Friday, April 14, 2017

Good Friday: Joseph

Photo by Alexandre Chambon
After Jesus' death on the cross, there was a question of what would happen with his body.  Or, possibly, no one had thought too much about what would happen to it.  Thus, Joseph of Arimathea enters the scene.  We don't know a lot about him from the gospels, but we do get a few pieces of information about him.  In Luke 23: 50-51, we learn that he was a good and upright man. He was a member of the Council but had not consented to their decision and action.  He was from the Judean town of Arimathea and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God.  John 19:38 spins a different picture in that he was a secret disciple of Jesus because he feared the Jewish leaders.  Whoever Joseph was, it appears that he was a disciple and that he wanted to play a role in the great mystery that had occurred and was occurring through Jesus' death.  He went to Pilate and asked for Jesus' body.  The gospels agree that it was a new tomb, where no one had been buried thus far.  Matthew gives us a key piece of information.  The tomb was Joseph's own tomb that he had cut out of the rock.  Joseph had wrapped the body in linens and prepared it with spices.  John clues us in that Nicodemus, an earlier character in Jesus' story, helped Joseph to prepare the body for burial.

Reading the various accounts of Jesus' burial, I couldn't help but notice this detail that I have heard so often but haven't thought much about.  Joseph placed Jesus' body in his own tomb.  The one meant for him when he died.  To me, this is an added layer of symbolism in the resurrection account.  Joseph allowed Jesus into his tomb.  As a disciple, Jesus' death took the place of Joseph's spiritual death.  Joseph allowed Jesus in to his life.  Even a good and upright man like himself must have had some sins that he would have liked to have kept hidden. Instead, he allowed Jesus to enter in.  To enter with his grace and his love and to conquer death for him.

The question for us is do we allow Jesus in to our spiritual "tombs?"  Do we allow his death to penetrate our good and upright lives?  To allow his grace to penetrate down to the deep, dark tombs.  To roll back the big heavy rocks we've placed over them.  To die for us and to rise again.

I'm sure Joseph was as surprised as the other disciples to hear what happened with Jesus' body in the end.  He was probably ready to look for a new tomb for himself when he heard the accounts of the resurrection, or went down to the tomb to check things out for himself.  Most of those who witnessed the resurrection were either scared, disbelieving or incredulous.  Even those who had walked with Jesus for several years of his ministry did not believe what they heard.  He had talked with them and preached to them about what would happen, but they were still amazed and some were still in doubt.

Are we, like the disciples, still incredulous about the resurrection?  Are we scared of what it could mean for our lives?  Are we disbelieving, needing to see his hands and feet first?  Or are we like the women who saw him and were filled with great joy?

For the next couple of days, let us ponder what our reaction to the resurrection would have been and what it is today.

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