Read Matthew 27:57-61

Joseph was a rich man and a secret disciple of Jesus. He was a member of the ruling council of elders, the Sanhedrin. We can only presume he approached Pilate with trepidation for the body of his master, but his request was honoured. 

When Joseph asked for Jesus’ body this public act must have made his secret faith known to the Sanhedrin. Wrapping Jesus’ body in a clean linen shroud, he placed him in his own new tomb, cut in the rock. A great stone was rolled to the entrance to secure it from robbers.

All this had taken place quite quickly. Friday was drawing to a close and the next day was the day on which no work could be done.

What Joseph did was not merely an act of devotion. It was also an act of identification. He, like Nicodemus, had believed in Jesus but was quiet about it. He was in a position of influence and power. He had far more to lose than Galilean fishermen.

Like Joseph, there are many around the world who turn to Christ secretly at first. They may fear rejection from family or persecution from authorities. They will have had to reflect long and hard about the cost of discipleship. And we must not be too quick to condemn the secret disciple who may have much more to lose than we who can confess Christ openly and quickly.

Nonetheless, for the true disciple, a time will eventually come when that hidden faith will be publicly declared. It may be a Muslim background believer being closely questioned by relatives about her new interest in the Bible. Others, no longer taking part in certain rites and festivals, will be asked to explain themselves. There comes a time when we must acknowledge Him before men that we may be acknowledged before the Father. For Joseph, it was devotion and a desire to honour his Lord that brought his faith into the open.

Let us pray for ourselves and our brothers and sisters in countries without religious freedom that we have the courage to honour Christ through a public display of allegiance to Him. But let us also pray for those who are currently believing in secret that they would have courage, faith and protection.

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