Who is Joseph of Arimathea?

It was Jesus’s last night on earth. He chose to spend the evening with his disciples. The disciples of Jesus followed him for more than three years. They witnessed many miracles including the rise of three dead people. Disciples of Jesus never realized it was their last night with Jesus as a man. When the night came they went to the Olive garden to pray. The next few hours were like bad dream for his disciples. It happened so fast. Jesus was arrested by the guards. One of his own disciples, Judas Iscariot came along with soldiers and identified Jesus with the kiss. The rest of the eleven disciples started running to save themselves. Jesus was captured, put on trial, beaten and condemned to be crucified.

Jesus was crucified next day and died at 3 PM local time. The Sabbath was about to start in 3 hours’ time (i.e 6 PM or more accurately decided based on sunset time). Joseph of Arimathea appeared from nowhere. His name is mentioned in all four books of Gospel all in the same context. There was no mention of his name anywhere else. Matthew introduced him as a rich man and a disciple of Jesus (Mat 27:57). Mark introduced him as a prominent and respected member of the Jewish council (Mark 15:43). He was also described as a courageous man. Luke introduces Joseph of Arimathea as a member of the Jewish council and a honorable man (Luke 23:50). John introduces him as a secret disciple who feared Jews (John 19:38).

While every known disciple left Jesus and run away to save themselves, a secret disciple came out courageously. Why Joseph from Arimathea needs courage? Though he is part of the Jewish council, he could be arrested, jailed and his property could be confiscated, if he acts against the Jewish council. Jewish council, also known as Sanhedrin is the upper court in the Jewish community in the 1st century.They had right to judge and punish anyone except the right to kill.

Let’s reconstruct the incident that happened in AD 30 (approximately). When Jesus died, it was 3 PM and the Sabbath starts at 6 PM. Joseph from Arimathea wanted to give Jesus honorable burial. He rushed to Pilate and asked for Jesus body. He cannot send his servants to Pilate. He had to go by himself. Pilate did not believe Joseph's words that Jesus was already dead (Mark 15:44). Pilate confirmed the death of Jesus through his centurion. Joseph had to rush back to the site of Jesus crucifixion to show Pilate's approval. By the time he came back, it was very close to the time of Sabbath. Anyone who defies sabbath could be stoned to death.

Joseph did not rest. Bible says he took down the body of Jesus (Mark 15:46) and brought linen cloth. He purchased it, while the shops were getting closed for Sabbath. By now one more secret disciple appeared. His name was Nicodemus (John 19:39) – Who came to meet Jesus in the night before (John 3). He was also a member of ruling council. Nicodemus brought 100 pounds of Myrrh and aloes. It was very large quantity normally used for the burial of rich people. Both Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were personally involved in wrapping Jesus body with the linen cloth. They kept Jesus body in Joseph’s newly cut tomb and then rolled the stone to close the tomb.

The name of Joseph of Arimathea never appears in the bible again. Never appeared before. But it was mentioned only during the burial of Jesus in all four gospels of the New Testament. All four gospels mention his name. He was a rich, prominent, honorable man, powerful and member of the ruling council. But he came forward courageously. His own fellow ruling council members can arrest him and confiscate his riches since they hated Jesus. He boldly went before Pilate to ask for Jesus body and acted dynamically. Not only that, he sacrificed his own tomb for the sake of Jesus.

What a true disciple he was!! He came forward to show his love when everyone left Jesus. It was his time to act. He took the opportunity. Maybe some of you are secretly following Jesus because of your current situation and circumstances. Our Lord loves everyone. God knows your situation more than anyone. Your time to serve God will come independent of where ever you are. God is going to use your talents, time and treasures for his glory. He will give you courage and boldness to stand for his duty. Amen.

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