Summary: In taking Jesus to His new tomb Joseph was fulfilling the prophecy of Isa. 53:9, which said, "Men made His grave with the criminals, and He was with the rich in His death."
The danger of making a hero out of a man who does a great thing
after a long time of doing nothing is that you give the impression that
there was nothing lost by doing it that way. A man lives a life of sin,
or of indifference to God's will, and suddenly he sees the light and is
wondrously converted. If he has been a well known sinner, or a
famous unbeliever, there is a tendency to make a great deal of it, and
make such a person an example. But there is often a failure to point
out what a great lost was suffered by his delayed decision. Some have
pointed out that it is of no credit to Paul that God had to beat him
down and blind him before he submitted to Christ.
Joseph of Arimathea became a hero by his last minute change
from cowardice to courage. But we want to point out something of
the loss he suffered by not making his decision earlier. We want to
look at 2 aspects of his experience and see the loss which he suffered,
and the love which he showed.
I. THE LOSS WHICH HE SUFFERED.
What is said here will not be taken as statements out of the text,
but as inferences from other passages of the Bible. First he suffered
loss because his discontent came to late for the greatest good. When
he stood before the cross he became thoroughly discontent with his
superficial secret discipleship. But this discontent should have
characterized his life from the start as a believer. Discontent is an
essential factor for effective Christian growth.
But didn't Paul say I have learned to be content in whatever state
I am. Yes, but Paul was speaking of being content with much or little,
with hard bed, in danger, or soft one in the home of a friend. He was
talking about being content with whatever life brought in his service
for Christ, whether it be good or bad. But when it came to the
spiritual, Paul was not content. Paul was as near perfect as we can
imagine, yet called himself chief of sinners, and cried out, "Oh
wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of
death." Paul was constantly pushing onward and upward trying to
apprehend that for which God had apprehended him. He was never
content to stop and be satisfied with where he was in his spiritual
If there is no discontent, there will be no drive to move ahead.
Contentment with one's spiritual life is a curse. It has been one of the
greatest curses in the history of the church, and was such also in
Judaism. Dead orthodoxy is the fruit of contentment. The Pharisees
were content with their system of salvation by works. That is why
they despise Jesus and wanted to kill Him. That is why the
established church has killed so many who were excited about doing
the will of God. Men like to get everything all wrapped up in a creed
and call that Christianity. This was the case with the state churches
of Europe. They were perfectly content to let the people live for the
devil just as long as they memorize the creed. But God raised up men
who would not be content with that kind of Christianity.
We need to be careful in our use of words like liberal. Remember
that the men who were the fathers of what we now call orthodoxy
were once the liberals. They were the discontented liberals who could
not stand dead orthodoxy, and so they rebelled. There needs to be
constant reformation, for the orthodox has a tendency to settle back
into contentment. It is only as we are constantly discontent that we
can keep orthodoxy alive. Whenever a Christian is content he is in
danger of backsliding, but a discontented Christian grows. We need
to distinguish, however, between discontent and discouragement.
Discouragement drags down, but discontent pushes us on.
I have said all this as background to explain what Joseph missed
by experiencing his discontent so late. If he had felt this all along,
there is no telling what he may have accomplished among the leaders
of Israel, and especially among those other secret disciples. If only
they had a leader who was discontent enough to speak out and
organize them. This is what Joseph lost-the honor of organizing a
band of disciples among the elite, and thereby winning many more to
St. Augustine was one who lived long in sin before he came to Christ.
Once he said, "All too late have I loved thee." This was
Joseph's experience as well. What he did was great, but it was too
late for the greatest glory. Mary of Bethany demonstrates for us that