Thoughts from daily Bible reading for today – January 16, 2020
After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. John 19:38-39
In the final week of Jesus’ life, we see professed disciples turn away (see John 13:21-27), while at the same time those who had followed at a distance and in secret move towards him in bold and public displays of faith. On that day, and on every day since, the Cross of Christ evokes a response. We simply cannot stay neutral or indifferent when standing before the Cross. Jesus will either be to us a source of shame, embarrassment, and confusion, or in his self-sacrifice we will find hope and perfect peace.
Judas Iscariot believed he was hitching his wagon to a winner, at least according to his definition of success. He hoped Jesus would be a political revolutionary, overthrowing Rome and restoring Israel to its rightful place in the world. That was a vision he could get behind! Voluntary death and the way of the cross? Not so much.
Are there any lessons to be learned for our own journey of faith? I believe we are often too quick to follow Jesus and identify with Christ when it is culturally acceptable or in some way advances our social standing, yet lacking that same fidelity when it asks of us sacrifice and surrender. Faith is not meant to confirm in us our own wants and desires but is a daily invitation to reorient our lives around the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had spent years learning to open their hearts and lives to the secret work of the Holy Spirit. They observed and followed Jesus from a distance, fearful and unsure in their faith, but certain that this man was worthy of their devotion and affection, regardless of the consequences. Jesus did not shame or judge them for their early fears and doubts. He did not demand of them a love that they were unable to give. Instead, he loved them and continually invited them into deeper and deeper levels of trust and devotion. We know this to be true by their actions in John 19. When they would have every reason to flee and scatter, to disaffiliate with the disgraced rabbi hanging on a cross, their faith is made public and they devote themselves fully to their Lord.
Before your faith can be public, it must be nurtured in secret. Judas publicly identified with Jesus, yet lacked a depth of faith and trust that would allow him to follow Jesus to the very end. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had nurtured a secret life with God in sincerity and truth, so that when the time came their faith was able to bear the weight of public witness.
Tend to your private life with God, even in the midst of your fears and doubts, so that your life may bear witness to the love of God that brings hope where there is despair, love where there is hate, and life where there is death.
Father, help us to see the shame of the Cross as the hope and healing of the world, and give us the courage to walk the way of the Cross in our own day, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Does your public life with God have a secret life of prayer to support and sustain it?
Before a bold faith can be public, it’s best to be nurtured in secret. #WisdomHunters #faith #truth #Jesus
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