Summary: Joseph of Arimathea demonstrated the courage to step-out and be counted for Christ.
A Study of the Book of Luke
Sermon # 67
“One Man’s Courage”
“The evangelist Billy Sunday use to tell of a professing Christian who got a job in a lumber camp that had a reputation of being very ungodly. A friend hearing that the man had been hired, said to him, ‘If those lumberjacks ever find out you’re a Christian, you’re going to be in for a hard time.’ The man responded, ‘I know, but I need the job!’
The next morning he left for camp. A year later, he came home for a visit. While in town, he met his friend who asked, ‘Well, how did it go? Did they give you a hard time because you’re a Christian?’ ‘Oh no, not at all,’ the man replied. ‘They didn’t give me a bit of trouble – they never even found out.” That would be really funny it weren’t so close to home. [Our Daily Bread. 11/83]
I believe that one of the things most lacking in America today is moral courage, the courage to do right even if you have to stand alone. Some writers have dubbed this age in which we live the “post-Christian era,” in this age that insists on political correctness, and moral relativism, at least a portion of the lost world has already written us off as inconsequential.Robert Kennedy has said, “Few men are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence, yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change the world, …. I believe that in this generation those with the courage to enter the moral conflict will find themselves with companions in every corner of the world.” [as quoted by Bruce Larson. The Communicator’s Commentary – Luke. (Waco, Texas: Word Books, 1983) p.329]
We meet such a man in our story today, Joseph of Arimathea demonstrated such courage.Here was a man with the courage to step-out and be counted for Christ when Jesus’ twelve disciples were too confused and frightened to leave the safety of a locked upper room.
“Now behold there was a man named Joseph, a council member, a good and just man. (51) He had not consented to their decision and deed. He was from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God. (52) This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. (53) Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a tomb that was hewn out of the rock, where no one had ever lain before. (54)
That day was the Preparation, and the Sabbath drew near.”
Who was this man Joseph of Arimathea? All four Gospels (Matt 27:57-60, Mark 15:43-46, John 19:38-42, and here in Luke 23:50-56) tell of this man who stepped forward to bury the body of Jesus. We are told that he was a council member, the he was a member of the Sanhedrin, the supreme court of the Jewish people. We are also told that he did not agree with the decision reached by the council concerning Jesus. This can mean he disagreed by not attending, or that he was there but did not vote, or that the council had not informed him because they knew how he would vote.
We are also told that he was a “good and just man” and as Herbert Lockyer says in his book “All the Men of the Bible,” “the Bible never uses words unnecessarily, therefore there must be a distinction between ‘good’ and ‘just’.” When it says that he was “good” man it speaks of what he was in himself. Being a “just” man speaks of what he was to others. His just dealing were just the outward expression of his inner goodness. [Herbert Lockyer. All the Men of the Bible. p. 204]
But before we examine his courage we need to accept a few basic facts. According to John’s account (19:38) while Joseph of Arimathea, was “a disciple of Jesus,” he was a secretly one, “for fear of the Jews.” He allowed his fear to keep him from making his decision about Jesus to be made public. His fear had caused Joseph not to take a bold stand for Christ even though he knew that his heart was telling him to do so.
What kind of fear was this that kept Joseph a secret disciple? Was it fear for his life, for his family or for his position? It’s not always easy to step up against the authorities. Let me illustrate; “During his years as premier of the Soviet Union, Nikita Krushchev, denounced many of the policies and atrocities of his predecessor Joseph Stalin. Once, as he reproached Stalin in a public meeting, Krushchev was interrupted by a shout from a heckler, in the audience who said, “You were one of Stanlin colleagues. Why didn’t you stop him?” “Who said that?” roared Krushchev. An agonizing silence followed as nobody in the room dared move a muscle. Then Krushchev, replied quietly, “Now you know why.” [Today in the Word, July 13, 1993 - http://www.bible.org/illus/c/c-142.htm ]