Mark 15:42–47 SV
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. Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph. 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. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.
He asked for the body of Jesus.
He was an ordinary Joe. You know the type: good citizen, tither, respected member of the council, a leader people looked up to. If Joseph of Arimathea was on board, you could trust the deal was legit.
He had a solid reputation as an upstanding citizen. Why on earth was he stepping out of the crowd now, approaching the governor and asking for the body of this crucified peasant?
Joseph had no idea Jesus would be raised from the dead. No one did. Joseph, we are told, “was also himself waiting for the kingdom of God.” In John’s gospel, we get this little bit of information:
Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. (John 19:38–39)
Joseph and Nicodemus were secret disciples of Jesus. Why did they keep it secret? They were filled with the fear of their peers. If ever there were a moment to walk away and admit he had been wrong, it would have been this one. The secret would have never been known. He and Nicodemus could have gone back to life as they knew it.
Something must have clicked with Joseph. He probably watched in horror as his colleagues mercilessly heaped shame and scorn on this man he secretly followed. Something rose up in him and said, “Enough!” I bet he wished he had stood up to them long before. He knew what he had to do now. There’s a little word in the text today that signals a departure from business as usual for Joseph of Arimathea. Did you catch it? The word is “boldly.”
Joseph, we are told in the NIV, “went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body.”
Joseph finally went public with his faith, when he probably thought it was way past too late. Imagine his exuberant delight when he discovered he had been right on time.
My hunch is there are thousands upon thousands of Joseph of Arimatheas among us. They believe, but they keep it secret. Why? Mostly, they fear what other people will think; that they will be labeled some kind of religious fanatic or an unapproachable “holier than thou” type or one who wears their religion on their sleeve. It’s just easier to wear two hats; one with the Christian friends and another one with everybody else.
I remember being that guy. I considered myself a believer, but I’m not sure you would have had any idea of it. Looking back, I don’t consider that I was a hypocrite. It’s just that I lived in different compartments depending on which world I happened to be in. Somewhere along the way, I stepped out of that secret life and I went boldly. I’ve never looked back.
It’s always kind of fun to see secret followers of Jesus happen to find one another out. It usually takes whatever level of relationship they had before to the tenth power. Imagine what it was like when Joseph and Nicodemus found each other out. It’s awe-inspiring to see these two secret disciples finally come out into the light as the sun set on that Good Friday.
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
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