Bible Study

John Bible Study, Day 36: Taking a Public Stand

Today’s passage: John 19:28–42

Focus verse: Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. (John 19:38)

In reading the biographies of Jesus, it’s easy to assume that all the religious leaders oppose him and reject his message. They do this even though Jesus is the fulfillment the Old Testament points to, their long-anticipated Savior.

He’s their Chosen One, the one the prophets wrote about. Yet they don’t recognize him because he is not what they expect.

This response doesn’t apply to every Jewish leader. Some believe Jesus.

Besides this vague statement of some, we know of two people by name who are both Jewish religious leaders and who believe in Jesus. They are Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus (Day 5, “You Must Be Born Again”).

The Bible doesn’t tell us much about this Joseph. Matthew writes that Joseph is rich and a disciple. Mark says Joseph serves as a prominent member of the religious council. He’s a devout Jew living in expectation of the coming kingdom of God.

John confirms that Joseph is a disciple, but he hides his faith from the Jewish leaders out of fear over what they might do to him.

Even so, Joseph now takes a bold step which publicly aligns him with Jesus. He goes to Pilate to seek permission to give Jesus’s body a proper burial. Joseph can’t do this in secret. 

Pilate grants approval, and Joseph takes Jesus’s body to prepare the corpse for internment. This bold move could cause problems with Joseph’s fellow council members.

When they find out—and they will—he faces censure, expulsion, and even punishment, which could include execution. If they killed Jesus, what’s to stop them from killing his followers too?

Going with Joseph on his mission to honor Jesus’s body is Nicodemus.

Nicodemus, you may recall, came to Jesus in secret. He is a member of the Jewish ruling council. He doesn’t want anyone to know he’s talking with Jesus, the man his colleagues decry as a troublemaker.

Jesus tells Nicodemus to be born again. 

Though Scripture doesn’t record Nicodemus’s response, we can assume he says yes to Jesus and is born again. If he hadn’t, why would he take the risk to help Joseph prepare Jesus’s body for burial? 

In doing so, Nicodemus makes a public statement that he supports Jesus. It’s a risky move because, like Joseph, when word gets back to the Jewish council, they could oust him from his leadership position—or worse.

In an extreme response, he could suffer the same outcome as Jesus: death by crucifixion.


  1. Are you a silent believer in Jesus? Why?
  2. What about Joseph of Arimathea most relates to you? What about Nicodemus?
  3. What are you living in expectation of?
  4. Are you willing to take a public stand to show you follow Jesus? 
  5. How much will you risk so others can know you’re his disciple?

Discover more about Joseph of Arimathea in Matthew 27:57 and Mark 15:43. Read about other Jewish leaders who follow Jesus in John 12:42. What insights can you glean from these passages?

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Read more in Peter’s new book, Living Water: 40 Reflections on Jesus’s Life and Love from the Gospel of John, available everywhere in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

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