This morning, the day after Easter, I read the four gospels to compare the resurrection of Jesus and the 40 days that followed before his ascension to heaven. But I was struck by something unexpected--the burial of Jesus, and the courage of a man called Joseph from Arimathea.
Here are the four accounts of this man:
57 As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. 58 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. 59 Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock.
So as evening approached, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. 44 ...46 So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock.
50 Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, 51 who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God. 52 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body.
38 Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away.
If you'll look at the bolded words, you'll see that Joseph of Arimathea was a rich man, a prominent member of the Jewish Council, a good and upright man, and a disciple of Jesus, waiting on the kingdom of God. In John, you will see that he feared the Jewish leaders and went secretly to ask Pilate for the body of Jesus. In Mark, we see that he went boldly to Pilate.
I was struck with that dichotomy. Fear and boldness. In spite of his fear, he went boldly. He had so much to lose from an earthly point of view. He was wealthy. He had status as a prominent Council member. When he chose to ask for Jesus' body from Pilate, he knew that he would be found out. He only went in secret so that he could get the body and not be stopped.
Look at how his wealth and prominence was used by God at this precious time! His wealth was used to buy the linen cloth to wrap Jesus' body. Also, it afforded him his own private tomb in which to bury him. His prominence most likely got the ear of Pilate. Knowing he could lose all of the above, Joseph of Arimathea did what he knew was right in Jesus' name. He boldly asked, knowing he would have to deal with the Jewish Council, and possibly Pilate. I don't know what happened to him...perhaps scholars do. Perhaps he lost his status and wealth. He may have even lost his life, I do not know. Or perhaps nothing bad happened to him at all. I think it may be irrelevant. What is important is that IN SPITE OF HIS FEAR, HE BOLDLY SPOKE.
This speaks to me. Many of us have comfortable lives, comfortable means, maybe even comfortable status within our communities or broader. Are we afraid to boldly speak of Jesus or boldly do what is right in His name in spite of our fear of losing our earthly treasures? Or perhaps, just perhaps, if we step out in faith, love and boldness, will God be willing and able to USE those very things we hold most dear for His purposes?