The Enigma of Joseph

Why did Joseph of Arimathaea, who only secretly followed Jesus, now boldly claim his body?

“And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.

Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.

Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.

There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.” John 19:38, 40-42

Yesterday, as I read again the staggering story of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus I was struck with what seems a mystery concerning Joseph of Arimathaea. Who was this man? What was he thinking? What caused his action that black day? While I can’t recall hearing of it, I’m sure the subject has been discussed many times and perhaps someone has answers to the question I have about Joseph.

The striking element is that this man who asked for possession of the mutilated body was not one of the twelve apostles. Indeed, according to John’s writing here, Joseph hadn’t even declared himself a follower of Jesus at all, but rather, he was a secret disciple… “for fear of the Jews.” He was a high counselor and a voting member of the Sanhedrin who wanted Jesus put to death.

Something must have happened to Joseph, so that his previous reluctance to reveal himself as a believer had been replaced by such courage that, with all boldness, he approached Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. That seems unusual–think about it–for now Jesus was dead, and it must have appeared He was defeated. To the man, his disciples had deserted Him, while the women stood by weeping. It was dark. It was dismal. The sun hid its face, and an earthquake shook the earth.

During the preceding few hours something must have happened to Joseph. Something helped him put aside his fear, and in its place was raw courage. Gripped by a dauntless spirit, Joseph pled, “Let me have that body, Pilate.”

Why? What happened? How did this man who previously had followed secretly now have the courage to perform this act? Did he believe the Jews would no longer persecute His followers seeing Jesus was now dead? Did his observing the death of Jesus ignite a hitherto unrecognized resolute spirit? Did great passion arise when Joseph observed Jesus’ disciples forsaking him? Did heavy remorse overtake him as he remembered his prior cowardice?

I would love to hear your thoughts and insight.


My other blog is here.


About Shirley Buxton

Still full of life and ready to be on the move, Shirley at 78 years old feels blessed to have lots of energy and to be full of optimism. She has been married to Jerry for 60 years. They have 4 children, 12 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren...all beautiful and highly intelligent--of course. :)
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6 Responses to The Enigma of Joseph

  1. writeathome says:

    He was a high counselor and a voting member of the Sanhedrin who wanted Jesus put to death.

    According to the account in Luke, Joseph of Arimathaea was not in agreement with what the Sanhedrin wanted done to Jesus.

    Luk 23:50 Now notice, there was a man named Joseph from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council (the Sanhedrin), and a good (upright, advantageous) man, and righteous (in right standing with God and man),
    Luk 23:51 Who had not agreed with or assented to the purpose and action of the others; and he was expecting and waiting for the kingdom of God.

    I wonder if at this point, Joseph just didn’t agree in his heart but didn’t say anything to the others or if he actually voiced his opinion and at this point, ceased being a secret disciple. I just don’t know.

    Another thing I see too that’s interesting is in verse 39 of John, Nicodemus comes by and they both prepare the body for burial together. Nicodemus first came to Jesus by night in John chapter 3, and I have heard some speculate that he probably came at night because he didn’t want to be seen because of his position among the Jews. It appears at this point, they no longer cared what anybody thought about their association with Jesus.

    Anyhow, these were just some things I thought about as I looked at these Scriptures. What I know for sure…..Jesus is risen!

    Happy Easter!

  2. Shirley says:

    And happy Easter to you also, Carol.

    Yes, I had noted also that it was “Night-time Nicodemus” who helped prepare the body, and I saw too that Joseph did not vote with the Sanhedrin. Did he voice his objection? Was it a secret ballot, or did he at that time speak up for Jesus?

    Now, think about this one. What if, because of his personality, he just could not get up the nerve to declare himself. Now at the death of Jesus, did he think it was okay because it would not be a problem anymore. After all, he might have thought, the man Jesus was now dead, and surely didn’t pose a threat to anyone. It’s probably safe now to declare myself,…and I do have that tomb available.

    If that were the case, was he ever in for a shock! The resurrection morning! The body had disappeared, and his tomb was the center of attention.

    Fascinating. And yes, He is risen, and alive within our hearts.

    Love you all

  3. Rebecca Juarez says:

    An active, engaged reader can’t help wondering about what seem to be missing pieces. Were they lost in the translation? A linguistic dilemma, perhaps? Do they not really matter? Should we be able to figure it out? Were the omissions purposeful? Unintentional? A matter of perspective? I don’t know, but sometimes I am bothered by such.

    Other times, I let my mind wander and allow my imagination to fill in the blanks, just for fun.

  4. Shirley says:

    Hi, Rebecca–

    I like the imagination part, especially when talented preachers engage in it as they’re preaching…making it clear, of course, that they’re “filling in the blank spots.”

    I suspect that sometimes we forget that the stories in the Bible were real, and that the people had feelings and emotions the same as we. It makes the Bible come alive if we can remember that–at least it does for me.

    Eat any chocolate Easter eggs?

  5. Rebecca Juarez says:

    Are you kidding?! I’m STILL eating chocolate Easter eggs, thanks to the 50% off shelf at Long’s drugstore.

    God seriously challenged my Christianity Easter Sunday. I’ll have to email you the details. Our reactions when called to be truly Christlike in difficult situations say much about our relationships with Christ. Needless to say, I much prefer comfortable Christianity to the real thing, but God is teaching me a thing or two. 😐

  6. Shirley says:

    Hey, Rebecca–

    You must be growing in Christ, seeing how He thinks you’re up to a challenge or two.

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