Summary: It took the crisis of the cross to change his cowardice into courage. Sometimes it takes a crisis to bring out a man's true faith.

A fireman who was half dead from exhaustion and smoke

inhalation, with face dirty and uniform covered with grime, staggers

past the crowd and is almost deafened by their shouts and cheers for

him. He has just come from a burning building where, at the risk of

his life, he climbed to the third story and rescued a trapped child.

The crowd watched breathlessly as he walked along the ledge of the

building with his precious burden, and finally managed to get back to

the ladder and down to safety. The crowd cheered this man more

now than they ever thought of doing on the day of the firemen's

parade. He marched by then in his freshly cleaned uniform with all

the buttons shined. It is obvious why. Even though he was more

presentable marching in a parade, that was only a superficial duty of

a fireman, but now they had just witnessed his sacrificial duty. He

had risked his life, and the awful appearance which he now exhibited

was the result of his willingness to perform the hardest, highest, and

most sacrificial duty of a fireman. This called for cheers and praise.

We would think people mad if they thought more of him all spic

and span marching in the parade than they thought of him now. Yet,

it is just this very thing that happened in the last week of the life of

Christ. On Palm Sunday when Jesus rode into Jerusalem the crowds

cheered him and honored Him like a king. A few days later when He

hung on the cross they mocked Him. This was as foolish as mocking

the fireman for saving the child. Couldn't they see that the triumphal

entry was only the parade, but the cross was the real victory? Here

was the king on His throne doing the real and sacrificial duty He

came into the world to do. It was on the cross that He was at His

best. He came to give His life a ransom for many, and now as he

fulfills this greatest and most sacrificial duty of all time, the cheering

crowds have become the cruel crowds. They were blind, and they

missed the meaning of it all.

What was obvious in the case of the fireman is just the opposite

here, but we want to consider the happy fact that not everyone missed

it. The Bible tells us of several who were deeply moved by the death

of Christ. We have the Roman Centurion, Joseph of Arimathea, and

Nicodemus. We want to focus on Joseph, for he was the first

Christian man we know of who was so moved by the cross that he

made an all out commitment of his life. We want to consider his

experience in two stages.


Simon of Cyrene, the penitent thief, and the Roman Centurion, all

found Christ at the cross, and they could sing as a trio, "At the cross,

at the cross, where I first saw the light." This was not the case with

Joseph of Arimathea. Matthew and John both tell us that he was

already a disciple of Christ, but John adds, "But secretly for fear of

the Jews." It was not at the cross where Joseph first saw the light,

but it was there that the light penetrated deep into his heart, and

compelled him to come out into the light of open commitment.

Where was Joseph before the cross? Why don't we hear of him

until now? It was because Joseph was one of those men who wanted

to eat his cake and have it too. He and Nicodemus were both

members of the Sanhedrin, the highest ruling body among the Jews.

Most of the followers of Jesus were from the common people. His

chosen disciples were mostly uneducated fishermen. You certainly

would not expect a man of his standing to come out in an open

declaration of his belief in Christ. Just about everyone in his circle of

high society was opposed to this Galilean upstart who taught with

more authority than they did.

It was too risky to operate in the open, and so Joseph decided he

would be a secret disciple. He, no doubt, had all kinds of good

reasons why this would be best, such as, I'll be more influence in this

position of power; I'll be able to be a silent witness among the elite,

the up and outers. John tells us the real reason: He was just plain

scared. Nothing is so hard as going against the group.

Joseph was not alone. There were others who were afraid to risk

their position and reputation by making an open stand. In John

12:42-43 we read, "Nevertheless, many even of the leaders believed in

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