"After these things Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate granted permission. So he came and took away His body. Nicodemus, who had first come to Him by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight." John 19:38-39
It is not until the aftermath of Jesus' traumatic sacrifice that we are introduced to Joseph of Arimathea. We are told in Mark's account that he was a prominent member of the council. Though previously introduced, we are also made aware of Nicodemus who himself is a member of the council. There are two other very interesting things that that this duo has in common. One is that they both wanted to take responsibility for the body of Jesus after his death. The other is that they are "secret disciples," Nicodemus having previously come to Jesus under cover of darkness.
The question must be asked, can one truly be a disciple of the Lord in secret? It is true that both of these men are described as lovers of God. It is true that they ultimately acted in the service of the Lord. It is also true, however, that during Christ's ministry, they kept their feelings for him to themselves and did nothing to support his mission. Scriptures reveal that fear was what caused them to remain hidden.
Beloved, we are not in the same place, time, circumstance or culture as these men but so many of us share "secret discipleship" with them. This condition involves internal acknowledgement and perhaps even love for the Savior but little to no external acknowledgement outside the occasional worship attendance and little to no works of service in his name. The "secret disciples" do not share their faith or the gospel out of fear of being ridiculed, ostracized or perhaps fired. Invitations to worship and bible studies are not extended to acquaintances and friends may not even realize that Christianity is part of their lives. Traits like these must beg the question whether a person is a Christian at all.
It is true that Jesus warned his followers that the Christian life would potentially be unpopular among the masses, but he encouraged that we live the Christian life and proclaim the gospel boldly. Most notably, Jesus said in Mark 8:38, "For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” I don't know about you church but I want to be claimed by the Lord so I am sure to claim him every day.