Good Friday, April 19
From Mathew’s account, we know that Joseph of Arimathea was a rich man. From Luke, we know that he was a member of the Jewish council who asked Pilate to crucify Jesus, that he disagreed with the decision, and that he was a “good and righteous man”. Mark tells us not only was he a member of the council but a “respected member” who was “looking for the Kingdom of God”. To this John adds that he was a secret disciple of Christ who had not publicly proclaimed his faith due to fear of his own people.
Jesus was dead. His corpse was hanging on the cross. The disciples who had seen Jesus raise the dead, who had been present on the mountain when Moses and Elijah came down and God Himself told them that Jesus was his Son, who had seen him walk on water and calm the seas were huddled in a locked room fearing for their lives. Yet at this moment, when all seemed lost, Joseph decided to declare himself to be a follower of Christ. Why else would he ask Pilate for the body? Who else would want it? The other members of the council, his friends, and business associates certainly did not.
We are not told how they proposed to depose of Jesus’ body, but it is safe to infer that they did not want him honored in any way. They did not express any concern that he be buried in accordance with their religious beliefs. To them, the body was trash to be disposed of by the Romans.
Joseph must have had doubt. How could he have not? Yet, he acted in spite of the fear and doubt. It is a reminder that we are all called to act even when we are not sure, when we doubt, when we are afraid, when it most certainly seems that all hope is lost.
He made his declaration not in a fiery speech, not through a written proclamation, but in a common every day task – the burying of the body of Jesus. It was a radical act where he had to believe he was risking his position, his prestige, and maybe even his life. He offered no grand explanation. He simply went and buried the body of the man whom he believed to be the Son of God; so common, yet so radical. In addition, the quantities of myrrh and aloe which he and Nicodemus applied to the body tell us that he did not do just to the minimum. He acted abundantly.
Joseph’s story challenges me to act and proclaim my faith even when I doubt, even if all hope seems lost, and even if the world around me calls that faith foolish or worse. His story challenges me to proclaim my faith in the doing of the mundane and ordinary tasks of daily life in a way which reflects Jesus, His teachings, and a reality many around me may not understand or even believe exists. Joseph’s story challenges me to do these tasks from place of abundance not scarcity.