Summary: A look at Joseph of Arimathea and his decision after the death of Jesus to go public with his faith. What holds us back from being public with our faith?
- Who is Joseph?
- Joseph of Arimathea is the main person we’re going to look at here. The gospel of John tells us that Nicodemus accompanied him, but we’re going to focus on Joseph. Some details about him:
a. He was a prominent member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council (Mark 15:43).
b. He was a “good and upright” man (Luke 23:50).
c. He had not consented to the decision to kill Jesus (Luke 23:50).
d. He was a rich man (Matthew 27:57).
- Let’s talk for a minute about the situation here:
a. Pilate likely presumed that Joseph was acting on behalf of the Sanhedrin when he came to ask for the body. That may have been one of the reasons why he was willing to give the body to Joseph.
b. Some people mention that there was a concern about getting this done before the Sabbath began with regard to Joseph being ceremonially unclean, but the fact that he was in the Praetorium had already caused that to happen.
c. The Jews of that day did not embalm the body. They brought spices and strips of cloth to cover the body.
WHY DO WE HIDE OUR FAITH? We try to hold onto both worlds.
- At times we try to have it both ways until a moment comes when the two can no longer peacefully co-exist.
- Examples of this:
a. We come to church on Sunday, but never mention that when we are at work.
b. We pray about our problems, but never offer to pray for those around us when we see them struggling.
c. We believe that Jesus died for our sins, but don’t tell anyone about that.
- Why do we do that? Because we are trying to hold onto both worlds.
- We want to have that Christian faith that encourages and comforts us, but we want it as a private faith. It’s between me and God. There’s no need for others to be involved.
- Simultaneously, we want to have the world. We enjoy being accepted. We like fitting in. We like our friends thinking that we’re one of them.
- Are you holding back? Are you a secret disciple? Are you keeping Jesus hidden? Do you want your faith to be private?
WHAT DID JOSEPH HAVE TO LOSE? In his case, it was his reputation and relationships.
- John 19:38.
- As I noted at the beginning, Joseph was a secret disciple until this moment. We are told that He was a disciple of Jesus but privately for fear of the Jewish religious leadership (John 19:38). What exactly did he have to lose?
- First, there was his reputation.
- He was an upstanding religious leader. In this culture, it brought great respect and honor. Going public with his belief in Jesus, when it was clear that the rest of the Sanhedrin were violently opposed to Him, put everything on the line. He could lose his position and power. He could be ostracized. He could even be excommunicated.
- Obviously, this would be a big deal. To lose your reputation and standing would be hard to do.
- Second, there were his relationships.
- Beyond the authority and respect that he held, there were simply the friendships that he had with those people. To have all those folks turn their back on him would be painful. What about family? How many of them would refuse to speak to him anymore?
- We all like to think that we’re big and tough and willing to stand firm for what we believe even in the face of criticism, but we usually wither in the face of standing alone. We don’t like it when people are mad at us. The thought of everyone being unhappy with us would often be enough to make us pause.
WHAT CAUSES US TO STEP OUT? For Joseph it was perhaps an awareness of how ugly what he was holding onto truly was.
- For Joseph, seeing how the Sanhedrin manipulated the process was likely what pushed him over the line. The Jewish rulers took no thought for what was right or even what was lawful (according to the Law of Moses), but instead played power politics at its best. Just to cite one example, they were willing to accept false testimony if it furthered their ends (Mark 14:55-60). All they cared about was destroying their enemy, no matter what they had to trample on to achieve that goal.
- It seems likely, given the timing of this change in Joseph, this ugliness pushed him across the line.
- Sometimes that’s what gets us: seeing how ugly whatever it is from the world that we’ve been trying to truly is.