20 April 2019

John 19:38-42

... a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews. (v. 38)

Psalm: Psalm 31:1-4


Today’s short passage requires little comment. The crucifixion of Jesus took place on rocky terrain, with caves near by that were used as burial places. The fact that one was vacant is emphasised: when it is found empty on Easter Day there can be no doubt that it is Jesus who has risen.

Our reading draws attention to the fact that both Joseph and Nicodemus were secret disciples (compare 3:2). But the death of Jesus draws them out of hiding. It was a brave act to identify oneself with a convicted criminal.

A very large quantity of spices is used, hinting perhaps at the extravagance of devotion (as in 12:5).

There is an ambiguity in verse 42. John’s Gospel differs from the other three in setting the crucifixion of Jesus on the day before the Passover (18:28, 19:14), whereas the other Gospels set it a day later (compare Matthew 26:17). So is ‘the preparation’ here preparation for the Passover or simply preparation for the Sabbath? Either way, we are offered an explanation for the haste and the absence of other mourners when Jesus is laid to rest.


To Ponder:

  • Is it wrong to be a secret disciple? What might justify it?
  • Reflect on the courage of Joseph and Nicodemus in coming forward in that situation. Have you ever been in danger because of your faith? How did you cope?
  • Mary in chapter 12 and Nicodemus in today’s passage are generous with their spices. Think of situations that might prompt you to be extravagantly generous.

Bible notes author

The Revd Brian Beck

Brian Beck is a Methodist minister, now retired, and a former president and secretary of the Methodist Conference. A large part of his ministry has been spent in theological education, both in Limuru, Kenya, and in Cambridge, England.

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