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The Secret Disciple

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MATTHEW 27:57-61


1.        Jesus & The Cross

a.        The Position

Christ Jesus the High Priest is the mediator: “by how much he is the mediator…” [8:6].

§         μεσίτης - “mediator” [8:6], ‘arbitrator, reconciler’; ‘the one in the middle who performs the function of a mesoj; ‘between contestants or parties’;

§         The “mediator” steps into the gap between two parties, but the “guarantor” stakes his person and his life on his word.

b.        The Possession

i.        Cup-Bearer

Christ Jesus is the cup-bearer: “O my Father, let this cup pass from me…” [26:39].

§         τὸ ποτήριον τοῦτο - “this cup” [26:39], ‘drinking vessel’; the ‘cup of suffering’.

§         A metaphor for the suffering and death that he was soon to face: “the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation…” [Rev.14:10].

ii.      Sin-Bearer

Christ Jesus was the sin-bearer: “who his own self bear our sins in his own body…” [1Pet.2:24].

§         The Sin-bearer: “the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” [Isa.53:6].

c.        The Identity

Christ Jesus takes on a new identity when he carries the sins of the world: 

§         Identified with our sin: “he who knew no sin was made sin for us…” [1Cor.5:21].

§         The object of God’s curse: “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law having been made a curse for us…” [Gal.3:13].

d.        The Conclusion

The final cry: “Father, into your hands…” [Luk.23:46].

§         φωνήσας - “cried” [23:46], aorist active participle, ‘to call out, cry out’;

§         φωνῇ μεγάλῃ - “loud voice” [23:46],

i.        The Intimate Relationship

The intimate relationship restored: “Father, into your hands…” [23:46].

§         πάτερ - “Father” [23:46], ‘male parent, ancestor’; “His father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him” [15:20].

§         παρατίθεμαι - “commend” [23:46], present middle indicative, from pará, ‘near or unto’, and títhēmi, ‘to put’; ‘to put or place near someone’; ‘to entrust to’; ‘to set before’; commercially, ‘to give something to someone for safe-keeping’: “to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more” [12:48].


Would anyone have the faith to recognise the temporary nature of the abandonment?

2.        The Burial

a.        The Word of Prophecy 

The intention of the Servant’s enemies: “he made his grave with the wicked…” [Isa.53:9].

§         יִּתֵּ֤ן  - “made” [53:9], qal imperfect, ‘to give’; ‘to place’; ‘to appoint’;

§         קִבְרֹ֔ו  - “his grave” [53:9], ‘to bury’; ‘to be buried’;  

§         The situation at Calvary: “the thieves also which were crucified with him…” [27:44].

b.        The Wicked

i.        The Description

The description: “with the wicked…” [53:9].

§         רְשָׁעִים - “wicked” [53:9], ‘covenant-breakers’;

§         Criminals: “there were also two others, malefactors, led with him…” [Lk.23:32].  >>>> “numbered with transgressors…” [53:12].

ii.      The Law & Burial  

According to the requirements of the Law, Jesus could not be left on the cross overnight: “if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be put to death, and you shall hang him on a tree: his body shall remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; for he that is hanged is accursed of God) that thy land be not defiled, which the Lord thy God gives you for an inheritance” [Deu.21:23].

§         To be refused burial is a fate understood as a divine curse: “all these curses shall come upon thee…thy carcase shall be meat unto all the fouls of the air” [Deu.28:26].

§         The curse of the wicked: “he will give them that are wicked to the sword…they shall not be lamented, neither gathered, nor buried…” [Jer.25:31].

§         Common burial place: “cast his dead body into the graves of the common people” [Jer.26:23].

iii.    The Family Burial

The practice of honourable burials: “Jacob requested…bury me with my fathers…” [Gen.49:29].

§         Executed criminals were denied burial in their family tombs: “in as much as you have disobeyed the mouth of the Lord…thy carcass shall not come into the sepulcher of thy fathers” [1Kgs.13:21-22; Jer.26:23].

3.        The Evening of the Sabbath

The burial had to be completed by sunset: “because it was the preparation…” [Mar.15:42].

§         ἦλθεν - “came” [27:57], aorist active indicative, ‘to come, go’; ‘to move toward or up to’;

§         Ὀψίας - “even” [27:57], ‘late’; ‘after 3.00pm’;

§         The bodies could not be left into the Sabbath: “the day before the Sabbath…” [Mar.15:42].


The Jews took very seriously the importance of a burial.

§         The Jews never refused to bury any executed criminal, but instead of allowing the bodies of sinners to be placed in family tombs, where they might desecrate those already buried, they provided a burial site for criminals just outside the city.

§         Under Roman law, the bodies of those crucified for sedition were left to the vultures, the culminating indignity of shame.


1.        The Sanhedrin 

Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin: “there was a man named Joseph, a counsellor…” [Luk.23:50].

§         βουλευτὴς - “counsellor” [23:50], ‘member of the counsel of the Jews, the Sanhedrin’;

a.        The Death of Jesus 

The Sanhedrin was closely involved in the death of Jesus:

§         The arrest: “they that had laid hold of Jesus led him away to Caiaphas…” [26:57].

§         The false accusation: “the chief priest, and elders, and all the council sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death” [26:59].

§         The decision: “when the morning was come all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death…” [27:1].

2.        The Disciple  

a.        The Rich Man

Joseph was a rich man: “there came a rich man of Arimathea…” [27:57].

§         Ἁριμαθαίας - “Arimathea” [27:57], ‘city near Jerusalem?’;

§         πλούσιος - “rich” [27:57], ‘wealthy’;

i.        Jesus & Riches

As both a rich man and a disciple, Joseph is a unique person in Matthew’s narrative:

§         Jesus’ teaching: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” [19:23-24]. 

§         An example of God’s power to do seemingly impossible things: “with men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible” [19:26].

ii.      Resourceful

The rock-hewn tomb is likely to have fitted the socio-economic standing of Joseph:

§         Shebna was the leader of the pro-Egyptian faction in Jerusalem: “Thus says the Lord God of hosts, Go, get thee unto the treasurer, even unto Shebna, which is over the house…” [Isa.22:15].

§          A “tomb cut out of the rock” [27:60] would have been particularly expensive: “what hast thou here? And whom hast thou here, that thou hast hewed thee out a sepulchre here…” [Isa.22:15-16]. …

§         Matthew probably has the words of Isaiah in his mind: “he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death” [Isa.53:9];

b.        The Disciple

Joseph was a disciple of Jesus: “who also himself was a disciple of Jesus” [27:57].

§         ἐμαθητεύθη - “disciple” [27:57], aorist passive indicative, ‘to become a pupil’; ‘a follower’; ‘one discipled by Jesus’;

§         There is thus no μαθητής without a διδάσκαλος; the process involves a corresponding personal relation’;

c.        A Man of the Kingdom  

i.        A Righteous Man

Joseph was a righteous man: “there was a man named Joseph, a counsellor…” [23:50].

§         βουλευτὴς - “counsellor” [23:50], ‘member of the counsel of the Jews, the Sanhedrin’;

§         ὑπάρχων - “was” [23:50], present active participle, ‘to begin’; ‘to be ready or be at hand’;

§         ἀνὴρ ἀγαθὸς - “good man” [23:50], ‘moral qualities in general’;

§         δίκαιος - “just” [23:50], ‘upright’; ‘living according to God’s standards’;

d.        The Alignment

Joseph was aligned with other prominent people in Luke’s gospel:

who also himself waited for the kingdom of God” [23:51].

§         προσεδέχετο - “waited” [23:51], imperfect, middle or passive, indicative, ‘from prós, ‘unto or for’, and déchomai, ‘to receive or accept’; ‘to receive, welcome’; ‘to wait for’;

§         τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ - “kingdom of God” [23:51], ‘area ruled by a king’;

i.        The Alignment

This links Joseph with the piety of Simeon and Anna:

§         Simeon: “there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel…” [2:25];

§         Anna: “she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem…” [2:38];


An incongruity: Joseph was a member of the counsel that rejected Jesus and handed him over to Pilate, led the riotous call for Jesus’ execution, and mocked him on the cross.

§         As a member of the Sanhedrin Joseph would have been well apprised of Jesus’ fate.

§         He is a figure not unlike the scribe who Jesus declared to be: “not far from the kingdom of God” [Mar.12:28]. 

3.        Active Discipleship?   

a.        The Secret Disciple

i.        The Cryptic Disciple

According to John, Joseph was a secret disciple: “secretly for fear of the Jews…” [19:38].

§         κεκρυμμένος - “secretly” [19:38], perfect passive participle, from krúptō ‘to hide, conceal’; in the middle/passive ‘to hide oneself, to be hidden’; ‘to protect’; ‘to hide, make invisible’;

§         The evasive Jesus: “Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple…” [8:59].

ii.      The Cowardly Disciple

Joseph was a secret disciple because of his fear: “for fear of the Jews…” [19:38].

§         φόβον - “fear” [19:38], ‘dread, terror’;

§         Ἰουδαίων - “Jews” [19:38], ‘reference to the Jewish authorities’;

b.        The Abstention

The involvement of the secret disciple: “the same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them…” [23:51].

§         ἦν – “was” [23:51], imperfect active, ‘to be’;

§         οὐκ ἦν συγκατατεθειμένος - “not consented” [23:51], perfect middle or passive participle, ‘to deposit together’; ‘to agree with’; ‘to put down the same vote’;

§         βουλῇ - “counsel” [23:51], ‘plan, decision’;

§         πράξει - “deed” [23:51], ‘deed, practice’;

4.        The Inactive Discipleship

a.        The Faith

i.        A Real Faith

The faith of some of the leaders: “nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him …” [Joh.12:42].

§         ἀρχόντων - “chief rulers” [12:42], ‘leader’; “There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews…” [3:1];

§         ἐπίστευσαν - “believed” [12:42], aorist indicative active, ‘to trust’; ‘to think to be true’;

ii.      A Paralysed Profession 

Their faith was an unspoken faith: “but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him…” [Joh.12:42].

§         οὐχ ὡμολόγουν - “confess” [12:42], from homoú, ‘together with’, and légō, ‘to say’; ‘to assent, consent, admit’;

§         διὰ - “because” [12:42], ‘on account of’;

§         Φαρισαίους – “Pharisees” [12:42], “There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus…” [3:1];

b.        The Root Cause

i.        The Exclusion

Exclusion from the communion: “lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” [Joh.12:42-43].

§         ἀποσυνάγωγοι - “put out synagogue” [12:42], from apó, ‘from’, and sunagōgé̄, ‘synagogue’; ‘separated from the synagogue’; ‘expelled from congregation’; ‘excommunicated’;

§         γένωνται – ‘to come into being’;

ii.      The Glory  

The importance of the opinion of men: “they loved the praise of men…” [Joh.12:43].

§         ἠγάπησαν - “loved” [12:43], aorist active indicative, ‘spontaneous feeling that involves self-giving in a relationship’;

§         δόξαν - “praise” [12:43], ‘opinion, honour, praise’;

§         ἤπερ – “more” [12:43], ‘emphatic marker of comparison’;


Even with their belief in Jesus they remained in the wrong camp…


1.        The Death of Jesus

The reversal, the turning point, came into effect when Jesus died.

a.        The Turning Point

This was prophesied by Jesus: “I, when I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me” [Joh.12:32].

§         ὑψωθῶ - “lifted up” [12:32], aorist passive, ‘to raise, elevate’;

§         ἐκ τῆς γῆς - “from the earth” [12:32], ‘motion away from’;

§         ἑλκύσω - “draw” [12:32], future active, ‘to pull in’; ‘to draw towards without necessarily the notion of force’;

b.        The Events

The word of prophecy: “these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled…” [Joh.19:36].

§         The bones of Jesus: “a bone of him shall not be broken…” [19:36].

§         The side of Jesus: “they shall look on him whom they pierced” [19:37].

i.        The Object of Faith

The words point to a reversal in the attitude of all Israel: “they shall look on him whom they have pierced…” [Zec.12:10].

§         ὄψονται - “look” [19:36], ‘to see’; ‘to pay attention to’; ‘to understand as the result of perception’;

§         ἐξεκέντησαν - “pierced” [19:36], aorist active indicative, from ek, ‘out’, or an intensive, and kentéō, ‘to sting, stab, prick, pierce’; ‘to dig out, pierce’; used transitively, meaning ‘to pierce through’;

§         That at this stage Joseph and Nicodemus came forward as such – as representatives of true Israel – illustrates the nature of this reversal all the more strikingly…

§         The report, and perhaps also the sight, of Jesus’ death give Joseph the courage he lacked earlier to stand up for Jesus as a disciple…


It was the death of Jesus that affected Joseph and brought his faith to the fore.

§         The rest of the disciples: “then all the disciples forsook him” [26:56].

§         The centurion’s confession: “Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man” [23:47];

2.        The Action of Faith

Since Jesus was crucified it was necessary to get permission from the Romans before access to the body of Jesus would be permitted.

a.        The Request

Joseph’s position enabled him to go straight to the top: “he went to Pilate and begged the body of Jesus…” [27:58].

§         προσελθὼν - “went” [27:57], aorist active participle, ‘to approach, draw near’;

§         Πιλάτῳ - “Pilate” [27:57], ‘governor of Judea 26-36 AD’;

§         ᾐτήσατο - “begged” [27:57], aorist middle indicative, ‘ask for, request, demand’;

§         The request was granted by Pilate: “commanded that the body be delivered” [27:58].

b.        The Burial

Anxious to preserve the body of Jesus from the dishonor of a common grave, he went to Pilate

i.        The Cross

We presume that Joseph took the body down from the cross: “when Joseph had taken the body…” [27:59].

§         λαβὼν - “took” [27:59], aorist active participle, ‘to take hold of’; ‘to obtain possession of’;

ii.      The Preparation

The preparation: “wrapped it in a clean linen cloth…” [27:57].

§         ὀθόνια - “linen clothes” [Joh.20:6], ‘strips of linen’; ‘bandages’; ‘served to keep the hands and feet of the body together’; “Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury” [19:40];

§         σουδάριον - “napkin” [Joh.20:7], ‘head-cloth for the dead’; ‘piece of cloth used as a burial cloth over the face’; ‘served to hold the head in the desired position’; “his face was bound about with a napkin…” [11:44].

iii.    The Burial

The burial: “laid it in his own new tomb…” [27:57].

§         That Joseph put Jesus into the tomb is a tribute to his deep attachment to Jesus: “the prophet took the carcass of the man of God and laid it upon an ass…and he laid his carcass in his own grave; and they mourned over him, saying, Alas, my brother” [1Kgs.13:29-30].

§         It was the custom to bury in tombs carved out of rock, at least where this could be afforded, and to roll a huge stone in front of the opening to seal the tomb.


Jesus, crucified as a criminal and from a Jewish point of view cursed by God, is nevertheless given an honourable burial.

§         Joseph of Arimathea, otherwise unknown to us, by his act of love provides the venue for the first experience of the news of the resurrection of Jesus.

§         The burial is further confirmation of the reality of Jesus’ death.

§         But victims of crucifixion were often left on their crosses after their deaths to perpetuate the lesson of the futility of rebellion against Rome. When they were disposed of, this would often involve being unceremoniously thrown on a trash heap. Joseph’s bold and reverential treatment of Jesus’ body is a remarkable demonstration of his faith in the Messiah.

§         Joseph knows how to reach Pilate and takes the initiative to pay the dead Jesus the respect due to him…

§         Christ’s crucifixion with thieves fulfilled the first part of Isaiah 53:9. His burial in a rich man’s grave fulfilled the rest of that verse and vindicated his sinlessness.

3.        The Concluding Scene

a.        The Word of Prophecy

i.        Burial 

Expectation not fulfilled: “but with the rich in his death…” [53:9].

§         עָשִׁ֖יר  - “rich” [53:9], ‘wealth and riches’; ‘wealthy person’;

§         בְּמֹתָ֑יו  -  “death” [53:9], ‘process or state of the physical dying of the body’;

§         Plural: “in his deaths…” [53:9] >>> plural of amplification.

ii.      Fulfilment

Fulfilment: “there came a rich man of Arimathea, named Joseph…” [Mat.28:57].

§         Process: “brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes…” [Jn.19:39].

§         Process: “wound it in linen cloth with spices…” [Jn.19:40]. 

b.        The Concluding Scene

Joseph’s act of faith and love contributed to the next stage of the kingdom of God and to the faith of the women.

i.        The Friday Evening

The women observed as Joseph placed Jesus in his tomb: “and there was Mary Magdalene…” [27:61].

§         καθήμεναι - “sitting” [27:61], present middle or passive participle, ‘to sit, rest’;

§         ἀπέναντι - “against” [27:61], ‘opposite’; ‘in front of’;

§         τάφου - “sepulchre” [27:61], ‘burial place’; ‘grave, tomb’;

ii.      The Sunday Morning

On the first day of the week: “at it began to dawn towards the first day of the week…” [28:1].

§         The women: “then came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary…” [28:1].

§         The witness to the resurrection: “the angel of the Lord descended from heaven…” [28:2].


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