Reading Time: 8 Minutes
John 19.38-42 – After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was 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 away his body. 39 Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight.
40 So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. 41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. 42 So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.
Joseph of Arimathea is mentioned in all four Gospels, only in reference to Jesus’ burial. This is the third mention of Nicodemus in the Gospel of John. He first met with Jesus and heard the famous words, “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3.3). Nicodemus is mentioned again in John 7, where he defended Jesus’ actions to the religious leaders (John 7.50-52).
There was a considerable risk to these men to ask for Jesus’ body. Most often, a rebel was not crucified all by himself. His followers would be rounded up and crucified to put down a rebellion. When Jesus was arrested, he protected his followers (John 18.8). At Jesus’ trial, Jesus was questioned about his followers (John 18.19). This gives you an idea of the danger these two men faced.
One of the things that I most appreciate about the Bible is its honesty. The people who were to be founders of the church were no where to be found. Instead, two men who had previously hidden their belief in Jesus out of fear, came forward and requested to bury Jesus’ body. They saved the Savior of the world from being thrown into a mass grave, giving him a burial that only a king could expect. (The amount of spices that were used were similar to what a king would have received.)
Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus remind us that everyone has a role to play in God’s kingdom. Their loving care of Jesus changed their relationship with the religious leaders for the rest of their lives. We don’t know what happened to them, but we can guess that they lost considerable status by aligning their lives with a crucified “criminal.” They probably came under the scrutiny of the Roman occupation forces. Family members may have withdrawn from them, either out of fear or disagreement over their actions.
These two men are examples of millions of nameless, faceless Christians over the ages who have used their gifts to serve Jesus. They have done so during famine, persecution, war, poverty, pandemic, and prosperity. As we consider their response to the greatest crime in history, the crucifixion of the Savior of the world, let’s consider our response to the corona virus.
Serving Jesus During the Corona Virus
I heard Pastor Rick Warren, best known for his book “The Purpose Driven Life,” speak on Thursday night during a live YouTube broadcast. He reminded us that the church had rapid growth in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. He also informed us that there were plagues in each of those two centuries. While people were running from cities, Christians were running to cities to provide aid to the suffering. Their courage and love for Jesus was contagious and caused rapid growth of faith in Jesus.
Saddleback Church, where Warren is pastor, has been serving their community in a significant way during the corona virus pandemic, primarily by providing food assistance. So far, they have seen nearly 1,000 people come to faith in Christ through their love and care for others.
Maywood Baptist’s Response
Maywood Baptist is not a mega-church like Saddleback, but we can serve none the less. I am encouraged by the various ways we are creatively reaching out to others. I know of a few ways we are helping.
— Donna Mills and her caring group are providing food and other kinds of material assistance to Maywood people and the community.
— People, who prefer to be anonymous, have given significant amounts of money, so we can serve our church family and the community.
— Donnie Mote, Challene McGinnis, Dani Smith, Christian Fly, Donna Mills, Trinity Tart, Cam Dorflinger, and several others have been taking mobile worship to our neighborhoods.
— Enrique Ortiz has hosted a few AA meetings in his backyard, while honoring AA traditions and the social distancing regulations.
These are only a few examples of how Maywood is responding to the corona virus crisis. I am sure there are more examples that I am not aware of.
Creative Ministry in a Crisis
Coach Jake Taylor told us in a Facebook live message this past week that this may be a time for the church to be creative in our ministry. I totally agree with him and I am praying daily for Maywood people to use this time to serve Jesus with all of the creativity that the Spirit gives.
The church in China is a good example of God’s people being creative during a time of great difficulty. When the Communist revolution took place, the government made worship illegal and persecuted many pastors. Our dear friend, Shirely Burdick’s grandfather was among those who faced such persecution.
I am sure it took adjusting to their new situation, but the Chinese Christians made changes and began meeting in homes and in secret. They didn’t do this for a few months, but they met in small house churches for decades. When the restrictions on the church were lifted not too many years ago, it was discovered that the church in China had grown exponentially.
A Chinese Christian leader told Dr. Henry Blackaby (a Baptist leader), “I think the church in China has done far better under persecution that the church in America has done under prosperity.” May the worldwide church respond to the corona crisis with the kind of vision that the Chinese church had under persecution.
How Can Maywood People Respond?
It cost something for Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus to honor and serve Jesus. The financial expense of the cave and the spices to anoint Jesus’ body was something that only financially well off people could do. Praise God for those who use their wealth for God’s kingdom purposes.
They took a risk that was nothing short of finding themselves nailed to a cross as one of Jesus’ followers. At the very least, they suffered a serious blow to their reputations among their friends and associates. Praise God for people who love Jesus enough to risk criticism and friendships for his sake.
I believe the people of God worldwide are going to be used by God to bring glory to his name. If you have been reading John’s Gospel, you know a common theme is the glory of God’s name. Remember, when we glorify God’s name, we are making known his loving and merciful character.
Here are some suggestions for how we can serve Jesus during this corona virus time and bring glory to his name. Please pray and ask God if he wants you to be involved with one of these, or something different. Some of these suggestions may stretch you. If they do, remember the example of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus.
— Contact Donna Mills and see how you can join her ministry of helping people.
— Contact Donnie Mote, Challene McGinnis, or Donna Mills and see if you can help bring mobile worship to a neighborhood when they do it again. If there is a neighborhood where you would like to engage in mobile worship, let them know that, too.
— Conduct an AA book-study in your backyard, following the rules of AA and the social distancing guidelines.
— Invite your family and/or friends to a Bible study in your backyard, following the social distancing guidelines.
— Retired people, like me, can add an hour to their daily prayer time. Ask the Holy Spirit how he wants you to pray and follow the Spirit’s direction.
— Give financially, so the ministry to Maywood people and the community may continue.
We all believe that the Holy Spirit is creative, given his nature. Ask our creative Spirit to give you instructions from heaven as to how you can be used during this corona virus pandemic. Then, follow through with his leadership.
Let’s see God expand his kingdom and bring glory to Jesus in a mighty way, during this time!
Dear Jesus, we thank you for people throughout the ages, who give us an example of service to you. We ask you to show us how we can best serve you and help people experience your love, grace, healing power, joy and so much more. Please give us the power to do what you call us to do.