“Even if we have thousands of acts of great virtue to our credit, our confidence in being heard must be based on God’s mercy and His love for men. Even if we stand at the very summit of virtue, it is by mercy [ of God ] that we shall be saved.” – St John Chrysostom
Lets first read the following verses as we reflect on the Lord Jesus Christ and how he brought change in Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus by his death. Here we go:
31 The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.
32 Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him.
33 But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs:
34 But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.
35 And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe.
36 For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken.
37 And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced.
38 And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.
39 And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.
40 Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.
41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.
42 There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.
Joseph of Arimathaea is not heard of in most part of the Gospels except just after the crucifixion and death of Jesus. Who was this man and what did he have to with Jesus? Also what does Nicodemus have to do in all this?
From what we read in the Gospels (Matthew 27:57–60; Mark 15:42–46; Luke 23:50–53; and John 19:38–42) it’s known that he was a disciple of Jesus Christ. However he followed Jesus secretly as he feared the Jews. He was actually a part of the Sanhedrin which was the council of Jewish religious leaders who strived for Jesus’ crucifixion. However, the Gospel says that Joseph of Arimathaea did not give his consent but rather opposed their decision. That makes him a good man doesn’t it. Besides he was rich. God made him wealthy for a purpose that only few can ever receive from the Lord God. He took a personal risk of life and of reputation when he went to Pilate to receive the dead body of the One True Savior of the World who is none other than Jesus Christ. And by his wealth he could arrange for Jesus to be laid in a tomb (sepulchre). When Jesus was born he was born in manger as there was no place available for him. But at his death this one man from Arimathaea did all he could so that the Savior could be given some dignity after his death. Joseph of Arimathaea did not care for his life anymore as he knew he had to honor the Son of God the giver of eternal life more than anything.
Now to speak about Nicodemus. This man due to his short height had to first meet Jesus by climbing the sycamore tree. Though this man was a great sinner, Jesus came to dine in his house much to the dismay of the religious leaders. Yet Jesus led this man Nicodemus to repentance and salvation. In the due course of time, when Jesus died on the cross, Nicodemus did not flee nor abandon Jesus like most of the disciples of Jesus Christ. Very few men were brave enough to stand up for the Lord in public after the crucifixion. This man was one of them. He served the Lord well by bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes so that Jesus’ body could be wrapped in linen with these spices as per the Jewish burial custom.
Jesus at his death caused Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus to manifest the courage and right action no matter what the circumstances for the sake of the Lord. If you were in place of these men at that would you have done the same for Jesus? It’s a hard question to be honest. But the simple answer would be your actual actions in such times. However there should be nothing keeping you from standing up for Jesus Christ no matter where and when, if you truly believe that he is the Son of God. Yet again, were only courage and good works what Jesus woke these to men to by his death? Not at all, because by his agonizing death on the cross and his glorious resurrection from the dead he made available not just for them but for everyone who believe complete justification and salvation. You don’t earn your salvation by your good works but yes once you accept your salvation by your faith in Jesus and his Gospel then by your good works you can indeed give glory to God. The power of the Lord Jesus in his death and resurrection goes beyond inspiring courage and good deeds. For it has healing for sick, forgiveness for the sinner, deliverance from the darkness, friendship with God and life everlasting. Blessed are those who have not seen Jesus and yet believe. Amen.
- Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree. (Romans 11:22-24)
- But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Timothy 5:8)
It is a false doctrine to tell Christians that after their first repentance, they never need to repent again for new sins. The blood of Jesus does not automatically wash away FUTURE sins, sins need to be repented of after they are committed. If you disagree, just ask Ananias and Sephira about their pre-forgiven sin. This is why repentance in mentioned in the Lord’s Prayer.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1)
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)
For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:8-10)
Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. (1 Thessalonians 4:1)
* For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
* But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:4-5)
From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once regarded Christ from a human point of view, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:16-20)
Those are renewed in Christ Jesus should never say God accepted them the way they were but rather that God accepted them despite the way they were. Let none mistake God’s acceptance of the repentant as an approval of his or her sins. But rather count this as God’s forgiveness and mercy to those who reject the ways of sin and accept the only way to God which is through Jesus Christ. And those who are reconciled to God in Jesus Christ have passed from death to life. Happy are those who are ever grateful for God’s acceptance of them despite they missing the mark and yet offered mercy to live in faith through the blood of Jesus which he shed for the sins of the world.