Think about what a hard decision this must have been, for these two men. To follow Jesus when He was alive would have been difficult enough for Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, but to declare their allegiance to a crucified Messiah would have been more difficult still. But they could keep silent no longer!
What was it that changed them from secret followers to out-right disciples, bold enough to ask Pilate for His body?
Perhaps it was the calmness with which Jesus confronted the chief priests, and then also met Pilate's questions. Perhaps it was Jesus' warning that they would see Him at the right hand of the Father and coming in the clouds of heaven (Matthew 26:64).
Perhaps it was the way that He endured the cross.
It may have been all of those.
But ultimately, it was the grace of God that worked in their hearts.
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them,
and I will raise them up at the last day. (John 6:44)
Even today, it's a temptation to be a silent follower. As soon as we say we are followers of Jesus, that we are born again, that we are Bible believing Christians, we can see the attitudes of people around us change. But most of us who read this study blog are in free countries -- imagine declaring our allegiance to Christ in Iran, or in North Korea! Here's something to think about . . . Joseph and Nicodemus were not just declaring this with their words, but with their actions. They were going to do something really radical. They were preparing to do something that said they were rejecting their own spiritual leaders. And they were going to lose the privilege of participating in the rest of the feast, because touching Jesus body would mean that they were unclean.
Whoever touches the dead body of any person shall be unclean for seven days.
They were placing Jesus' body in a new, unused tomb. The Jewish people never mixed things, for example, materials in their clothing, etc. It was a reminder from the Father to remain "unmixed" with the pagan practices of the world. So, a tomb was only for one family, and Joseph was giving it to the family of Jesus. He would have to build another for his own family. Tombs were very expensive, since they needed to be hewn by hand from the limestone. It's an extravagant gift that we see Joseph giving.
This gift also fulfilled Scripture:
They intended to bury him with criminals, but he ended up in a
rich man’s tomb, because he had committed no violent deeds, nor
had he spoken deceitfully. (Isaiah 53:9)
In the midst of their sorrow and the loss that overwhelmed them, these two men came out and became open followers of Jesus. They gave financially, and they gave practically; they knew that this decision would separate them from the religious establishment that they'd been a part of. They were certainly going to lose authority and power and prestige in that community. But they had found a relationship with their Savior and that changed them totally.
Christians need to come out and be honest about their faith in spite of the costs. How else will others hear of Him? Many unbelievers will not "darken the door" of a church -- but they can see the actions of our lives, and in our conversations.
Most people today that "come out" about some secret or change in their lives are forgotten quickly. Joseph and Nicodemus show us that if we are honest about our faith in Jesus, we can accomplish so very much -- and we can change the world. They took a stand two thousand years ago, and we still remember them today!