It takes a brave man to stand in opposition to his peers, especially when consensus is a treasured commodity, a sign of strength to Rome.
Joseph of Arimathea was such a man, but his courage emerged too late to prevent the guilty verdict passed by the Sanhedrin of which he was a part. Joseph was “waiting for Kingdom of God.” This means he possessed a different heart than that of his peers. His heart was for the “Kingdom of God,” not just for the nation of Israel. His vision was larger than local and more dynamic than dogged. His heart and mind were open to both the established Word of God in tradition and the expanding Word of God in the moment. When Jesus spoke, this different heart of Joseph, as did the heart of his friend, Nicodemus, always seemed to catch fire.
Friends and Secret Disciples
These two members of the Sanhedrin bonded as they considered the ministry of Jesus. There was no denying His power and authority. As for His claim that He was the Christ, what more could Messiah be expected to do that Jesus had not already done?
After Nicodemus went to Jesus by night, he shared this remarkable meeting with Joseph. As he did, both of their hearts ignited within them.
- The Spirit of the Lord was like the wind.
- People needed to be born again!
Each man, convinced in his own heart that Jesus was Messiah, agreed that there was only one course of action—keep their thoughts to themselves. Perhaps in their positions of responsibility they could help Jesus. It was better for them to be secret disciples. Perhaps a time would come when they could be a part of a successful, peaceful revolution, if only the other leaders could feel the fire in their hearts!
Absent from the Trial
When news came of Judas’ surprise betrayal of Jesus, the hasty trial-by-night had already taken place. For fear of the Jews, they did not participate in the trials of Jesus. (Compare Luke 23:51; Mark 14:64) Their cowardice gnawed at their hearts. After the verdict there was no advantage in keeping their feelings secret. They watched spectacle of the scourging and dragging of the cross, the crucifixion, the death, and the raging storm. The ground shook beneath their feet as Jesus hung lifeless on the cross.
Something They Could Do
In ancient cultures where life was short and unpredictable, death was never far from the minds of the people. Joseph, a wealthy man, had prepared a new tomb for himself. His wounded, flaming heart brought an obvious idea to his half-functioning brain—bury Jesus in his own tomb!
He went to Pilate for permission while Nicodemus went for the needed supplies. Time was short for the Passover was upon them. With Pilate’s permission, they tenderly took the body of Jesus down from the cross as the women who loved Him watched. Joseph and Nicodemus did temporary preparation of the body and sealed it in Joseph’s tomb, rolling a huge stone into place over the opening. The women watched, planning to return after the Passover to complete the burial preparations.
Their work finished, there was nothing for Joseph and Nicodemus to do but go home. Neither of them dared to tell the other that for some reason, his heart still flamed.
Now behold, there was a man named Joseph, a council member, a good and just man. He had not consented to their decision and deed. He was from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who himself was also waiting for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a tomb that was hewn out of the rock, where no one had ever lain before. That day was the Preparation, and the Sabbath drew near. And the women who had come with Him from Galilee followed after, and they observed the tomb and how His body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment.
Lord Jesus, like all of mankind, You suffered death, and like most, You suffered burial. Help me to feel the grief of Your voice suddenly grown silent, of Your touch removed from my heart, of Your eyes closed to this earth. There was never and will never be hours like those, when Your earthly body was sealed away from life. Mysteries abound concerning Your spiritual victories when You descended to the dead. I will be content to know that the story was not finished when the stone was rolled into place. Thank You, Jesus.
O Sacred Head Now Wounded
Words: Attributed to Bernard of Clairvauz ; Music: Hans Leo Hassler
1. O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,
now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown.
O sacred Head, what glory, what bliss till now was Thine!
Yet, though despised and gory, I joy to call Thee mine.
2. What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered was all for sinners’ gain;
mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior! ‘Tis I deserve Thy place;
look on me with Thy favor, vouchsafe to me Thy grace.
3. What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest Friend,
for this, Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever! And should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never, outlive my love for Thee.
4. Be near when I am dying, O show Thy cross to me!
And, for my succor flying, come, Lord, to set me free.
These eyes, new faith receiving, from Thee shall never move;
for he who dies believing dies safely in Thy love.
© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved