Summary: An Easter monologue encouraging boldness for Christ.
DATE: April 15, 2001 Easter Morning
TEXT: John 19:38-41
TOPIC: Joseph of Arimathea
PURPOSE: Encourage boldness for Christ
Copyright 2001, William A. Groover Jr.
I am Joseph Ben Abijah, Pharisee and member of the ruling Sanhedrin from the town of Arimathea. Or at least I was a Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin. Today I don’t know what they will do with me, or what I will do with them. Let me tell you my story.
My father before me, Abijah Ben Samuel, was a Rabbi in the village of Arimathea. Arimathea is a small villege about twenty miles northwest of Jerusalem, as the crow flies. But, alas, though I have been called an old crow, I do not fly like one, and the mountain roads get longer each time I walk them.
My father, bless his memory, raised me with every advantage he could give a son, and I, too, was groomed from birth to be a Priest. But not just any Priest. It was my father’s ambition for me, and my ambition from a very early age, to be a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin. To be a Priest among Rabbis. To be a keeper of the Torah—the Law of Israel.
During my lifetime the Torah took on tremendous importance. Our country had been conquered by many nations, Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, and now we were under submission to Rome. We longed for our freedom and independence. The LORD, Adonai Elohim, had promised to send a deliverer, a Messiah, to restore the throne of David. And we believed that the LORD would keep this promise if the entire nation of Israel could keep the Sabbath holy just one time. If no Jew in our country worked on one Sabbath, if no Jew broke any law on one Sabbath, Messiah would come!
Thus when anyone claimed to be the Messiah, or to know of him coming, we were naturally interested.
About four years ago Messianic expectations were heightened by an itenerant preacher from Judea, a man named John Ben Zechariah. We called him the Baptizer because he was calling people to repent and be baptized before the Messiah came and the Kingdom of God arrived.
But when he displayed his utter lack of respect for his superiors and dared to say WE were sinners, we knew—he could NOT be the messenger who was to come before Messiah.
About a year later we began to hear of another traveling preacher, a self-proclaimed rabbi named Yeshua Ben Yosef, Jesus Son of Joseph, from Nazareth in Galilee. It was reported that he performed miracles and healed people. As part of our religious and professional responsibilities, we were interested. We were the true guardians of the faith and teachers of Israel. Any religious message proclaimed in Judea had to come under our scrutiny. So we listened.
Some of the teachings of this Jesus were innocent enough. “Love your enemy. Do good to him who hates you.” There was much with which to credit him. And try as we might, we could not disprove any of his miracles. Nonetheless he was a serious threat to all for which we stood. This Jesus was a repeated Sabbath breaker. He and his followers traveled on the Sabbath, and they went into a wheat field and harvested grains of wheat to eat. He even healed a woman on the Sabbath—right in front of a TRUE rabbi in a synagogue! It was as though he wanted to flaunt his disrespect for Torah right in our faces.
We began to put pressure on him, and thought one day it had worked. He preached on the Law and said he had not come to destroy the Law, and that not one jot or tittle, the smallest marks made with a pen, would disappear form the Law. We said, “Good.” Maybe now we will not have to take further action. But could he leave well enough alone, I ask you? No! He had to put more gray hairs on his mother’s head. He claimed he was the one who had come to FULFILL the Law! And then he began openly rebuking us, the true keepers of the Law.
One of our members, an old friend named Nicodemus, was the first of several to believe this Jesus may truly be a prophet—or more! He went to Jesus and spoke with him, and he was totally convinced God had his hand on this man. “Jesus may even fulfill the Law by being Messiah,” Nicodemus told me privately.
I couldn’t believe him, but such was my respect for Nicodemus that I had to see for myself. I began listening to some of Jesus’ sermons.
By this time he was under such pressure he did much of his teaching by telling stories, parables, that could have different meanings. I was there when he told a beautiful story of a son who took his inheritance and squandered it, but his father forgave him. And how the faithful older brother was indignant, and the father was pained by the older brother’s refusal to forgive. The Pharisees were absolutely sure he was talking about us, but we couldn’t prove it.