When Jesus died, two men came for His body. One was Nicodemus, who came to Jesus early in John’s story and met Him in the middle of the night so as not to be discovered by the Jewish elite. He would later say a few words, but just a few, in Jesus’s defense when the Jewish leaders were starting to scheme against Him. Joseph, from Arimathea, also came for the body. He, too, believed in Jesus, but only in secret because he was also a member of the Jewish elite and didn’t know what they would say.
So here are two men who both quietly believed in Jesus, who both watched Him from a relative distance, who both kept an appearance up with the world while secretly entertaining His holiness in their heart. And it’s tempting to wonder what the conversation went like when they both showed up to take care of His body.
Was there any posturing left? Was there any sense that they still needed to protect their secret allegiances? What there an open confession between these two men about all of the things they’d heard about and witnessed and hoped for with this Jesus? Did they perhaps just look up at one another, nod knowingly, and go about the sacred work they had undertaken? On the eve of the Sabbath, as the sun set, on the Passover, no less, was there any more room for posturing or pretending, or did these two men finally look up at one another and whisper, ‘Brother?’
We may, at any given time, be in the presence of someone else who secretly holds Jesus in his or her heart. We may be among brothers and sisters and not even know it. For whatever reason, there are still many among us who are not willing or ready to openly confess their interest in this Son of God, who have been watching and listening from a distance or in the dark of night and building a little place for His holiness in their hearts.
That’s why we must be gentle with those with whom we come in contact. Gentle, and slow to judge. It’s easy to look at someone and say that they must not be a Jesus follower, that they must not be a Christian, that they must not have any interest at all in knowing who our Jesus is because of something that we see in their outward lives. But it’s not always so simple.
Joseph and Nicodemus were both members of the Jewish elite. They were both studied men, part of the discussion and dialogue for three years about who this Jesus was and what kind of threat He might pose to men like them. On the surface, it’s easy to think that neither man would have much of an interest in this Jesus at all. …until they met on the night of His death when both men showed up prepare His body for the tomb.
All of a sudden, their tenderness shows. All of a sudden, their secret love manifests. All of a sudden, we see of them – and they see of each other – the secret hope they’ve been holding onto.
May we have our eyes open to see this in our fellow man, even in the men in whose lives we might least expect to find it. May we meet one another on the way to the tomb, smile knowingly, acknowledge each other’s presence, and at the very least whisper, ‘Brother.’