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Something must have happened to Joseph, so that his previous reluctance to reveal himself as a believer had been replaced by such courage that, with all boldness, he approached Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.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.
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