The secret Disciples
Following Jesus’ death, one might have expected representatives of the Jewish authorities to have carried out the removal of Jesus’ body from the Cross and its subsequent burial in a common grave reserved for Jewish wrongdoers.
In the event, things worked out differently: at this point the Jewish authorities disappear, and Jesus’ friend, Joseph of Arimathea, enters the scene. Thus far unknown to the reader of the Gospels, he was to become a well-known figure to the earliest Christians. Joseph of Arimathea is the key character in the whole episode.
The Gospel accounts present him as someone of great importance in social and religious terms: a man of wealth and an important member of the Sanhedrin, who did not agree with the decision against Jesus, who was waiting for the kingdom of God, a disciple of Jesus. John also brings onto the scene a second notable disciple, who teams up with Joseph. This is Nicodemus, who at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry had come to visit him at night, and had received from him the proclamation of the new life from above.
These two illustrious characters, members of the Sanhedrin and secret disciples of Jesus, moved by the supreme proof of love of their Master, come out of the shadows invested with an extraordinary courage.
They openly show themselves to be disciples of the Crucified One and each offers him a gift: Nicodemus, precious spices and perfumes for anointing, and Joseph, his new tomb. The authors of the Gospels have entraste them forever to the memory and veneration of all Christians.
The Church of Jerusalem and the Christians of the Holy Land commemorate Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus each year on 31 August.