Joe and Nick – mostly unknown, but certainly important on Good Friday
They weren’t part of Jesus’ band of apostles. They aren’t mentioned much in the Biblical story of Jesus. Nonetheless, they had a critical role in Jesus’ history. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were the men who buried Jesus. Warren Wiersbe, in his comments on Jesus’ death and burial (1), explains the situation this way:
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How did Joseph and Nicodemus know to prepare for His burial? What follows is only conjecture on my part, but, to me, it seems reasonable.
When Nicodemus first visited Jesus, he was impressed with His miracles and His teaching. After that interview, Nicodemus searched the Scriptures and asked God for guidance concerning the important spiritual matters he had talked about with Jesus.
At the critical council meeting recorded in John 7.45-53, Nicodemus boldly stood up and defended His Savior. His associates ridiculed him for thinking that a prophet could come out of Galilee. “Search and look” they said, and that is exactly what Nicodemus did. It is likely that Joseph quietly joined him and revealed the fact that he too was more and more convinced that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed Israel’s Messiah, the Son of God.
As Nicodemus and Joseph searched the Old Testament, they found the Messianic prophecies and discovered that many of them had been fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Certainly they would have seen Him as the Lamb of God and concluded that He would be sacrificed at Passover. Jesus had already told Nicodemus that He would be lifted up (John 3.14), and this meant crucifixion. Since the Passover lambs were slain about 3 pm, the two men could know almost the exact time when God’s Lamb would die on the cross. Surely they would have read Isaiah 53 and noticed verse 9, “And He made His grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death.” Jesus would be buried in a rich man’s tomb!
Joseph arranged to have the tomb hewn out, and the men assembled the clothes and spices needed for the burial. They may have been hiding in the tomb all during the 6 hours of our Lord’s agony on the cross. When they heard, “It is finished. Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” they went to work. They boldly identified with Jesus Christ at a time when He seemed like a failure and His cause hopelessly defeated.
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(1) The Bible Exposition Commentary, Volume 1, p. 386 (Wheaton, IL: Scripture Press, 1989)