August 13, 2012
Joseph of Arimathea
Courage To Speak
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In response to a question, I thought we would take a look at the courage of Joseph of Arimathea and see God encourage us today. This man asked Pilate for permission to take down the body of Jesus Christ from the cross and bury it. Joseph of Arimathea presents an interesting study in fear and courage.
When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him.
The Riches of Joseph. In Matthew 24:57, we read that Joseph was a rich man (“ἄνθρωπος πλούσιος”). In parallel passages, we learn other important information about Joseph of Arimathea. Arimathea was a city of the Jews (Luke 23:50). We also see that Joseph was a rich and powerful man.
The Position of Joseph. In Mark 15:43, we read that Joseph of Arimathea was a member of the Council (the Sanhedrin). This Council of Jewish religious leaders (presided over by the high priest, and including the elders and scribes) had passed judgment upon Jesus for death. They turned Jesus over to the Romans for execution (Mark 14:53-65; Mark 15:1). Joseph of Arimathea, however, did not consent to the plan of the Council, because he was a good and righteous man (“ἀνὴρ ἀγαθὸς καὶ δίκαιος”) (Luke 23:50-51). With Joseph, we understand that God places some believers into positions of power, and they do not agree with everything that the religious leaders do with their power.
The Righteousness of Joseph. Joseph of Arimathea was a disciple of Jesus Christ. (Matthew 27:57). Joseph of Arimathea “was waiting for the kingdom of God” (Mark 15:43). For many Jews, they expected that when the Messiah of Israel would appear, He would install His physical, earthly kingdom in power and crush His enemies, including the Romans. Jesus, however, came in human flesh to fulfill the prophecies (for example, Isaiah 53:1-12; Psalm 22:1-31) that Messiah must first suffer and give His life to pay for the sins of all humanity, including me and you. Later, He would return in power and glory to begin His reign physically upon the earth (Zechariah 14:1-21; Psalm 2:1-12). Today, we have seen the fulfillment of the Messiah dying for the sins of everyone, but we still await the day when the Messiah will return to be begin His earthly reign in power. So, if Joseph was a good and righteous man, why did he not do more to protest the action of the Council when it condemned Jesus to death?
The Fear of Joseph. Although Joseph of Arimathea was a good and righteous man, he was also a man of great fear. In John 19:38, God described Joseph of Arimathea as a “secret” (“κεκρυμμένος”) disciple for fear of the Jews. You may recall that the Jewish leaders had determined to put out of the synagogue anyone who confessed Jesus as the Christ (John 9:22). In fact, Joseph kept his confession of Jesus a secret because of the fear of not only losing his position on the Council, but also the fear of arrest and prosecution by the Jews (consider the hiding of the disciples after the death of Christ in John 20:19). Joseph kept his confession of Christ to himself, until the time came for him to make an open declaration of his concern and care for Christ. Courage does not mean an absence of fear, but rather the power of God in your life to act upon your faith, even when it means risking your power, position, and perhaps your own life. The time had come for Joseph of Arimathea to overcome his fear, and leave his life of secret discipleship behind.
The Courage of Joseph. On Friday evening, the day Christ was crucified, Joseph of Arimathea went and asked Pilate for the body of Jesus (Matthew 27:57). By openly seeking the body of Christ, Joseph was opening himself to questions about why he would be doing this act. In this simple request, Joseph of Arimathea left behind the secret place of hidden discipleship. Instead, Joseph stepped into the public light of displaying his love and concern for the body of his Master, Jesus Christ. Today, every believer needs to evaluate if you are living a life of secret discipleship, or are you standing up for Jesus? God will always be faithful to bring opportunities for you to stand up for Him. Will you stand up for Jesus Christ today and declare you are His disciple today? I find it interesting that we read that Joseph of Arimathea had help from another disciple of Jesus on that Friday evening. Nicodemus, a teacher of Israel who had been born again, helped Joseph of Arimathea with the burial and preparation of the body of the Lord Jesus Christ (John 19:39-40). I urge you read all about Nicodemus in John 3:1-21. On that day of crucifixion, at evening when all the disciples had fled from the authorities and left Jesus alone with the Father (Mark 14:27; John 16:32), and Peter had denied Christ three times already (Mark 14:66-72), then Joseph of Arimathea stepped forward and sought the body of Jesus Christ, and buried him along with Nicodemus. We should all be encouraged by their bravery and determination to serve Jesus Christ, even in His death, by caring for His body.
So we learn more about courage to stand up for Jesus today.
● If you occupy a position of power, be sure that you do not remain a secret disciple of Jesus Christ forever.
● At the right time, Jesus will empower you with courage to speak up for Him and let the world know you are truly His disciple.
● When you make your open declaration of faith in Christ Jesus for the first time, do not be surprised if a Nicodemus helps you with the task Christ has set before you. Your open testimony may encourage other believers to declare their faith in Christ also, by putting their faith into open action for Christ Jesus.
Application for Today
As I walk through life today, I want to be sure that I follow the leading of Jesus in every aspect of my life, especially when the time comes for me to step forward and overcome my fear. Like Joseph of Arimathea, Jesus will help me to stand tall with Him, and no longer live as a secret disciple. Today I will serve Christ openly and for His glory. Will you stand up for Christ today and no longer be merely a secret disciple?