And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews…
I. WHY MANY BELIEVERS PREFER SECRET ATTACHMENT TO OPEN DISCIPLESHIP. Possibly it is —
1. The stringency of His requirements.
2. Shame at association with one of so lowly an origin, or so radical a reformer. Joseph would feel the force of these difficulties.
3. Fear of —
(1) Being accounted presumptuous for attempting to lead instead of to follow.
(2) Being accounted righteous overmuch.
(3) Not being able to maintain consistency. They cannot trust God's grace to keep them from bringing disgrace on the Church.
4. Because of wrong ideas about Christianity.
5. Because of the inconsistency of professors.
6. Because they do not see the need of open discipleship.
7. Because there is no fervency of love to Christ.
II. HOW FAR CHRIST RECOGNIZES SECRET DISCIPLESHIP. Let us see if we find any hint in the affirmative.
1. In the subsequent history of Joseph. We know little about him except that he gave to Christ, "who had had the death of a malefactor, the burial of a king;" but in this he seems to have had no hope in the Resurrection. No mention is made of Christ's appearance to Joseph. If the tradition that he founded Glastonbury Abbey be credited, it only shows that he had shaken off his secret discipleship. Had his secret discipleship been intentional to help Christ as Hushai helped David, or Blonde de Nesle Coeur de Lion, there might possibly be some hope of recognition. But it is an absurd idea that Christ wishes us to appear worldly, and hide our religion, to advance his course.
2. There is no suggestion of the recognition of secret discipleship in any of Christ's utterances. He claims open attachment — "Follow Me," "Whosoever shall be ashamed of Me," &c.
3. In the nature of things it is improbable that Christ should recognize it. Suppose Christianity is weak. we ought to side with it because it is right. Sympathy with, and appreciation of, Christ demand it.
Parallel VersesKJV: And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.
WEB: After these things, Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked of Pilate that he might take away Jesus' body. Pilate gave him permission. He came therefore and took away his body.