Detectable Discipleship

A meditation for Holy Saturday, based on John 19.38-42


Yesterday, Good Friday, the focus was Jesus’ death. Today, Holy Saturday, his burial.

Jesus’ death and burial, any death and burial call us to contemplate this instant and immediate meaning: One day, we will die.

On that day, we will say no more words…

On that day, we will do no more deeds…

On that day, we, no more, will make or amend a mistake, commit or correct a wrong, cause or bridge a divide…

On that day, we will expand no more the record, increase no more the legacy of our living…

On that day, we no more will or can add to and subtract from whatever judgments there are to be made about us by the living.

Good Friday and Holy Saturday, then, sound a duetted summons to us to examine our lives.

Two, who have gone before us, can aid our self-scrutiny. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus.

Of Joseph, we know little. He was rich.[1] A foremost member of the Sanhedrin; the supreme court of ancient Judaism.[2] Fair-minded, abstaining from the Sanhedrin’s plot to bring Jesus before Pontius Pilate.[3] And, as rich and socially prominent, with much worldly favor to lose, perhaps, timid. For he was a “secret” disciple of Jesus. Shrinking from confrontation, avoiding the danger of an open avowal of his loyalty.

Nevertheless, Joseph courageously asked Pilate, who had condemned Jesus to death, for Jesus’ dead body. Thus, declaring his discipleship.

As for Nicodemus, he, too, perhaps, was timid. Coming to Jesus by night, fearful of being seen.[4] Or who, aware of his responsibility as a Pharisee, needed to be sure of Jesus identity and veracity lest others, following his lead, be led astray.

Whatever the reason, Nicodemus, though old and learned, biased by this training, skeptical by nature, was open to a fuller revelation of truth. Thus, he stood up for Jesus among his fellow Pharisees, incurring their wrath.[5]

And, now, Nicodemus, joining Joseph in this audacious act of allegiance, brings a final devotion of myrrh and aloes to anoint the body of Jesus for burial.

Joseph and Nicodemus. Hidden, closeted disciples who stepped into the light of loyalty at great cost to themselves.

Death and burial summon us to self-examination, especially, speaking always and only for myself, concerning the measure of my devotion to the truths I profess.

Guided by the witness of Joseph and Nicodemus, when I contemplate my chiefest truth as a Christian and a follower of Jesus, one thing, among many, stands out. There is no secret discipleship. For either my discipleship – my attempts at the active, outward practice of the love and justice of Jesus for all, at all times – crucifies the secret or the secret – my fear and inhibition, indeed, my disdain in practicing love and justice, especially toward those I consider “other” than me – crucifies my discipleship.

© 2021 PRA

Illustration: The Burial of Christ (c. 1873), Carl Heinrich Bloch (1834-1890). Note: Bloch depicts Nicodemus, on the left, weeping and, on the right, Joseph of Arimathea directing the attendants to bear the body of Jesus to what was to be his tomb (see Matthew 27.60).

[1] See Matthew 27.57

[2] See Mark 15.43

[3] See Luke 23.50; further Luke 22.66-23.1

[4] John 3.2

[5] See John 7.45-52

2 thoughts on “Detectable Discipleship

  1. Paul,

    Another great meditation!! I read it to Mom when I arrived today! After I finished reading she closed her eyes and said “Thank You”…. as if she was really meditating on the words. Pretty amazing!

    Love! Happy Easter!


    1. Loretta, many were and have been and, doubtless, will be the moments when I knew and know and will know that I know little of what a soul afflicted with dementia perceives and comprehends. So, who knows? God knows what Doris knows!

      Praise God!


      Liked by 1 person

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