I was in the garden working with Angie this morning and doing some thinking. She and I were physically separated but able to see each other. I started thinking about how well we work together as a team. We always seem to know what the other has weakness in and uplift each other where needed. What I am weak in she is strong. What she cannot do I can do. My mind went to a section in the Book of John that I read this week also.
The scripture was in John chapter nineteen. John is sometimes known for writing details that the other three Gospels don’t cover. God had four men to document the story of Jesus’ ministry. Each one covers details and when combined they produce a tapestry of truth. All four cover the crucifixion and burial just as John does here. Look at verse thirty. This is at the end and Jesus has finished His mission on Earth. Note that He bowed His head and gave up the ghost willingly. He decided that it was time to go. At that moment there was a change in the lives of those people who were left from Jesus’ ministry.
Think about it; Jesus had twelve close followers who had left their lives to follow a Man that they believed to be the long awaited Messiah. Besides these twelve there are also other men who were disciples. Remember, He sent out seventy disciples by twos into towns ahead of Him to prepare the people (Luke 10:1). Along side these men were women also who were followers of Christ. Of the closest twelve there were eleven who remained faithful after Judas’ betrayal. These men who had lived with Jesus for three years abandoned Him when He needed them most. In fear they fled and hid for their lives. When they saw the Roman soldiers carry Him before Pilate they did not dare speak out. Of all the people that Jesus touched in three years He did not have one soul that was brave enough to stand up for Him. The blind that had their eyes opened were not there. The dead raised were not there.
As Pilate held his trial there was no one there to defend Him. When He was convicted and placed on the cross the other Gospels name several women that were there but John states that the disciple that Jesus loved was also there (v26). These were no doubt waiting on a miracle and for Jesus to deliver Himself from the cross. Up until the end there was hope to be seen. Up until the end there was something to be gained. But it did not happen. Jesus gave up His life and all hope seemed to be lost. Now, enter the miracle.
At a time when nothing could be gained and all the closest men had run there stepped up two men who are barely known in scripture. While you have probably heard of them they are not known for great ministries, writings or for their contributions to the Gospel of Christ and yet, these two men stood taller than any other at this most needed time.
A man named Joseph of Arimathea was there at Jesus’ crucifixion. He was probably waiting to see the miracle that everyone else wanted; for Jesus to come down from the cross alive. When Jesus gave up His life there was no one to receive His body. Roman law allowed a family member to take Him but there was no family member there who asked. Verse thirty-eight says that Joseph was a secret disciple of Jesus’ because he feared the Jews. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Stop and think about that for a moment. This man who had been secret in his beliefs suddenly had the boldness to do something so openly shocking. There has to be a reason.
Enter his partner. In verse thirty-nine a man named Nicodemus came with him and the two of them stood in faith even though there was now no reason to believe. Jesus had been executed as a criminal. His family did not receive His body but these two men did. Why would they risk it all for something they had not earlier stood up for? I have a simple answer-because there were two. Both of these men were secret followers of Christ. Nicodemus came to Jesus at night to ask Him about salvation (John 3). He was a Pharisee. Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Supreme Court. Both were outnumbered when it came to believing in Jesus. However, together they could stand. Together they would not fail. John’s Gospel is the only one that records that Nicodemus was there also. These two men had probably stood at the cross and looked into the eyes of the One they had failed to stand up for; recounting the past and missed opportunities. Perhaps they asked God for strength now to make a final stand.
I can see them secretly confiding in each other as they both confess their guilt. When Jesus does finally die they know what to do. With a burst of passion Joseph went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. It is perhaps the greatest act of faith of any man. Ten minutes earlier and there was some hope that Jesus would have lived. After the resurrection there was definitely reason to believe. But here, in this three day period of unsurety there was nothing visible to be gained. Now, that’s faith!
There are other references in God’s Word that He works in two’s. When Moses sent the twelve spies into the Promised Land there were only two who kept a good report and believed that God would deliver it into their hands. In Numbers chapter thirteen we read that these men were sent as spies in the land to see the goodness God had promised. How often do we have God show us something that He intended to encourage us but we see it as an obstacle? All twelve men saw the same thing but only two believed they could take it. Note that God did not tell them to see if it could be taken. In verse two God said to search the land which “I give unto the children ofIsrael”. With allIsrael discouraged it would have been difficult to stand in contrast.
I listened to Dr. James Dobson many years ago talking about an experiment about standing alone. A math class was set up so that every person was told to call out the wrong answer on a problem. One child was kept in the dark about the experiment and was smart enough to know the answer. Over and over again the teacher pointed to the wrong answer and everyone said it was correct including the child who knew better. Then the same experiment was conducted and a second child was told to vote different than the class even though the rest of the class voted for the wrong answer. Again there was an unknowing student who would have known the answer. This time when the class voted on the wrong answer there were two who said it was incorrect. What is the lesson learned? When there is at least one who stands for truth there will always be a second who will stand with him.
When one person is brave enough to stand up against the wrongs of this world there is always someone else who wants to be brave and will stand with him. What does that mean to you and me? We are sometimes the person who feels like we are standing alone. Like Elijah we may pout that we are the only one who is faithful. Then God lets us know there are others who have not bowed. At other times we are like Nicodemus who followed Joseph’s lead. When Joseph went boldly to Pilate asking for the body of Jesus Nicodemus backed him up. He stepped in and took part of this act.
God has chosen us to work with someone. No one is alone. Jesus sent out the seventy by two’s. He didn’t expect them to do it alone and He doesn’t expect more out of you. Listen friends, if you don’t see your “help” right now don’t get discouraged. He or she will arrive shortly. Stand firm in what you know. Hold on to what you believe. God is faithful and will never leave you or forsake you.
Prayer-Father, help us all to see that You have not put us on the Earth alone. We have a great cloud of witnesses who are urging us press toward the mark. May we all be there for each other and uplift each other in prayer. If someone is reading this today and is discouraged I pray that you will send that friend by who can lift them up. May we all keep each other going until the race is won.
In Jesus’ Name—Amen!
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