The actions of these two influential Jewish leaders give insight into the charismatic power of Jesus and his teachings—and the risks that could be involved in following him.
Joseph was a respected, wealthy civic leader who had become a disciple of Jesus. Following the death of Jesus, Joseph obtained Jesus’ body from Pilate, wrapped it in fine linen and buried it. For these reasons, Joseph is considered the patron saint of funeral directors and pallbearers. More important is the courage Joseph showed in asking Pilate for Jesus’ body. Jesus was a condemned criminal who had been publicly executed. According to some legends, Joseph was punished and imprisoned for such a bold act.
Nicodemus was a Pharisee and, like Joseph, an important first-century Jew. We know from John’s Gospel that Nicodemus went to Jesus at night—secretly—to better understand his teachings about the kingdom. Later, he spoke up for Jesus at the time of his arrest and assisted in Jesus’ burial. We know little else about Nicodemus.
Celebrating these two contemporaries of Jesus who played significant roles in Jesus’ life, reminds us of the humanity of Jesus and how he related to his fellow men and women. His gentleness to these two and his acceptance of their help remind us that he treats us in the same gentle way.