“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. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. 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
I’ve been thinking about these two lately, Joseph and Nicodemus, two of the company of shadow believers. Two who traveled under the cloak of night to see Jesus. Two who were afraid to publicly declare Jesus the Messiah, the Christ, but believed in their hearts.
I’ve been thinking about how they must have felt standing by while Jesus was beaten and convicted and crucified. Helpless, I guess, maybe even cowardly, in the face of their inability to intervene and save Jesus from the plans of their colleagues.
Later, after it was all over, after Jesus’ body hung limp and lifeless on the cross, you’d think they would have simply slipped away with their heads hung low. So what happened next is easily overlooked.
We see these two shadow believers begin to move into the light and beyond their fear. They go to Pilate and ask for Jesus’ body, and in the process declare their allegiance to Jesus to the highest authority in the land. They publicly take Jesus’ body from the cross and with 75 pounds of spices (try sneaking around with that) they wrap Jesus’ body and lay Him in a new tomb, a rich man’s tomb. Then they head home, most likely feeling awful. Too little, too late?
I wonder: is their act of love any different from the woman pouring out her perfume on Jesus, preparing Him for his burial? Is love ever wasted? To paraphrase a friend of mine, “They did what they could and it was enough.”
Enough? Yes. Enough to fulfill scripture:
“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
We often feel helpless in the face of great evil: powerless, hidden, cowardly. But love never fails and it always cooperates with God’s plans, even if it is hidden and buried for a time, even if it seems too little, too late.
Nicodemus and Joseph did what they could and it was more than enough to prepare the way for Jesus’ resurrection. It is good, it is God, to do what we can, especially when we are afraid. In the Kingdom of Heaven – sometimes – a little is more than enough.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.