"Meanderings in Mark"
Series on Mark, Lesson 55

Undercover Christianity

Read: Mark 15:42-47

Text: (John 19:38 KJV) And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.

Theme: To accomplish something for God, a secret disciple must come out into the open.


Introduction:

(1 Cor 15:1, 3-4 KJV) Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

QUESTION - Discuss each of the following descriptions. What do they teach us about Joseph?

QUOTE (Barclay) - "It may well be that it is from Joseph that all the information came about the trial before the Sanhedrin. Certainly none of the disciples was there. The information must have come from some member of the Sanhedrin, and it is probable that Joseph was the one."

(Mat 27:57 KJV) When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus' disciple:

(Luke 23:50-51 KJV) And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counsellor; and he was a good man, and a just: (The same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them;) he was of Arimathaea, a city of the Jews: who also himself waited for the kingdom of God.

(John 19:38 KJV) And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.

QUOTE (Barclay) - "There is a certain tragedy about Joseph. He was a member of the Sanhedrin and yet we have no hint that he spoke one word in Jesus' favour or intervened in any way on his behalf. Joseph is the man who gave Jesus a tomb when he was dead but was silent when he was alive."

QUESTION - Let's talk about this for a minute. Is there such a thing as an undercover Christian… a secret disciple?

QUESTION - Is it a good thing or a bad thing? Why / why not?

QUESTION - What are the results of secret discipleship in the life of the secret disciple? In the lives of those with whom the secret disciple interacts?


I. The Fact of Secret Discipleship

(There are many who do not want others to know they are saved.)

A. Bible characters who were secret disciples:

QUESTION - Can you name some?

1. Joseph (our text)

2. Nicodemus

(John 3:2 KJV) The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.

3. Peter

READ Mark 14:66-71

4. The disciples after the crucifixion

(John 20:19 KJV) Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.

5. Everybody at one time or another is a secret disciple.

(John 7:13 KJV) Howbeit no man spake openly of him for fear of the Jews.

B. Some reasons for secret discipleship:

QUESTION - Can you think of some? Why are some people secret disciples?

1. Fear - Nicodemus, Joseph

ILLUS. Parents of man born blind

READ John 9:20-23

ILLUS. Disciples after Jesus' death

SONG (He's Alive)

"The gates and doors were barred
And all the windows fastened down.
I spent the night in sleeplessness
And rose at every sound.
Half in hopeless sorrow
And half in fear the day
Would find the soldiers breaking through
To drag us all away."

QUESTION - Is fear a motivating factor in "secret discipleship" today? Examples?

QUOTE (Fran Tarkenton, ex-quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings) - "Fear causes people to draw back from situations; it brings on mediocrity; it dulls creativity; it sets one up to be a loser in life."

2. Sin - Peter

"I go a fishing…"

QUESTION - Is sin a motivating factor in "secret discipleship" today? Examples?

3. Misunderstanding (i.e. just don't understand what Christianity is all about)

ILLUS. I know of a man who, when asked about his soul's salvation, snapped back, "That's my business, not yours!" He made the common mistake of thinking it was a personal matter, and nobody else's business. BUT, IT'S MY BUSINESS, TOO. IT'S YOUR BUSINESS, TOO.

(Mark 16:15 KJV) And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

(Rom 1:14 KJV) I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.

QUESTION - Is misunderstanding a motivating factor in "secret discipleship" today? Examples?

II. The Sorrow of Secret Discipleship

QUESTION - Why is secret discipleship a sad thing?

A. Wasted time.

ILLUS. Joseph waited until Jesus was dead before he did anything for the kingdom of God. What could he have done if he had come forward sooner?

QUOTE (Ben Franklin) - "Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of."

QUOTE (Carl Riblet, Jr.) - "There are four kinds of thieves - the love thief, the embezzler, the base runner safe at second, and the thief who steals you time. The latter is the worst thief because, while love can be replaced, stolen gains can be repaid and the base runner put out at third, time can never be renewed."

B. Abnormal Christianity.

QUESTION - Why would the term "abnormal Christianity" apply to the secret disciple?

(Mat 5:14 KJV) Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

ILLUS. Secret disciples are like:

(Rom 10:9 KJV) That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

(Psa 107:2 KJV) Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy;

C. Displeasing to God.

READ - Matthew 25:14-27

(Mat 5:16 KJV) Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

(Mat 28:19-20 KJV) Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

(Mark 16:15 KJV) And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

(John 20:21 KJV) Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.

(Acts 1:8 KJV) But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

(Rom 1:16 KJV) For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

THERE IS NOT ONE WORD OF COMMENDATION IN THE BIBLE FOR SECRET DISCIPLESHIP!

III. The Hope of Secret Discipleship.

QUESTION - What hope is there for the secret disciple?

A. Secret discipleship CAN become open discipleship.

1. Joseph and Nicodemus came openly, during the day.

2. Peter came back from his fishing trip, and openly proclaimed Christ.

3. All the disciples became witnesses.

(Acts 4:31b KJV) … they spake the word of God with boldness.

B. When a secret disciple becomes an open disciples, great things can be accomplished.

ILLUS. Joseph and Nicodemus did a great thing here. (Burial was vital to the gospel, remember.)

ILLUS. Peter preached a tremendous sermon at Pentecost. 3000 saved.

ILLUS. Disciples "turned the world upside down."

C. What it takes to become an "open disciple":

QUESTION - What do you think it takes?

1. Courage

"… went in boldly unto Pilate…" = "gathered up his courage" "dared"

QUESTION - Why did Joseph need courage for this?

ANSWER - Pilate no doubt was displeased with the Sanhedrin and how they had manipulated him in the trial of Jesus. The Sanhedrin would no doubt be displeased to learn that there was a follower of Christ in their midst. Joseph would need courage in both cases.

2. Sometimes, it just requires a circumstance to force the issue.

(If Jesus died at 3:00, something HAD TO BE DONE in order to get Him buried before the beginning of the Sabbath at 6:00.)

3. The transforming power of the cross.

(John 12:32 KJV) And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.

4. An act of the will

SONG (I Have Decided)

"I have decided to follow Jesus.
I have decided to follow Jesus.
I have decided to follow Jesus.
No turning back, no turning back.


Conclusion:

(John 19:38 KJV) And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.

To accomplish something for God, a secret disciple must come out into the open.


Please direct questions, comments, and submissions to William E. Johnson
Copyright © 1998 William E. Johnson.