In the first century, it was illegal for family members to retrieve the crucified bodies of their loved ones. Dead bodies typically hung for days, if not weeks, so the message was clear: Do not mess with the Roman Empire! After some time, the Romans would pry the bodies off the cross, carry them in a wagon, cart them down to the Valley of Gehenna, and dump them into a rat-infested mass grave. The same would have happened to Jesus’ body if not for the boldness of two unlikely leaders, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus.
At some point, as the rest of the followers fled, Nicodemus and Joseph looked at Jesus’ body and reflected on the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah’s suffering (Isa. 53:5–6). They must have concluded that Jesus was indeed the Son of Man who took away the sins of the world (John 3:1–17). They decided that they couldn’t hide their faith in Him any longer. They mustered up the strength to go directly to Pilate and ask for the body (v. 38). John is very meticulous about how Nicodemus and Joseph prepared the body, wrapped it in cloths, and placed it in a tomb (vv. 39–42). Matthew and Mark tell us they sealed the tomb shut and went home.
They probably had no expectation of ever seeing Jesus alive again. If the Romans threw Jesus’ body into the open grave known as Gehenna, and then He appeared a few days later, skeptics could have easily debunked the resurrection. People would have said Jesus was exhausted, not executed. But Nicodemus’s and Joseph’s faith, courage, and concern for the body of Jesus made it possible for first-century believers (and us!) to be confident that Jesus actually died and rose again. These unlikely leaders were bold in their faith.
>> If people found out you were a Christian, would they be surprised? List three things that may prevent you from expressing your love for Christ. Stop hiding your faith and go public, despite the consequences.
Whatever prevents us from boldly proclaiming our relationship with You— whether fear, embarrassment, or a desire for privacy—forgive us and change us, Lord. Others need to know that salvation is found in You alone (Acts 4:12).