Mark 15:43, 46 (CSB): “Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Sanhedrin who was himself looking forward to the kingdom of God, came and boldly went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’s body….After he bought some linen cloth, Joseph took him down and wrapped him in the linen. Then he laid him in a tomb cut out of the rock and rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb.”
I admit it, I am intrigued with Joseph of Arimathea. One thing I love is that all four writers of the Gospels spent time discussing this man and his part in the burial of the body of Jesus in the tomb. But who was he? And what can we learn from his example in the Gospels?
First of all, all four Gospels show that although Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin, he was a believer in Christ. Mark and Luke mentioned with subtlety that Joseph was looking forward to the kingdom, but Matthew put it even more bluntly, that Joseph “had become a disciple of Jesus” (Matt. 27:57). John added a little more detail, telling his readers that while Joseph was a disciple, he kept it a secret out of fear of the Jews.
Yet when the time came, Joseph acted in a way that made his faith public. Luke wrote in his Gospel that Joseph disagreed with the Sanhedrin on their attempt to do away with Jesus, but that opposition alone might not have fully exposed him as a disciple of Jesus. However, there was no doubting his allegiance when he boldly went to Pilate to ask for the body of Jesus. His request was astonishing because Joseph stood to lose everything: his wealth (Matt.27:57), his influence as a member of the Sanhedrin, his reputation, and even his life. Yet regardless of the cost, Joseph (along with Nicodemus) took Jesus off the cross, wrapped him in spices, and buried him in a freshly-cut tomb. Joseph’s secret was out. There was no turning back. He was now known as a Christ follower.
But what can we learn from the example of Joseph? Here are a few quick thoughts on why Joseph’s example is useful for us today:
- Don’t follow the crowd. Joseph had a faith in Jesus and was considered a disciple. This happened despite his being a member of the Sanhedrin, who were, as a group, bitterly opposed to Christ. However, Joseph held to his belief in Jesus and had a faith in Him despite his surroundings.
- Follow Jesus. We don’t know how vocal Joseph was in his opposition to the Sanhedrin regarding their actions toward Jesus, but he was against their plan. However, we do know for sure that Joseph risked everything in asking Pilate for the body of Jesus. Jesus said in Luke 9:24 (CSB), “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will save it.”
- Trust in His timing. Joseph probably had no idea the days or weeks before the crucifixion that he would be able to be the one to honor Jesus’ body by burying Him according to custom. Yet when the time came, he stepped out in faith. While Jesus’ twelve disciples were scattered, Joseph was in the right position, the right place, and acted at just the right time.
You might be in the right place at the right time to act for the cause of Christ. It might come today or even next week, but the point is to be ready. For Joseph of Arimathea, the opportunity arrived, and he stepped out. What opportunities await you?