Thursday, August 2, 2012

Lessons from Bible Characters

Joseph of Arimathea appears out of the blue and just as quickly vanishes.  In the few brief moments that he is in the spotlight the Kingdom of God shines.  What can we glean from his brief appearance?

And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counsellor; and he was a good man, and a just: (The same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them;) he was of Arimathaea, a city of the Jews: who also himself waited for the kingdom of God. This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus.  And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid.  (Luke 23:50-54, KJV)

We don't know a lot about him; all we know is present in the scripture passages.  Joseph of Arimathea was a member of the ruling council.  He had prestige and honor.  He did not agree with the decisions of the Council in regards to handling Jesus.  All the closest disciples of Jesus had fled the crucifixion scene for fear of being caught and pulled into the Sanhedrin's elimination of the Jesus problem.  Mary, the Mother of God, was facing loss of her eldest son with all the attending social questions that attached to a widow in that patriarchal society.  The soldiers had already shown little respect for protecting Jesus' body.  Nobody had a burial plan to our knowledge, as the arrest and trial occurred rather quickly.  The moment was filled with powerlessness and threat to personal dignity and social respect of the dead.

Into such a time and place, set by this vacuum of concern, stepped Joseph of Arimathea.  At the risk of offending and alienating friends and colleagues, he steps forward.  He extends the cloak of his respectability and his position on the Council to surround the body of Jesus and his mother.  In doing so he did the right thing, the Kingdom of God is revealed: the widow was defended from social embarrassment.  The dignity afforded the dead was upheld.  The sacred honor of the individuals involved was preserved.  Joseph takes the body down and, with Pilate's permission, has Jesus' body placed in a grave on his own property fixing the large stone across the opening.

None of us know the time and place when we might find ourselves faced with needing to affirm or demonstrate the reality of the Kingdom of God.  Joseph of Arimathea teaches that we should be ready always to give an answer for the hope within us; to stand with the downtrodden and oppressed.  Be prepared!

Dear God help us to be ready.  We never know when one of the least of these will need an advocate to stand there with them in Your stead.  Help us to see the needs around us and to respond.  In Christ's name.  Amen.

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