Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Standing with Jesus  

Every one therefore that shall confess me before men, I will also confess him before my Father who is in heaven, but he that shall deny me before men, I will also deny him before my Father who is in heaven. Mt. 10:33
On some calendars, today is the memorial of St. Joseph of Arimathea. In Scripture, we get a brief glimpse of this man who is one of only two men who were there for Jesus after he died. The other man was Nicodemus who had come to Jesus during the night.
Now there was a man named Joseph from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, who had not consented to their purpose and deed, and he was looking for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud, and laid him in a rock-hewn tomb, where no one had ever yet been laid. Luke 23:50-536
It is interesting that all four Gospels recount this event. Each one provides a little more insight into Joseph. In Matthew's Gospel (27:57-60), we learn that Joseph was rich, a disciple of Christ, and he had Jesus' body laid in his own tomb. In Mark's Gospel (15:43-46), Joseph is described as "a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God." St. Mark also adds the details that Joseph took courage before meeting with Pilate. St. John's account (19:38-41), notes that Nicodemus assisted Joseph, and that although Joseph was a disciple of Christ, he was a secret one because of he feared the Jews. In addition, St. John provides information about how Jesus' body was wrapped in the linen shroud. They added spices of myrrh and aloes which was the custom of the Jews at that time.

All of this provides a picture of a man who has a growing faith in Christ. Prior to Christ's Passion, he had been a secret disciple of Christ. However, through the events surrounding, our Lord's Passion, we can see that Joseph's faith is beginning to quickly grow. As a member of the council, he had not consented to the death sentence that had been given to Jesus by the Sanhedrin. This would have branded him as some type of sympathizer with Jesus. Now, after being unable to prevent Jesus' death, he performs an act of mercy by burying Jesus in a tomb. It recalls the life of Tobit who buried his dead brothers, although he did so under the threat of death.
In the days of Shalmaneser I performed many acts of charity to my brethren. I would give my bread to the hungry and my clothing to the naked; and if I saw any one of my people dead and thrown out behind the wall of Nineveh, I would bury him...Then one of the men of Nineveh went and informed the king about me, that I was burying them; so I hid myself. When I learned that I was being searched for, to be put to death, I left home in fear. Tobit (1:16-17,19)
It took courage for Joseph to approach Pilate to ask for Jesus' body. Again, he would now be identified by the Romans as one who was sympathetic to Jesus.

It would seem that Joseph's life would never be the same after Christ's Passion. He had made a break from the consensus of the religious rulers, and he had openly shown mercy for a man many considered to be cursed because he had been crucified. Joseph had now identified himself as a disciple of Christ with both the Jews and the Romans. It seems extremely doubtful that he would be able to resume his life as if nothing had ever occurred. Then, of course, to his surprise, Jesus rises from the dead just days after all had seemed lost, and Joseph had put his life on the line. What joy must have been his to learn that Jesus was alive again. That joy was all the more his because he had been willing to take courage and stick his neck out for Jesus.

The life of this saint is a testimony to what the Lord calls all of us to do which is to stand by Him, even if it is the darkest hour. It would have been easy for Joseph to go with the council's decision. Maybe, later, he would have felt guilty about it, but it is doubtful that he would have then asked for Jesus' body. Instead, in Joseph, I see how faith builds on faith. By standing by Jesus against all opposition, he later had the courage to go to Pilate to ask for the body of Christ. And by performing the merciful act of burying Jesus, he was able to participate in the joy of Christ's resurrection more fully than if he had simply stayed at home and done nothing. If he had sat on his hands, he might have been happy about the resurrection, but he would also know that he had not stood by Christ when few people were wanting to identify themselves with Jesus. Undoubtedly, Joseph went on to do more great things for Christ. However, for Joseph, like all of us, what he did for Christ is founded on how he responded to Christ's Passion.

Posted by David at 7:28 AM  |  Comments (0)  | 


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