Joseph of Arimathea: Part 1
Taken from a sermon preached on the 19th January 1986.
I have enjoyed the study of Joseph of Arimathea. I believe he is probably the most outstanding businessman, when it comes to integrity, in the whole of New Testament Scripture. The Bible tells us in each of the four Gospels, in an average of about four verses, relatively little about him. But if I were to be remembered, oh that I could be remembered, even in so few verses, in the way that Joseph is.
We are told that he was a good man. We are told he was a just man. We see that he was a tender and gracious and loving man. We discover he is very influential; extremely rich. We find he is such a good Jew, he adheres to the laws of the Jews so diligently that he is a member of the ruling body of the Jews, the ecclesiastical governing body called the Sanhedrin, of which, including the President, there were 71 members. We only find him mentioned at the end of each of the Gospels and only with respect to one event. It is as though we come across him at a point (I believe late in his life) when he is about to do a life's work in an afternoon.
A secret disciple
We also find out that he was a secret disciple. He was a Jew who was afraid of the Jews. He was afraid to be discovered to be a follower of Jesus Christ. But we also discover in the portion recorded by Mark that he was a disciple that believed in and was waiting for the Messiah to come. “He was waiting for the Kingdom”, are the words that are used. He knew his Old Testament Scriptures well. He had studied the Word of God.
And Joseph of Arimathea, who had remained silent when the Sanhedrin had Christ before them, and when in that shameful, mocking, illegal trial, they had tried him, abstained from that vote, along with his friend, Nicodemus, who was also a member of the Sanhedrin. But I think that what he heard and what he saw then of the wickedness of men was too much.
I imagine that Joseph of Arimathea, who had remained silent for so long, said “I can't remain silent anymore. I can't stand by and see my Lord, and my God, mocked, spat upon, falsely accused, blasphemed, taken away and beaten in Caiaphas's house, marred more than any man.”
Joseph had had enough of that.
I imagine he had watched afar as they led our Lord out, carrying at first his own cross, and watched as they nailed him by the hands and by the feet. He looked upon the one above whose head it read "This is the King of the Jews". He knew in his heart it was the King. He knew Messiah had come. He knew that this was the Jesus that he had looked for and longed for and that he served. So he threw fear to the wind.
Perhaps he said, “I am going to risk taking on the entire 69 members of the Sanhedrin and all their wrath upon me. I am going to put my life on the line and risk everything: my wealth, my social standing, my reputation; because it's Jesus Christ who is hanging there, my Lord and my God.”
How do you feel about Jesus Christ? Can you say firmly and absolutely: for I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ? Or are you like Joseph of Arimathea, a secret believer for fear? Are you afraid of what the neighbors are going to say? Are you afraid of what your friends are going to say? Are you afraid of somehow being treated differently? What do you think of Jesus Christ who died for you? What do you think of all the shame and ignominy of the cross? What do you think of that love that knew no bounds, that went all the way to that cursed tree for you and me, what do you think of it? Oh how can you be silent? How can you possibly be a secret believer for fear?
Oh fear is of the devil. When we receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we receive within us the power of the Holy Spirit, the strength to overcome. Imagine what the pages of the Scriptures would be like tonight if Mary's Joseph had said: oh no, I am sorry, oh no, I can't go ahead and marry this woman. What would have happened if he had rebuked the angel that came to him in the dream and said: oh no, not for me thank you very much. No, no, thank you.
What if Joseph of Arimathea had left it two days too late to go and ask for the body of Christ? We wouldn't read about it, would we?
Instead, a man who, until that moment, had been secret, is left for all posterity in Holy Scripture as an example and a message to each of us. And such is the importance of Joseph of Arimathea that he's not only prophesied in Isaiah 53, when we are told that our Lord will be buried with the rich, but is mentioned in each of the four Gospels. Oh don't be a secret disciple.
A day of rewards
You know there is a day of rewards coming. A day is coming when we are going to give an account of ourselves and what we have done with our lives. Are you going to have anything to say? When you stand at that great judgment seat and you look Almighty God in the eye and He says what have you done with all of your talents and all of the resources that I lent to you? What are you going to say? Well, I was afraid. What are you going to say? Are you going to deny yourself the glories and joys and blessings of winning souls for Christ: for there is nothing like it.
To be continued...