Joseph of Arimathea by Pietro Perugino

Joseph of Arimathea by Pietro Perugino

Joseph’s story is a remarkable one that is mentioned in all four gospels. At a crucial point in God’s timeline for the unfolding of the greatest act in the history of mankind- the crucifixion and the resurrection of Christ, Joseph did what no one else could.

It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. (Mark 15:42-46)

Several lessons are learnt from this crucial act of Joseph:

Defiance– John tells us that Joseph was afraid of the Jews and so followed Jesus secretly. Yet here, Mark tells us that Joseph, in defiance of his fears, gathers up boldness and approaches Pilate for Jesus’ body. So very often we allow our fears, worries and weaknesses to stymie us, but what is required for a disciple is to be an overcomer, which is what Joseph’s story teaches us to do.

Discernment- I cannot imagine how events of the resurrection that followed would have unfolded if Joseph did not do what he did. He demonstrated amazing discernment of God’s will at that moment to know that Jesus’ body needed to be put in a tomb before the Sabbath set in. Discernment is critical for a Christian to organize his life in the right way. Far too often however, we see disciples unable to dissociate themselves from the patterns that have been laid out by other Christians and trying to replicate people rather than waiting upon the Lord to know his will for them.

Decisiveness- Joseph was a rich and influential person who also happened to believe in Jesus. He demonstrated a striking decisiveness in going against the crowd that had forsaken Jesus and used the resources he had to approach Pilate for Jesus’ body. Even after God’s will for a person has been revealed, disciples often linger and fail to demonstrate the willingness to move forward in walking the path laid out for them by God.

Denial- Joseph was not reluctant to give up his own tomb to lay Jesus’ body in. Every act of sacrifice involves denial of something that is dear to self. A Christian edifice cannot be built up without sacrifice. We are called to deny ourselves in our daily lives that we may be true followers.

Joseph perhaps did only one thing that was spectacular for Christ, but what a difference that one act made for the kingdom of God!


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