38 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.
In the next verses we find two prominent and wealthy members of the Sanhedrin who previously became followers of Jesus and now wanted to do something for their Lord.
38 After this,
The Romans normally left the dead body on the cross for birds and beasts to eat. This became an issue for a couple of Christ’s followers.
Joseph of Arimathea,
Joseph was a rich person (Mt 27:57). He was a member of the Sanhedrin, the influential Jewish council (Mk 15:43). He was a “good and upright man” (Lu 23:50). He did not consent to condemning Jesus (Lu 23:51). Arimathea was about 20 miles northwest of Jerusalem.
being a disciple of Jesus,
Joseph as a “disciple” of Jesus waited for the kingdom (Mk 15:43; Mt 27:57).
but secretly, for fear of the Jews [Jewish authorities],
Joseph was a secret believer up to this point in his life. He summed up the courage to ask Pilate for the body of Jesus (Mk 15:43). This act would also confirm Joseph as a disciple of Christ to the Sanhedrin.
asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission.
Joseph as a ranking citizen of Jerusalem asked permission from Pilate to bury the body of Jesus. Pilate was surprised that Jesus was already dead (Mk 15:44). He asked the centurion in charge whether it was true. Jesus’ death was confirmed by the soldier.
So he came and took the body of Jesus.
By taking the body of Jesus for burial, Joseph could remain a secret disciple no longer.
Fear of what others may think is the main reason people fail to share Christ.
Two men who lacked the courage of their conviction while Jesus was alive came forward to honor Him at His burial. These men harked back on what might have been or what they could have done with their lives (Zech 12:10). Jesus never called for secret disciples.
Fear of ridicule is at the heart of not witnessing for our Lord. It is an issue of pride or vanity (Jn 12:43). Both Joseph and Nicodemus held status in their society. They were both wealthy. They had human reasons to not tell others of their faith. Certain men take courage at times of crisis. They were timid until duress came into their lives and dissidence changed their core values (Mt 10:32-33).