Summary: Whether the Lord prompts you to do something remarkable or to be faithful in the routine, do all you can with all that you have for His glory alone. Most of what God asks us to do is routine but there are other times He calls us to do the remarkable.
A Man on Mission
Rev. Brian Bill
March 24-25, 2018
Jim Sheese has been hard at work again. Here’s his latest rendition of the superheroes at Edgewood. This is truly a team of sold out servants, who love God and love people. The real heroes however, are each of you. We just get the joy of equipping you for ministry! Actually, you’re all super servants serving our Holy Hero, Jesus Christ.
It’s interesting how popular superheroes are. One website puts it like this: “Superheroes are everywhere nowadays. From TV to the big screen, they no longer belong to the comic book world. While they used to only be adored by comic book fanatics, it is hard to find someone who doesn't know who Captain America or the Green Lantern is. This is vastly due to the overwhelming success of the superhero film genre that has started a cultural obsession.”
Why is that we like superheroes so much?
• Heroic figures provide examples of idealistic behavior.
• We’re drawn to their supernatural strength and stunning skill.
• We long for wrongs to be made right, for good to triumph over evil, for justice and righteousness to reign.
• They give us hope when we feel hopeless.
Historically, this is Palm Sunday, the day we remember that Jesus came into Jerusalem and was treated much like a superhero! That didn’t last long however.
We’re introduced today to a man on mission. Actually he’s part of a team of servants living on mission. His name is Joseph. His other team members include Nicodemus, the Centurion and two women named Mary.
In general we tend to focus more on the death and resurrection of Christ and not so much on His burial. According to 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, his burial is significant enough to be included in the best summary statement of the gospel ever written: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” The Apostles’ Creed is based on this passage: “He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried…the third day he rose again from the dead.”
We’re wrapping up Mark 15 today. Turn to verse 42: “And when evening had come, since it was the day of preparation, that is the day before the Sabbath...” The Jews recognized two evenings – the first was from 3:00 pm to sunset and the second was sunset onward. Since it is now about three in the afternoon on Friday, Sabbath (Saturday) was set to begin around 6:00 pm. The “day of preparation” is the day when all preparations were to be completed for the Sabbath. According to John 19:31, this Sabbath was also a “high day” because of the Passover. This verse establishes a sense of urgency, explaining why quick action has to take place.
Deuteronomy 21:22-23 give us some backstory: “And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God…” If Jesus’ body is to be removed, someone must move quickly to make this happen because the day is almost over.
In verse 43 we’re introduced to a man named: “Joseph of Arimathea…”
1. Where Joseph was from. Arimathea was located twenty miles northwest of Jerusalem, and was likely the birthplace of Samuel. We’re given his name and hometown so people who were living when Mark wrote his gospel could verify and confirm the details.
2. Who Joseph was. We’re given some clues about Joseph’s character in the next part of verse 43: “a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate…”
• Respected. Joseph was known as a “respected member of the council,” which means that he was a “noble and well-formed” member of the Jewish Supreme Court. Luke 23:50 tells us that he was “good and righteous.” Matthew 27:57 refers to him as “rich.” Luke 23:51 indicates that while he was a member of the Sanhedrin, “he had not consented to their decision and action.”
• Spiritual. He was looking and longing “for the kingdom of God,” which shows that he knew there was more to life than this life. John 19:38 describes him as a “disciple of Jesus.” Up until this point we could call him a “closet Christian” because he was quiet about his faith in Jesus.
• Courageous. Joseph then gathers up courage and goes in to Pilate. The word means, “not to dread but to be bold.” This was bold because he was not related to Jesus and as a member of the Sanhedrin that had forced Pilate to crucify Christ he was likely not real popular with the Governor. In addition, this was risky because he was identifying himself with Jesus, who had just been crucified as a traitor. As a sympathizer, Joseph could have earned the same fate. On top of all that, this meeting with a pagan and the handling of a dead body would have made him ceremonially unclean and therefore disqualified from worship.