Joseph of Arimathea

Compelled to Speak

And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him, and he in God. 1 John 4: 14-15

Joseph of Arimathea was a prominent member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish high council. His wealth and education had given him both power and prestige. He was also a disciple of Jesus (John 19:38). Maybe he’d stood in the crowds near the temple, at first as skeptical as his fellow council members. Perhaps, like Nicodemus, he’d come to Jesus under the cloak of darkness to question, learn, and believe.

Somewhere, somehow, his curiosity was transformed into conviction—a certainty that Jesus was the Messiah for whom he waited. However, Joseph “feared the Jews” so he kept his discipleship a secret (John 19:38).

Luke records that the “whole Jewish council” took Jesus to Pilate, so Joseph would’ve been present when the religious leaders accused Jesus of “subverting [the] nation” (23:1-2). But apparently Joseph didn’t attempt to defend Jesus. I wonder how he felt when Pilate released Jesus into the custody of the murderous crowd (v. 25).

After Jesus’ death, Joseph couldn’t remain silent any longer. He boldly went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. The bodies of state criminals were the property of the Roman government. Often they were cast in mass graves. Joseph refused to allow Jesus’ body to be desecrated that way.

Joseph’s prestige and wealth enabled him to do what the twelve disciples couldn’t have done. He gained access to Pilate who released Jesus’ body into his custody. Then Joseph purchased costly linen (for wrapping the body). Nicodemus, another council member, brought the expensive embalming ointments. Together, they prepared Jesus’ body for burial and placed him in a tomb Joseph had purchased.

After Jesus rose from the dead, did He seek out Joseph? Did He give Joseph a big hug and thank him for his bold actions? I like to think He did. After all, our Good Shepherd is quick to forgive His sheep when we disappoint Him and quick to encourage us when we do what is right.

Sometimes, like Joseph, I keep silent when I should speak up. Do those missed opportunities prompt me to speak boldly the next time? I don’t want to be a secret disciple. I want to embrace “second chances” as Joseph did, to obey the Spirit’s promptings, and to tell others that I am a disciple of Jesus.

DIG DEEPER:

Take time to read the Scriptures about Joseph of Arimathea this week and ask God to give you the boldness that he gave to Joseph. Read Matthew 27:57-60, Mark 15:42-46, Luke 23:50-53 and John 19:38-42.

Read more about Nicodemus in John 3:1-21. Did Jesus scold him for coming secretly? What was Jesus’ rebuke in verses 10-12? What was Jesus most concerned about that night?

Read 2 Timothy 1:7-12. Paul uses the word “ashamed” three times in this passage. What was he trying to teach young Pastor Timothy? What enabled Paul to speak boldly about Christ? Can we have that same boldness?

The word translated “acknowledge” in 1 John 4:15 means to “declare openly, to speak freely.” How can you acknowledge your faith in Jesus Christ this week?

Denise K. Loock

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