Summary: How did Joseph become a member of the Sanhedrin and ultimately become a secret follower of Jesus? This first person presentation explores one possible explanation.
(I entered the auditorium from the side entrance to our baptistery – reading a scroll and entranced in thought. Much of the message was presented on floor level with me standing close to the audience and speaking directly to them)
(Looking up, a bit surprised) Oh… shalom.
I am afraid I am a bit distracted. I have been reading from this scroll. Our church here at Jerusalem has collected many scrolls. We have copies of the writings of Matthew and Mark. We have several of the writings of John and, of course, Peter. And we have some new scrolls - copies of the writings of a man named (pause) Paul. I’ve never met the man myself.
But he writes well.
We guard these documents closely for they are the words of men who have been with Jesus. These are the words of God telling us who Jesus was and what He means to us. This scroll here is one I copied myself. It’s the Gospel of Luke and I am almost at the end of his book and I’ve reached the part where he writes about … ME.
Oh, I must apologize. I have not introduced myself. My name is Joseph and I come from a wealthy family in a town called Arimathea. It is a small village about 8 miles North and West of Jerusalem.
It says here in Luke’s Gospel that I was a good and righteous man (sigh). There are those who would think that of me (placing scroll on communion table). But as I look back over my life I have not always been good or righteous. Now, I may have once viewed myself in that way because I truly thought I was being a good man and a righteous man. But I really was not.
Now my father – he was a good man, a gentle man, a righteous man. (pause) I loved my father. One day I wanted to grow up to be just like him. He was a rabbi you know. And he was highly respected, not just in our little village, but people would come from miles around to ask him questions and to hear him tell of God’s Word and His will for their lives.
We had a school in our village, and my father was our “teacher”. Boys from the ages of 6 or 7 – up through adulthood – would gather to hear my father teach, and he would teach them mathematics and reading and writing. BUT the most important thing my father taught was the Word of God.
The first thing we learned was the Shema. The Shema declared:
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart.”
We repeated those words day after day, week after week, year after year until it was driven into our minds the importance of loving the Lord our God with all of our heart, souls, strength.
And as we grew older my father would teach us about the Creation Story, how God created our world and everything in it, and how God had created Adam and Eve in His image and had given them a beautiful garden to live in. But (pause) we also learned how they had sinned and lost their place in paradise and had lost their closeness to God Himself. From that day forward death and sin reigned on our world.
And so we next we learned how we were to deal with our sins. We were taught the Levitical Laws of the Torah and learned the intricacies of offering burnt sacrifices, peace offerings, and our sacrifices for sin.
But the one thing I looked forward to was the times we would sing. We learned the “Hallel”- you would refer to them as Psalm 113-118. These were the Psalms we would sing each year before and after the great feast of Passover.
It seemed everyone counted it a privilege to be taught by my father. But I was his son. There were nights where we would spend hours where he taught me things the other boys and men in the community never would have understood. He helped me to understand the way God interacted with the great men and women of Scripture – their fears, their doubts and their courage. By the time I reach adulthood, I knew almost as much about God’s Words as my Father did. And I knew at that point that I wanted to love the Lord my God with all my heart, my soul and my strength.
(PAUSE) You know, there comes a day in the lives of many young men when they begin to believe that their father is not as wise as they once thought he was. That somehow their father has become “old” and “foolish”, “irrelevant” and … “out of date.”