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Something must have happened to Joseph, so that his previous reluctance to reveal himself as a believer had been replaced by such courage that, with all boldness, he approached Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.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

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My other blog is here.


No Question, The Burial Site of Jesus Is Unique


“In Tana Toraja, everything revolves around death. The graves can be very sophisticated yet sometimes, long after the coffins are destroyed by time, people gently place bones along natural cave ‘racks’. Often, the bones are offered cigarettes or various offerings. This is supposed to prevent dead ancestors from bringing bad luck and otherwise making the lives of the living miserable.”
Image: phitar [Flickr]

Earlier this morning, I came across a fascinating article depicting ten important burial sites around the world. The post makes for interesting and informative reading, and later today I plan to go back and read it again. I was shocked by some of it–for instance this:

The Sedlec Ossuary resides in a small Roman Catholic chapel in Sedlec, Czech Republic. If you didn’t know any better, you wouldn’t have guessed that inside the unassuming building is an ossuary containing about 40,000 human skeletons artistically arranged to form decorations, chandeliers, and furnishings! Take a look.


The Schwarzenberg family’s coat of arms, done with at least one of every
bone in the body. Image: goldberg [Flickr]

Despite the intrigue of this article, the author missed speaking of the greatest burial site of all–that of Jesus Christ. Perhaps it is because we’re not exactly sure of its location, or maybe it was because the author didn’t stop to consider the tomb of the lowly Nazarene. That tomb, that burial place, my friend, is the greatest of any. For you understand, do you not, that His tomb is empty. Dead, He definitely was. Empty, His tomb definitely is.

“In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.

And behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow.

And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.

And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.

He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come , see the place where the Lord lay.” Matthew 28:1-6

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My other blog is here.