Luke 23: 50-56 (MsgB)
 There was a man by the name of Joseph, a member of the Jewish High Council, a man of good heart and good character.  He had not gone along with the plans and actions of the council. His hometown was the Jewish village of Arimathea.  He lived in alert expectation of the Kingdom of God. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.  Taking Him down, he wrapped Him in a linen shroud and placed Him in a tomb chiseled into the rock, a tomb never yet used.  It was the day before Sabbath, the Sabbath just about to begin.  The women who had been companions of Jesus from Galilee followed along. They saw the tomb where Jesus’ body was placed.  Then they went back to prepare burial spices and perfumes. They rested quietly on the Sabbath, as commanded.
I don’t know about you, but for me, there are a good number of people in the scriptures that really intrigue me. Ones that I want to meet in heaven.
Oh yes, I know. Heaven is all about Jesus and being around Him. But as I figure it, we have eternity there, so there should be plenty of time for each other as well.
I’m guessing after the first 10,000 years of sitting at the feet of Jesus, staring into His wonderful face, He just might suggest to me that I go out and have a look around the place. It’s on that leg of the journey when I hope to meet up with guys like Joseph of Arimathea.
This guy truly intrigues me. The kind of man I want to be hanging around me when I’m having a really bad day.
Keep in mind, it’s Friday, late afternoon. Passover 33 AD. I know we Christians now call this day Good Friday, but at this particular moment in time, not much looks very good to even the most positive thinker here.
Jesus is dead. His broken and bloodied body is still hanging from a tree. It’s customary for the family of the deceased to take down the remains of those crucified by the Roman government, taking care of the mess themselves. For the Jews, Friday’s sunset is quickly approaching, meaning the Sabbath begins soon. No work is to be done on the Sabbath and time is slipping away for anyone to come take Jesus’ broken body off the cross, giving it a proper burial before sundown. Jewish law prohibits a dead body from being left unburied for more than twenty-four hours after death. With sundown and the Sabbath quickly approaching, the pressure was on. Really on.
The only problem? All of Jesus’ original gang has pretty much deserted Him, leaving Jesus to die all-alone on a cross outside Jerusalem. Mary is the only family member to speak of and some of the women who have traveled with Jesus and His disciples are the only ones left to do the dirty work of cleansing the body and preparing it for burial. With women having little honor in the society in which Jesus lives, neither the Jewish leadership of the day, nor the Roman government officials, would want anything to do with negotiating with these female friends of Jesus. Besides, it’s Friday afternoon and the weekend awaits.
Enter one Joseph of Arimathea. A saint, sent by God, as I see it.
Here’s a good man who has both authority and respect in the community. He sees a need and quickly steps in, doing what needs to be done. Luke tells us that Joseph sits on the Jewish High Council, the same group that signed off on Jesus’ crucifixion. But, apparently, Joseph is one of the few brave men in the minority that day. Men who refuse to go along with the lynch mob mentality. Men who knew at the time that this was nothing but a kangaroo court and wanted nothing to do with these baseless accusations being hurled at Jesus. On a side note, I find it interesting that those who blame all Jews for Jesus’ death quickly overlook this fact that there were, indeed, a few good Hebrew men like Joseph who knew from day one that the Jewish High Council was not representing God when they accused and convicted Jesus of blasphemous heresy.
To me, it’s a good man like Joseph who should make any person, Jew or Gentile, truly proud.
What a man. What a hero.
And while we never hear of Joseph of Arimathea again in the Good Book, my gut tells me that there is a special seat at the Lord’s Table for this Jewish hero who stood firm to his convictions, doing the right thing on Good Friday, when nearly everyone else let the Master down.
Bravo, Joseph. Bravo.
My prayer: Lord, I see how Joseph of Arimathea, while playing a very small part in Your larger redemption story, still performs a huge service to You and the Kingdom of God. May I be of the same good character and high integrity when life demands that I do the right thing, even when nearly everyone else hits the road running. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: Joseph’s willingness to serve, risk and be there when no one else was is truly impressive. Like Joseph of Arimathea, what practical ways can I be of service to Jesus and the Kingdom of God? How can I become a servant to God’s people, like Joseph was to Mary and the other women who truly needed his help in very practical ways?
So what is God speaking to you today? Are you practicing the Kingdom presence of God?