“And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath,
Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the Council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God,
took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus…And Joseph bought a linen shroud,
and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock.
And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.”
Mark 15:42-43, 46
I am drawn this morning to the courageous actions of this man. Jesus had been condemned to death, scourged, mocked, and crucified. Joseph couldn’t have known what consequences he would face for associating himself so closely with He who claimed to be the Christ.
He was at risk for similar scorn and reviling. He could lose his position in the Jewish Council. He could even be tried as Jesus was, accused of blasphemy and treason against the Roman authorities for aligning himself with the Son of God and King of the Jews.
But we see no great hesitation here. Joseph of Arimathea doesn’t debate so long that he loses this window of opportunity to show honor to his Messiah. He must have felt some trepidation. But he took courage. Joseph went directly to the Roman governor to request the body of this “criminal.”
It reminds me of Nicodemus, a Pharisee who approached Jesus early on to ask questions about the kingdom of God (John 3). He came to Him at night, so he may have felt some safety and anonymity in darkness, but he was courageous in that he still came. There was risk in following Jesus. There was risk in even appearing to do so. Yet Nicodemus is also seen in John’s account of Jesus’ burial, bringing the mixture of spices to assist Joseph in preparing the body for burial (John 19:39-40).
It makes me wonder: do we take courage in our choosing to follow Jesus throughout our days? Do we cast off the fear of mocking or persecution and align ourselves with our Savior regardless of what it may cost us? Will we still seek Him if it is risky to do so? Or will we shrink back, allowing fear to hold us captive and choosing an easier, seemingly safer path?
While others fled in the wake of Jesus’ death, these men remained. Let us be this faithful. Let us hold fast, even when darkness fills our vision and evil seems to win. Even when we can’t understand what’s happening and our world is falling apart. Our God still reigns, and He will win the victory.
And in those moments when our courage has failed us, when we despair for letting fear win, let us take heart. Recall 2 Timothy 2:13, “If we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.” Our God “knows those who are his” (2 Timothy 2:19) and He will not abandon us. He will remain faithful even in our fear and struggles. Our past failure does not determine our future choices. Our God is greater, He will faithfully continue His work, and He will strengthen us to stand.
“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence…For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
2 Peter 1: 3, 5-8