Thinking about these two guys, Joseph and Nicodemus, who buried Jesus’ body.
I noticed them the other day when I was reading John’s account of the crucifixion – noticed them briefly on my way from Jesus dying on the cross to that “peace be with you” moment in the upper room. You don’t hear a lot about these guys – there’s a mention when one of them comes to have a quiet chat with Jesus one night and gets told some bewildering stuff about having to be born again of water and the spirit (it’s in John 3 if you want to look it up); there’s a bit where he tries to talk sense at the Sanhedrin but they shut him up pretty quickly; and there’s this bit in John 19 (and Mark 15) about the burial:
After this, Joseph of Arimathea, a disciple of Jesus (but secretly, because he feared the Jewish leaders), asked Pilate if he could remove the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission, so he went and took the body away. Nicodemus, the man who had previously come to Jesus at night, accompanied Joseph, carrying a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing about seventy-five pounds. (John 19:38-39)
I wonder what happened to these guys later. Did they get to see when Jesus came back from the dead? Did they get to share in the joy and excitement of the other disciples, seeing him walking and talking and eating with them, with the wounds in his hands and his feet and his side – this man whose body still bore the marks of his suffering and death, walking around and being so very much alive… Did they find out at all?
I was thinking about Joseph and Nicodemus and this old song came into my head: Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Joe and Nic were there to bury him, but were they there to see him raised from the dead? Were they there to see that death was not the end for this man, to see him living and breathing for forty days before his ascension to heaven?
Were they there at the ascension – this amazing event that is so hard to imagine, where this guy is standing and talking with his disciples and then suddenly, whoosh, he’s going up and disappearing in the clouds!
It’s so much easier for me, a couple of thousand years later, knowing the full story, having it written down, so when I read about the crucifixion I already know it’s not the end. I wasn’t there in person at any of these events but I have written accounts, thanks to people who were there. People who were there when he was nailed to the cross, people who were there when he breathed his last (for now) breath, people who were there watching to see where he was buried, people who came to the tomb after the Sabbath and found the stone rolled away and his body conspicuous by its absence… people who were there when he appeared to them and let them touch his body to see that he wasn’t a ghost… people who watched the risen Jesus eat with them… people who stood with their mouths open looking up to the sky because this guy they were just standing and talking with had just suddenly gone up there and they didn’t have hot air balloons or anything like that in those days.
After he had said this, while they were watching, he was lifted up and a cloud hid him from their sight. As they were still staring into the sky while he was going, suddenly two men in white clothing stood near them and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking up into the sky? This same Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will come back in the same way you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11)