Likely Nicodemus worshipped in the Temple that morning they crucified Jesus. The Sanhedrin intentionally excluded him from their illegal, midnight trial so Nicodemus might have been unaware of what was happening outside the city gate.
Like an eerie omen at high noon, a shadow moved over the Temple Mount. He ran outside with thousands of others to watch the sun eclipse, leaving their world terrified and in total darkness. A cold wind blew through Nicodemus’ bones, Something bad is happening. And it was, on the other side of the wall.
When he got word of the unholy execution, Nicodemus also heard Jesus was dying alone. “It’s time to step forward,” he thought. He sought first the Kingdom and they were killing the King, the Messiah he had come to believe. Previously unwilling to risk the consequences of a public faith in Jesus, ironically now, conviction rose in Nicodemus’ spirit. He must stand with Jesus. He would enlist the help of Joseph of Arimathea, a rich member of the ruling council and also a kingdom-seeker and secret follower of the Nazarene.
Courage isn’t always wasted on the young. No one dares to bury the body of an outcast—no one except family. That’s the role Joseph and Nicodemus stepped out of the shadows to do. They risked being Jesus’ family and performing a task no one else would do. These two grand old men of Jerusalem, true seekers of righteousness, lived their finest hour.
Joseph asked Pilate for permission to bury Jesus—a gutsy move in a day of witch-hunts to approach the man who sent Jesus to His cross. (“He’s dead already?” Pilate sighed.) Urgency drove Joseph’s nerve—if they didn’t bury Jesus by sundown, His body would hang on the cross the whole weekend, food for vultures. Please, a little decency.
Nicodemus bought supplies—they needed a cart, a ladder, an eight-foot linen shroud to wrap Jesus’ body, burial spices. Nicodemus bought 75 pounds—the traditional amount to bury a king. In his generosity, he affirmed Jesus as “King of the Jews”—what Pilate had scribbled on the sign above Jesus’ head. Joseph offered his tomb—a brand new site and right around the corner.
Golgotha was nearly deserted when they arrived. Soldiers and a few women lingered in the eerie light after the eclipse but before sunset. The two seniors struggled with the ladder against the crossbeam. Inch by inch, they lowered Him off the wretched instrument. Jesus’ vital signs were obvious. His heart, stopped; his brain, stopped. His body, cooled. His skin, grayed. Death’s cruel hour had its temporary win but they forbid themselves any grief until they got this job done.
In Joseph’s tomb nearby, their clumsy aristocratic hands fumbled to wash the slaughter and horror from Jesus’ body and wrap the shroud around His corpse. Tenderly they honored His naked, torn frame with their best efforts. More would need to be done later.
It wasn’t until Joseph kicked away the wedge from the circular stone and rolled it into place that the two new, faithful followers caved in to emotion.
The Light of Israel had gone out. But strangely, the light of their new faith shone brighter. In this critical hour when confronted with the choice between fear of God vs. fear of man, they chose wisely. Love conquers fear every time.