Joseph of Arimathea Was Courageous In the End

“After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus.” (John 19:38)

In spite of his role in the crucifixion story, we don’t know much about Joseph of Arimathea. The Bible has very little to say about him. But what it does record is a story of a miraculous transformation.

We do know that he was extremely wealthy, so much so that he already had a tomb waiting for him upon his death. But even though he was known by John and the other three writers of the Gospels as a disciple of Jesus, he apparently did not want anyone else to know. Perhaps his wealth would be at stake; or maybe it was the fact that he held a high position as a member in the Sanhedrin, a governing body of the Jews, which would be jeopardized if he were to have taken a more visible role in the Jesus’ ministry. In short, apparently, he had too much to lose by standing up for his beliefs.

But Jesus’ death on the cross visibly changed Joseph inside and out. He boldly went to Pilate to plead for the body so that Jesus could have a fitting burial. I am sure other disciples were surprised to hear that it was Joseph of Arimathea who approached Pilate. Pilate consented and the Bible records that it was Joseph who showed up at the cross to take the body of Jesus.

Imagine that moment when Joseph took Jesus from the Cross. Once a man afraid to admit any relationship with Christ, now willing to physically drape him over his shoulder and carry him to his grave. One of my favorite songwriters said it this way:

He took the lifeless body down from Calvary
Struggled to stand just beneath the load.
Blood spilled on his hands and on his clothing
Still Joseph sang as he stumbled down the road.

I’ll carry him upon my shoulder
I’ll bear the marks endure the shame.
I’ll serve my friend til life is over
And that is when the world will see He’ll carry me.

For I too have walked beneath a heavy burden
Stumbled down a dark and lonely road.
Trying hard not to be discouraged
Knowing victory awaits when I reach home.

He’ll carry me when he calls me from my sleeping
He’ll carry me toward the land of perfect day.
Across the golden vale into the glory
Where He’ll set me safely down inside the gate.

Until I’ll strive to walk and not grow weary
I’ll gladly bear my cross for all the world to see.
I’ll count it joy to carry Christ my savior
For very soon He’ll carry me.

Joseph of Arimathea played a vital role in the Gospel story. But his story is told in the Gospels for another reason, too. A lot of Christians, just like Joseph, secretly worship Jesus. We’re too afraid to stand up and be counted. We, too, think we have too much to risk. When I hear how Jesus feels about such shame, it makes me shutter: “For whoever is ashamed of me and my words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels” (Luke 9:26).

Joseph had time to change and to show his world that his faith in Jesus mattered. There is still time for us to change, too, and show how much Jesus has transformed our lives.

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