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Do you sometimes feel you have failed to stand and be counted for Christ? Let this reading encourage you.

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Bible passage John 19:38–42

The Burial of Jesus

 38Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate's permission, he came and took the body away. 39He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. 40Taking Jesus' body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. 41At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. 42Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Audio Bible passage

The audio version of the passage is taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).

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Revealing your allegiance
A number of characters have passed before us, some bad, some well-intentioned but weak, some strong and faithful. Now two more: Joseph and Nicodemus. One is devoted but full of fear, and the other had been hesitant but is now eager to follow.

Until this point their discipleship has been secret, but now the death of Jesus draws them out of hiding. Did Nicodemus recall his night-time visit and the strange claim Jesus made about being lifted up (John 3:14,15)? And for Joseph, a prominent religious leader, it was an act of courage to ask the volatile Pilate for the body.

Different disciples
Both men were rich and 75 lb of spices was an amount only usually used in a royal burial (but then that is what it was!). There is a sense of tenderness as the men carefully wrap the body and lay it gently to rest in Joseph’s tomb.

The path of discipleship is never easy and sometimes, like Nicodemus and Joseph, we follow at a distance. We may wish we could act enthusiastically like Peter, or be intense like John, but Jesus loves us as we are. He will accept our offering of love given, it may seem, at the last moment and will renew our lives.


Will you resolve today to keep faithful to Jesus and be bolder, as opportunity offers, to declare your love?

David Bracewell

Deeper Bible study

‘He was assigned a grave with … the rich.’ (Isaiah 53:9)

We would love to know more. All that we know about Joseph of Arimathea is what we are told here and in the parallel passages in the other Gospels (Matthew 27:57–60; Mark 15:43–46; Luke 23:50–53). Piecing it together, we know that he was a good and righteous man, wealthy and a respected member of the Sanhedrin, which was a judicial council made up of leading citizens, including the chief priests, elders and scribes, and presided over by the high priest. They were responsible for keeping public order and answerable to the Romans. Actually, many in the Sanhedrin believed in Jesus but were afraid to come out in the open, because the Pharisees had threatened that any disciple of Jesus would be put out of the synagogue (John 12:42,43). Joseph was one such secret believer and had not gone along with the decision of the council to condemn Jesus.

When all the disciples had fled, Joseph plucked up his courage. We are surprised and delighted that Nicodemus (whose inconclusive encounter with Jesus we read of in chapter 3) joins him, with a phenomenal quantity of spices. Two wealthy men prepare Jesus for burial – a task which was normally performed by women.

Presumably they had watched Jesus die. Maybe, just maybe, they now understood how in his death Jesus glorified God and they chose his glory over the glory of their status in Jewish society (compare John 12:40–43). Maybe Nicodemus now understood what Jesus had meant when he talked about being ‘lifted up’ (John 3:14). What would they have made of the discovery of the empty tomb, of the proclamation made by the disciples that Jesus was alive? Were they among the 120 disciples gathered together in Acts 1:15? At Pentecost in Acts 2? We are not told, but it seems likely.

Annabel Robinson

Bible background: Meet Joseph of Arimathea

● Joseph is remembered as the one who provided a tomb for Jesus. Before this he is unknown.

● He came from the town of Arimathea. We don’t know where this was although it may well be identified with the Old Testament Ramah or Ramathaim-zophim. If so it was about 22 miles (35 km) north-east of Jerusalem.

● He was a wealthy man (Matthew 27:57–60), with his own tomb. This is described as new, probably meaning that it had only just been carved out of the rock. In addition to the tomb he also provided the linen for the burial.

● As a member of the Jewish governing council, the Sanhedrin (Luke 23:50), he was a man of considerable standing within the community.

● He is described as a good and righteous man (Luke 23:50), who was looking for the kingdom. Luke adds that he had no part in the decision to condemn Jesus.

● Matthew tells us that he was a disciple (Matthew 27:57) and John reveals that he kept this secret (John 19:38). Fear of others prevented him following openly because of the opposition to Jesus. To be open would have involved considerable risk.

● The death of Jesus moved him to action, asking for the body (John 19:38) and arranging the initial speedy burial, there being insufficient time for all the usual preparations to the body making the further visit by the women necessary (Mark 16:1; Luke 24:1).

● Stories about Joseph, Glastonbury and the Holy Grail have no basis in history and are late legends.

John Grayston

Bible in a year

Read the Bible in a year.

Judges 11,12

Psalms 42,43


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  • Rachael Hampton | Friday, 14 April 2017

    Thank you for your helpful comments GILVIN, ANTHONY, BARBARA. Face to face with Jesus on the cross. Yes, much more confronting than seeing Him at a distance lifted high up. How pertinent and moving to think that as He said 'It is finished' the Passover lambs were being slain, and the shofar was blown. Was it echoed by trumpets sounding a triumphant blast in Heaven? The Messiah - Worthy is the Lamb that was Slain.

  • Rachael Hampton | Friday, 14 April 2017

    Praying for you ANDREA in your grief and anger. Praying for all, whether alone or busy with visitors or crowds. GILVIN, I am remembering Susannah Wesley, who in the midst of her crowd of children - 9 I think, would put her apron over her head to indicate that she was praying, and not to be disturbed. May we be as courageously open about our faith as Joseph of Arimathea and Mrs Wesley, and as determined to seek His face and serve Him whatever our day holds.

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Saturday, 15 April 2017

    RACHAEL I managed precious half hour or more alone in local church yesterday afternoon. Thank you for your daily reflections.

  • Angela Munday | Saturday, 15 April 2017

    "Jesus loves us as we are" (Explore). Joseph, a secret believer, was being prepared by God to care for Jesus after His death; he lovingly provided an earthly tomb. I thank you God, that You have a work for each one of us to do in Your name; may I willingly and lovingly serve others. Be among Your people as we pray for peace in this troubled world. Amen.

  • Thelma Edwards | Saturday, 15 April 2017

    HILARY, thank you for remembering me. Yes, it's going well. We have had 370 visitors to the welcome boat since last Saturday, many lovely comments in the visitor book, and loads of happy families doing our trail and some doing the craft activities. I managed to take some time off on Thursday when one of my experienced volunteers from last year took a new volunteer under their wing and my husband has been very supportive too. My early morning visit to Word Live has kept me grounded in the Easter story and given me things to meditate on during the day and I have attended the early services at church before going on duty. I feel a little tired but as soon as the visitors arrive I come alive again, and can sometimes sit quietly with the children and their craft activities while another volunteer talks to the adults. Today I am on my own so this could be more of a challenge if it is as busy as yesterday. I am thankful for the Lord's health and strength and this is proving to be a very different Easter. I have my Palm Sunday cross with me on the boat which often helps to refocus me during the day.

  • Thelma Edwards | Saturday, 15 April 2017

    Today's picture has emphasised for me that Jesus was fully human. Of course I knew that and also the pain and agony of the dying, but over the years the knowledge too that I know he was raised from the dead can overwhelm the 'Jesus was really dead' truth. Today, the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday I think of the pain, the grief, and Yes ANDREA, the anger of those who loved Him as they go through the loss of their constant companion of the last three years. Somehow,the oicture

  • Adam Julians | Saturday, 15 April 2017

    It is interesting how sometimes the comments from previous days line up with scripture and the daily commentary. Today David Breacewll writes "the path of discipleship is never easy." Yesterday Roger wrote of false witness and lies of the devil of "I must say that it is very difficult to " push back" against ." The opening question today is about being equipped for and facing the challenge to "stand and be counted for Christ." Yesterday I wrote that "to resist the devil is to be tough in the face of his adversity and to push back in the power of the Spirit." Here today we see Joseph and Nicodemus showing such courage and facing adversity in order to give Jesus what equates to a royal burying with the amount of spices being used. Nicodemus, you will remember from John 3 who was a Pharisee that Jesus taught about being born of the Spirit. Facing fear (which is courage) and placing Jesus above feelings (prefect love casts out fear). Men who took the courage to make a stand and do what was difficult where they could have acted like others abandoning Jesus or mistreating him when things got tough. Complaints that I often hear from women today is about men being wimps. But then for men to step up and take courage comes with the risk of false accusation and mistreatment of other forms. So it will be the few that take a stand and the many which will take the easier option of following the crowd. There's nothing new under the sun.

  • Thelma Edwards | Saturday, 15 April 2017

    Sorry , my iPad froze and I couldn't complete my sentence which should read 'Somehow, the picture of Jesus being taken down from the cross so lovingly has really spoken to me of the reality of this both in terms of Jesus really being dead, and the huge feeling of loss his friends must have felt just like we go through when someone dear to us dies. Grief is a process and there are many emotions attached to it and maybe the deeper the love, the deeper the grief is felt. Joseph and Nicodemus were able to channel their love and grief into doing something practical. I wonder what the women were doing and feeling on this day, maybe be frustrated that they had to wait until the next day before they could play their part?

  • Thelma Edwards | Saturday, 15 April 2017

    Jesus dragged a heavy cross on His shoulders to Calvary. Lord, please expose the 'chips on my shoulder' that I may be unconsciously carrying with me through my life where life experiences chafe and surface at times, bringing responses that challenge if I am truly born again and free from my past. These chips can so often be like the prickles on a hedgehog who, when threatened, rolls up in a ball to protect himself and present a kind of false armour. This is not the freedom You suffered and died for.

  • Adam Julians | Saturday, 15 April 2017

    Thelma that's an interesting point about a false armour as opposed to the armour of God. Something I com across frequently (and I am trying here to be sensitive) is this kind of thing. We have had the culture of the macho man and thankfully this is dying out . However I will touch on this as delicately as I can and talk of the culture of the strong woman. Now just so anyone doesn't wrongly take this to be anti - woman I will express clearly that what I writ here is not to be critical of women but to be critical of the culture. The pressure to appear to be strong in a worldly sense. As I write, a colleague of mind at work has been falsely accused of abuse by a woman who said she "felt threatened." Thankfully for him, other women have been supportive but he has been put through hell by one woman and a system that has presumed him guilty and being thrown off a course without any recourse. So I have a couple of questions. How do you think as men, we can help you when you experience "chips" and "prickles" and to what degree are you willing to take responsibility for your feelings, accept challenge and support honourable and decent men when facing difficulty when both empathising with you and taking the courage to address the kind of issue you talk about?

  • Philippa Linton | Saturday, 15 April 2017

    Holy Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath- the day of resting, the day of waiting. Earth grieves, heaven holds its breath as the Son of God lies dead in the tomb. I'm in awe at God's timing in this! One of the books for Lent I've been reading, David Runcorn's Dust & Glory, says that if we contemplate our own mortality- imagine our own dead body in the tomb - that is where Jesus meets us. He has been there before us, He has defeated dearh and smashed its power, and He will take us through the gate of death and out the other side, to glorious new life. May we all be strengthened and comforted by His Spirit on this holy, powerful day.

  • Hilary Dale | Saturday, 15 April 2017

    Thelma, I will be praying for you and especially tomorrow, that you will have God moments to really be Jesus Alive to all those visitors, it will feel weird talking more about boats and locks than the Lord, but I feel sure that God will/is using you there, even if you never quite realise how! May you be reminded of His love for you every time you look at your palm cross, and may you be a channel of His love to others!

  • Jenny Tait | Saturday, 15 April 2017

    Thanks for that brave and interesting question Adam. I shall try to be equally brave and honest in my reply. It's so easy for such things to be minterpreted. We face similar issues in South Africa with racism, when words or actions that we do not intend as racist, are heard as being racist. I have learned that the way to deal with this is to very honestly and respectfully acknowledge the years of pain and oppression behind the 'misinterpretation ' by the hearer. Then to drop attempts to be defensive and not spend time explaining why as a white person ( or in your case as a man) I did not mean to offend. Instead I need to openly and caringly apologize and listen to the feelings and in humility ask 'Please help me to understand. What was it that I said /did that made my attitude seem racist, and how can I interact with honesty and in a way that you will feel as non racist...which is my intent'. It does not help to be defensive and try to justify one's own words. I think this applies to issues between men and women as well. What do you think?

  • Roger Hall | Saturday, 15 April 2017

    A thought occurs to me, that we may have met Joseph of Aramathea before! Was he the rich young ruler who turned sadly away because he had many possessions? Our Lord Jesus would never give up, and I like to think that, in their first encounter, which is recorded, was followed up as Joseph making his way in the world, may stop and think that maybe Jesus was right? Don't we all have doubts?

  • Marilyn Wadsworth | Saturday, 15 April 2017

    Rachael, thanks for your reference to Susannah Wesley. She actually had 19 children in total, though lost 9 of them as infants. What an amazing woman of faith she was!

  • Stephen Nicholls | Saturday, 15 April 2017

    Rachael - Susanna Wesley apparently had 19 children - and was the 25th of 25 children! Very interesting history at Easter blessings to you - and all our readers - from East Anglia [UK].

  • Adam Julians | Saturday, 15 April 2017

    Jenny, thank you for your response and your endeavour to be brave and honest. I hear what you say about your actions being heard as racist and what you say about acknowledging pain and oppression, apologise, listen to feelings and ask for help with understanding as to how you might interact in a way that someone will not feel is racist. Yes I think you are right about it not helping to be defensive and this applying to men and women as well. If both parties are mutually submitting I can see what you suggest working well. But that "if" is a little word with a big assumption. We are at war with this. And the approach favour is as a happy soldier. With the joy of the Lord being your strength and the armour being salvation, righteousness, truth, Spirit, and the readiness to announce the good news of Jesus. This idea of a kind word turning away wrath and treading other with kindness and respect and in the love of God being tough on the issue whether it be racism, sexism, or any other ism. The problem I have is in this culture of "equality" what we find is that it has gone beyond equality to cultural Marxism. So we have a victim culture where the oppressor is anyone who is white, mail, heterosexual and / or protestant, with presumed guilt. So it is not an even playing field. If my colleague would have done as you suggest, the out come for him would still have been the same. He was prepared to aplogise and work things through. But just as we have been reading about with Jesus at the Sanhedrin there was a form of a kangaroo court. He was the victim and the women who claimed she felt threatened was the oppressor. And I suspect you will find similar in the kind of situation you face. So rather than there being a mutual submission we are into an environment akin to there being a bully and someone being bullied. And as well all know placating a bully only leads to more bullying. The only way to stop bullying is to match the energy and push back with a minimum amount of force to achieve the objective of the bullying ceasing. My weapons of choice in this are humour and assertiveness. And we are given the biblical precedent of if not being welcomed, to give a warning and then testify against those not welcoming by shaking dust of sandals. Does that make sense? Thank you for your thoughtful and compassionate response.

  • Rosemary Fairweather | Saturday, 15 April 2017

    Yesterday I had the unexpected joy of discovering a beautiful little country 12th century church open whilst strolling across fields on an walk. I spent time there in the peace and silence meditating on the enormity of Jesus sacrifice whilst looking up at the stained glass window of Him on the cross. My prayers go out to you Andrea. Grief, anger, injustice and confusion must have also been what Jesus followers were feeling. It struck me that when Joseph and Nicodemus took Jesus body and wrapped it hastily but lovingly with linen and prepared oils, it would have brought home the reality that he was indeed dead. Imagine their wonder at the resurrection. I wish we had more information on these two.

  • Derek Forster | Saturday, 15 April 2017

    Low in the grave He lay, Jesus, my Savior! Waiting the coming day, Jesus, my Lord! Vainly they watch His bed, Jesu, my Savior! Vainly they seal the dead, Jesus my Lord!

  • Rachael Hampton | Saturday, 15 April 2017

    Thank you Marilyn and Stephen. Hadn't checked on Susannah Wesley's children, but I knew it was a lot, what an inspirational woman of God. Thanks for the article Stephen.

  • Peter Oliver | Saturday, 15 April 2017

    Yes Roger you could be right.Their is much we don't know ,but praise GOD the LORD JESUS died for our sins so that we may be saved.

  • David Chipchase | Saturday, 15 April 2017

    ANDREA, please forgive me if my comment to you a couple of days ago caused you additional grief. Be assured of my prayerful support.

  • Andrea Harris | Saturday, 15 April 2017

    Thankyou everyone for your support, kindness and prayers. DAVID, I hadn't actually seen your comment from the other day as I had missed a few days but having read it now, I would certainly not have been upset by it. I am very grateful that you had remembered my dad and me. Thankyou

  • Barbara Sabin | Saturday, 15 April 2017

    I have been reading On Calvary's Hill Max Lucado's book with readings for Easter Today has been Day33 Jesus' Burial. Max gives the account of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus preparing Jesus' body for burial Roman Guards sealing the tomb and standing guard over the corpse. But the third day arrives and the light comes Jesus is the light and with the light came life. Decay is reversed Heaven blows and Jesus breathes, his chest expands, his lips open, his fingers move his heart valves swish and his joints bend. Try to imagine this moment. Life re entered Jesus body We stand in awe and worship. Son of God, Son of Man. Word of God incarnate; Suffering Saviour, Glorious risen Lord. For God so loved the world, He gave His only Son, No more we walk in darkness the light has come. King of kings, Lord of lords, Son of God exalted; Name above every name, Lamb upon the throne. This King will come again, the Father's only Son; No more a world in darkness, the light will come.

  • Adam Julians | Saturday, 15 April 2017

    Barbara Amen.

  • Lynda Spencer | Saturday, 15 April 2017

    On the eve of Easter Sunday I am very aware that tomorrow there will be many people in church who are not normal churchgoers, and many churches holding special outreach services. My church is holding an Easter Day Family Service with an egg hunt for children. There are several people who have said they will come. As I pray for them, I will also be praying for all the Word Live family, whatever your Easter Day will hold, that the Lord will bless and use each one of us for His glory as we share the Good News that Jesus is alive!

  • Shona McLennan | Saturday, 15 April 2017

    What would have happened to Jesus' body if Joseph hadn't given his tomb? His action went beyond the simple mark of respect that Joseph may have intended - it provided the setting for the resurrection, a setting which helped make it clear that the resurrection had taken place.

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