Every once in a while I remind my wife of why she prefers to shop alone. We use cash for most purchases, especially at the grocery store. When we get a checker we haven’t gotten before, as I pay I’ll ask something like “Do you still take cash? You’re not afraid it’s going to bounce?” She just facepalms as she shakes her head. It’s one of my “stock” phrases in life. There’s another one I use a lot…or at least when I have occasion to. When I have the opportunity to help someone and they thank me, especially over profusely, I’ll scan the area with my eyes and then whisper, “Don’t tell anyone, it’ll ruin my reputation.” We usually have a good laugh and then head off to our respective destinations.
Our reputation is important. We want people to see us in the best possible light. Strangely enough, that “best possible light” changes according to the group you’re hanging with. If you’re part of a criminal organization, the number of times you’ve been in jail, especially if you haven’t spilled the beans, is an important part of “best possible light.” On the other hand, were a church interviewing you as they sought God’s will for a pastor, that criminal background might not be seen as such a good thing. (Many have noted that most pulpit committees would reject Paul out of hand because of his run ins with the law.) The Pharisees seemed to have one rule during the time of Jesus: don’t associate with Jesus. And so it was that Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus sought to bury Jesus quietly. “Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.” (John 19:38-39)
The Pharisees who put Jesus on trial wouldn’t even step foot in Pilate’s palace as they brought Jesus to him lest they be considered unclean. It was the time of Passover and they didn’t want to besmirch themselves by entering a gentile location. Railroading an innocent man was ok, though. When Jesus died, someone had to take care of the body. Joseph of Arimathea had made arrangements to take the body and he, along with Nicodemus, did a quick burial preparation of the body because nightfall, and the new day, were about to happen. Touching a dead body was a bigger unclean issue, but both were willing to do it for Jesus, but they did it secretly so that their reputation among the Pharisees didn’t take any more hits. I think some of the Pharisees already suspected those two of thinking highly of Jesus.
For Joseph and Nicodemus, being caught associating with Jesus meant instant rejection from the Pharisees. They would be kicked out of the synagogue for that. In today’s world, you can say you go to church, you can say nice things about Jesus, but if you let Jesus have an effect on your life, you’d better be careful. Honesty and integrity are acceptable to a degree, but if you need to cut corners to make that business deal; if you need to compromise your convictions for a client; if you need to take ethical shortcuts to succeed in the eyes of your superiors, or customers, or even judges in some cases, don’t let that “Jesus thing” get in the way of success. Or some would tell us. Are we willing to risk the attacks on our reputations by staying true to our faith in those situations? Are we willing to show honesty and integrity though we may lose our job because of that? Are we willing to stay true to our convictions though it may lose clients? As followers of Jesus we should always show His grace and His love to others, but always be willing to risk our reputations in the world by staying true to Him in all we do.
Lord, it seems that many today want my faith to stay in church on Sunday. Let me show Jesus to those around me every day.