Summary: “What is the gospel?” Well, Paul defined it for us. “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the
Title: The Face of Fear: Joseph
Scripture Reading: “After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury. Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews’ Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby” (John 19:38-42).
Today, we are going to be dealing with facts, the great historical facts of the gospel. Someone may wonder, “What is the gospel?” Well, Paul defined it for us. “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). These are the central facts of the gospel. Our salvation is based on our relationship to those facts and to the person of Jesus Christ. Do you trust Him? Do you have faith in what He did for you when He died on the cross? Do you believe He died a shocking, substitutionary death for you?
In our lesson today, we are going to see that the cross of Christ changed two cowards. They came to the cross bound by fear but they left with a life filled with courage. Many of us find it easier to identify with Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus than with anyone else at the cross. We have known what it is to remain silent when we should have spoken, to keep our relationship with Christ a secret when it should have been shared. In many ways Joseph of Arimathea is a man of admirable character. He is presented that way on the pages of the New Testament.
Each of the gospel writers tells of Joseph’s part in Christ’s burial. They tell us that he was a successful business man. He was also part of that remnant, that God always maintains, that looked for the kingdom of God. This man had a “good spirit,” much like that of Simeon and Anna, who appeared earlier in the life of Jesus. Joseph was probably a member of the Sanhedrin along with Nicodemus. This placed him in a unique position to act in the behalf of Jesus.
Since the Sanhedrin’s decisions had to always be unanimous, Joseph and Nicodemus apparently stayed away from the important meeting to decide Jesus’ fate. Being absent would be easier than speaking up for Jesus. If not there, they wouldn’t have to make it known that they were His “disciples.”
After Christ’s death, however, Joseph and Nicodemus could keep their secret no longer. The cross overcame their fear and allowed them to act in a responsible way. It took courage for Joseph to ask for Jesus’ body to bury in his own tomb. This was surely a public sign of friendship and support for the dead Christ.