Summary: Although we don't have much written about this man - all FOUR gospel writers tell of his contribution and from him, we can learn much.
Lessons from Joseph (Of Arimathea)
• Life’s lessons come from some unusual places and unusual people. As a college student, I went to a church as interim Minister of Music/Youth for a little over 6 months. During that time the pastor (who shall remain nameless) taught me much about protecting myself (as a single young man) from being seen overly-friendly with the girls. Imagine my astonishment when, a few years later, I got word that this same pastor, who has long sensed moved to another church, was accused of child molestation – in his study. Yet, he was convicted and served a prison term. When I think of this man, I wonder how did he teach me what he did when he was doing was he was doing?
• If we keep our eyes, minds, and hearts open, we will discover that we learn lessons for life in some of the most unusual places from the most unsuspecting people. Such is the case in our text today.
• I’ve entitled this message, “Lessons from Joseph of Arimathea” because at this critical time in scripture, this man whom we have never heard of – steps forwards to make at great personal risk to take care of the human remains of our Lord Jesus. His actions are so much a part of this story that all four of the gospel writers tell His story. Let get our context & learn from Joseph.
• As you know on crucifixion morning, even though Pilate had declared Jesus not guilty 3 times, Pilate (bending to the crowd) sentenced Jesus to death. Around 9 to 9:30am, they crucified Jesus. Crucifixion was more about inflicting pain than causing death. Many times those crucified would hang on their cross for days, allowing carnivores to eat at their bodies, & ultimately for the body to simply begin to rot. At this point, the corpse would be taken down & thrown into the dump.
• In the case of Jesus, there are a couple of things to note: Because it normally took the crucified so long to die and this was Passover, the Jews appealed to Pilate to speed up the deaths. (Perhaps this, also was an excuse to hasten Jesus’ death – but it was true that they wanted no one hanging on a cross during Passover). So John tells us that Pilate dispatched soldiers to break the legs of the three. This would substantially hasten their deaths. However, when they came to Jesus, they discover Him already dead (BTW – this fulfilled the prophecy of no broken bones). The other thing of note is that when Joseph asked for the body of Jesus, Pilate was genuinely surprised that Jesus was already dead. Confirming with the Centurion that Jesus was indeed dead, Pilate granted Joseph the ‘corpse’ of Jesus. Interesting choice of words. This leads us to believe that if Joseph hadn’t stepped forward (as divinely planned) then the Romans would have disposed of the body.
• It would seem logical that Pilate was living in a day of surprises. Quite likely, he was surprised that the ‘Religious Jews’ would actually kill a man which was innocent, he was surprised that Jesus died so quickly, and he was (likely) surprised when a member of the Sanhedrin (the group who insisted on having Jesus killed) requested the lifeless body. Although we don’t believe we know a great deal about Joseph, from the 4 gospels, we can discern 4 characteristics which transfers to us.
1. His Character – Verse 43 tells us that Joseph was a ‘respected,’ ‘prominent,’ or even ‘honorable’ member of the council which we know as the Sanhedrin. Candidly, we know that his home town was about 20 miles away but now resided in Jerusalem and that he was rich. Luke tells us that he was a ‘good and righteous’ man. This meant that he was not just a passive member of the council but rather, he was distinguished. His reputation might have been the very thing which got him an audience with Pilate to make his request. By the way, Joseph doesn’t appear to be a leader who ‘went along to get along’ type of person. Luke paints this picture of Joseph by saying, “He (Joseph) had not consented to their decision and action.” This leads us to believe that there was 1 no vote.
• Character is not recognized by going along with the crowd when you know something is wrong, it is recognized by doing things with integrity, honesty, and no personal agenda except to do what you believe before God to be right. Joseph, so we are told, was this type of man. What he was in public, he was in private. Others recognized him as good & righteous - & thus, well-respected.