In preparation for Easter, Ramona and I watched the movie “Risen.” It is a semi-fictionalized account of Jesus’ crucifixion seen through the eyes of a Roman official. A difficult-to-watch scene depicts a heap of decaying crucified bodies. You see, crucified criminals weren’t given tombs. They were discarded like trash. We know, of course, that Jesus was placed in a wealthy man’s tomb. This was predicted by the prophet Isaiah centuries before Jesus’ birth:
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth. Isaiah 53:9 (NIV)
Indeed, Jesus’ body would have been tossed in with other criminals. Instead, His body was claimed by Joseph of Arimathea, and placed in a tomb he owned. Joseph’s act fulfilled the prophecy and marked the only time Jesus would spend in opulence in His days on earth. So, who was Joseph?
Larry Osborne, in his book “Accidental Pharisees” introduces the reader to Joseph of Arimathea:
“…Joseph was rich. Not formerly rich but currently rich. We also discover he had been a disciple for a while…Mark adds that Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin…the people who turned Jesus over to Pilate…John tells us that Joseph was a secret disciple and that he laid low because he was afraid of his fellow Jewish leaders. In other words, he feared losing his wealth and status, so he hid in the weeds until after Jesus’ death.”
Osborne argues that it would be easy to judge Joseph. He was a man of privilege who didn’t want to lose that privilege, so he secretly followed Jesus. He wasn’t brave like the 11 (minus Judas) who bravely followed Jesus publicly, right? Except, Osborne makes a fascinating observation: “All of the hard-core Jesus followers who had left everything to follow him are nowhere to be found.”
That’s huge! Those who left everything to follow Jesus are now in the wind. The Jesus movement is over. It wasn’t real. He’s dead. And they’re on the run. But not Joseph. He had as much to lose at the foot of the cross as he did when Jesus was alive. The Sanhedrin certainly would have been aghast that Joseph was honoring Jesus with a wealthy man’s tomb. Had Joseph stepped forward earlier, Isaiah’s prophecy may not have been fulfilled.
Let us celebrate the mystery of how Jesus is working in us and others. By keeping us in the dark, He blesses us when our role is revealed. Wait with expectancy as Jesus prepares a “Joseph” moment in your life or the life of others!
This post is republished with permission from Oakbrook Church De Pere, WI.