Holy Week is the week that starts with Palm Sunday and ends with Easter. Each day is significant and celebrated in its own unique way. When we think about Holy Week and the stories that go with it, we often think of Palm Sunday, the Last Supper, Jesus’ crucifixion, and resurrection on Easter. All of these are important and rightfully celebrated. There is one story that occurs during Holy Week (presumably Friday after Christ’s death) that often goes overlooked that I want to focus on today.
The story of Joseph of Arimathea is told in all four Gospels. This is the account from the book of Mark:
“It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of Council, who was himself waiting for the Kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. So Joseph bough some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid.” (Mark 15:42-47).
Joseph of Arimathea was a member of Council, which was the Sanhedrin. This is the Jewish council that convicted Jesus and brought him for crucifixion before Pilate. So Joseph either disagreed with their decision or he was not present for Jesus’ trial. Can you imagine being a part of the group that was ultimately responsible for Christ’s death? However, this was not the end of Joseph’s story.
What I like about this version of the story from Mark, is his description of Joseph ‘boldly’ going to Pilate to ask for Jesus’ body. For this reason; it was extremely rare for the remains of an executed prisoner to be handed over by the Romans. Usually the bodies were left unburied or at best laid out in a field as a reminder to all why they had been executed. In the rare chance the body would be released, it was only to a close family member. Joseph of Arimathea was not family, in fact he was part of the group that called for Jesus to be executed, and now he is ‘boldly’ asking for Christ’s body so that he can properly bury it in a tomb.
As mentioned before, Joseph either disagreed with the other Jewish leaders or he was not present at the meeting. Either way, it’s obvious that he did not put up a big enough fight about it because Jesus was ultimately crucified. It is after Christ’s death that Joseph realizes the importance of all this and acts. Since he was such a prominent member of the Jewish council, it would have been known that he took the body and spent money on it for Christ’s burial. We don’t know for sure but this action probably jeopardized his position on the council. He is ‘boldly’ taking a step of faith and putting his reputation on the line for the sake of Jesus.
As we come to grips with our new reality while also remembering why Christ died for us this week, I want you to reflect on how you might be living into a bold new life. How are you going to celebrate Easter during this strange time in our lives? What might be a bold step for you to take that others might notice? This Easter will feel different than any other you have ever experienced. How can you go boldly into it and remember and celebrate what it’s all about?
Questions for Discussion/Contemplation: