Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

African-American spiritual

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After this Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate if he could take away the body of Jesus. Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one because he feared the Jewish authorities. Pilate gave him permission, so he came and took the body away. Nicodemus, the one who at first had come to Jesus at night, was there too. He brought a mixture of myrrh and aloe, nearly seventy-five pounds in all. Following Jewish burial customs, they took Jesus’ body and wrapped it, with the spices, in linen cloths. There was a garden in the place where Jesus was crucified, and in the garden was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish Preparation Day and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus in it.

John 19:38-42

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On Holy Saturday we remember Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. Once Jesus has taken his last breath, these two arrive on the scene. We have never seen Joseph before, but the first time we met Nicodemus he came to Jesus by night (John 3:1-17). Now he is back with Joseph, who the Gospel describes as a “secret disciple.” What is their mission? They want to bury Jesus. They offer to remove his body, place it in a tomb, and seal it shut.

When I was a college student, one of my teachers told me that Joseph and Nicodemus do exactly what we expect from secret disciples. They make no public confession of faith in him. They do not stand with him when times are difficult. They do not risk rejection for the sake of Jesus’ name or mission. They just show up in the darkness and bury Jesus quietly.

Here’s the problem. Following Jesus isn’t a secret to keep. It is a life we live in public. It is not about burying Jesus. It is about living boldly for him. How will we do so?

Paul Baxley

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Lord Jesus, forgive me for the times I have tried to follow you in secret. Set me free from fear that holds me back, let your resurrection power work on me, in me, and through me so I can live for you more boldly. Amen.

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Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.

Isaac Watts in “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” (1707)

Paul Baxley

Paul Baxley is the executive coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

Sunshine on My Face

John Morton

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