Tag Archives: Joseph of Arimathaea

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“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. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.” (John 19:38-40, NIV)

Let’s hear it today for “secret disciples.” The folks who, for fear of what other people might do or say, do not wear the religious pendant on a chain; who do not put the fish on their business card; who do not have the license plate with a scripture citation.

When Jesus was being crucified, the most vocal disciple (Peter) was hiding in silence; and the 10 other disciples (Judas having committed suicide) were also keeping out of sight for fear that what had happened to Jesus would also happen to them.

Then there was Nicodemus and Joseph. Their discipleship succeeded where the commitment of the Eleven had failed: Joseph goes to Pilate — the very person who had sentenced Jesus to die — for permission to take the body of Jesus; and Nicodemus totes 75 pounds of myrrh and aloes. Together, they give Jesus a proper burial in a brand-new tomb.

These were not small acts. They did the risky thing (remember Pilate?).  They performed the practical act.  They did the literal dirty work (retrieving, washing, and preparing a bloody corpse for burial).  They did the costly thing (have you ever priced myrrh and aloes?)  They did the literal heavy lifting (75 pounds is a lot when you’re a 130-pound man).

Be very slow to pass judgment on disciples who don’t wear their faith on the sleeve.  In fact, be like such “secret disciples” as Joseph and Nicodemus in your daring for what is good and true; your enthusiasm for the small task; the dirty job; the extravagant expression; and the heavy lifting.

Remember the empty tomb?  It was only empty on Resurrection Sunday because “secret disciples” Joseph and Nicodemus acted as they did on Friday!  – Luther

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Good Friday

“And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counsellor; and he was a good man, and a just: (The same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them;) he was of Arimathaea, a city of the Jews: who also himself waited for the kingdom of God. This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus.” (Luke 23:50-52, KJV)

The first word of advice to newly-elected Pope Francis came from a fellow bishop, Cardinal Claudio Hummes of Brazil: “Don’t forget the poor.”

Joseph of Arimathaea, whom history kindly remembers for giving Jesus a decent burial in a tomb that had never before been used (yes, tombs were “recycled”), is to be emulated because he remembered a poor Jesus as he “waited for the kingdom of God.”

Joseph had at least one encounter with Jesus: He was a member of the religious council that had put Jesus on trial. However, Joseph did not agree with the council’s conclusions, nor with its decision to press the Romans for Jesus’ death. Whether this was Joseph’s only encounter with Jesus, or whether Joseph had also heard Him teach in the synagogue, or had heard Him preach in the villages, I do not know. But scripture is clear that Joseph was a good and just man, who “waited for the kingdom of God.”

We can surmise that Joseph was a man of money and influence, since poor people in those days didn’t own tombs; and inconsequential people weren’t given audiences with high government officials like Pilate. On the other hand, on that Good Friday, Jesus was the poorest of the poor: His clothing — taken; His disciples — absent; His dignity — surrendered; His good name — sullied; His body — broken; His life — gone.

Most people are very uncomfortable with the poverty of others, as if it were contagious. Joseph of Arimathaea was not afraid.  As he waited for the kingdom of God, Joseph did good by not forgetting the poor. Whether a pope or a pedestrian on the highway of life, there is no higher office than “servant of the poor.” As we do to the least of these — the poor — we do to Jesus.   – Luther

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