Instead, two secret followers step into the picture.
Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus are not people we expect to find at the burial site of Jesus. They haven't spent months or years with Jesus; nor have they ever stood up and shown loyalty to Him before. In fact, John makes it clear that, so far, they’ve both been more concerned about their reputation than their faith in Jesus.
And yet, these two trembling, apprehensive half-believers show loyalty at a time when loyalty was hardest to muster.
At this point in the story Jesus had failed. His mission on earth had not succeeded. His last words to the watching crowd were a seemingly useless cry of help to a God who had not saved him:
“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
Yet surprisingly and incredibly, Joseph and Nicodemus are there. At the exact moment where so many of Jesus’ disciples worried what was going to happen to them, Joseph and Nicodemus risked everything - for the first time - to affiliate themselves with Jesus at a crucial time in history.
These secret followers became a vital part of God’s story. And this demonstrates that it’s often the secret acts of faith that are the most significant. The example of Joseph and Nicodemus reminds us that it’s in the toughest situations that we need to invest our energy in Jesus.
Even when He seems dead or absent, we need to align ourselves to Him. We need to trust that in the darkness, light will come. That in our brokenness, our Saviour still saves. When our faith feels as small as a mustard seed, to trust in the one who will make that seed grow.
This Easter, commit to the secret acts of obedience and follow Him no matter how challenging it feels. Jesus, our humble king who defeated death; defied the world; and is always victorious.
Take time to reflect this Easter weekend by watching the latest episodes from our Stories from the Wilderness podcast series.