We men like to think we are fearless, but when we are honest with ourselves we can admit to a number of fears that we often live with: fear of rejection; fear of loss; probably most of all, fear of failure.

In John 18 and 19 we read of 3 men who, though powerful, experienced fear and responded in different ways. Pilate, the Roman governor of the Jews, was convinced Jesus was innocent, and 3 times insisted, “I find no basis for a charge against him.” (vs.18:13; 19:4; 19:6) Yet in the face of angry people who disagreed with him, he abandoned his convictions (if he had any to begin with). The last words written of Pilate are: He handed him over to them to be crucified. (19:16)

Joseph of Aramithea was a disciple of Jesus “but secretly because he feared the Jews.” (19:38) So secretly did he follow Jesus that we know very little about him, except that he was wealthy. At the crucifixion Joseph was accompanied by Nicodemus, a Pharisee and member of the Jewish ruling council, who we first hear of in John 3, where he “came to Jesus at night” (v. 2) , no doubt fearful that his peers might see him in the daylight and accuse him of betrayal. The stunning execution of Jesus moved both Joseph and Nicodemus to courageous action.

Pilate was politically powerful. Joseph was financially powerful. Nicodemus was spiritually powerful. All lived in fear.

When challenged, Pilate was defined by his fear. Though convinced Jesus was innocent he condemned him to death rather than face the rejection of others. Joseph and Nicodemus are defined by courage and compassion. They demonstrated their allegiance to Jesus regardless of what others thought. They claimed the body of Jesus, wrapped it in spices and prepared it for the tomb.

Pilate’s last act was to protect himself. Joseph and Nicodemus’ acts were to stand in the face of fear and align themselves with Jesus. Men who are powerful can still be fearful; men who are fearful can still be courageous. When we face fear, may we be men who disregard the fear of rejection from others and stand for what we know is right.