Friday, April 12, 2019
The Courageous Word
And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning a centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph. And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of Joses, saw where he was laid.
In his sermon entitled The Courageous Word, Pastor Graham features the story of Joseph of Arimathea as an example of what it means to be a Christ follower.
Joseph is the creme de la creme in Jewish society. As a member of the Sanhedrin, he is highly honored and well thought of by his peers. His knowledge of the Law and the Prophets, we can assume, is impeccable. Joseph undoubtedly believes that God will one day send a Messiah to save His people.
Enter Jesus of Nazareth, an itinerant preacher, healer, miracle worker. Along with the Pharisees and Sadducees, Joseph witnesses Jesus' authoritative teaching in the temple first hand. But unlike his cohorts, who feel threatened by this upstart, Joseph is intrigued. Could this man actually be the promised Messiah? The Son of the living God?
Joseph, for obvious reasons, keeps his thoughts to himself. Yet, we can imagine that he spends countless hours deliberating Jesus' identity, praying to know the truth. Has God's kingdom arrived at last?
The scriptures do not tell us when or how Joseph of Arimathea became a believer, a disciple of Christ, but his actions on the day of Jesus' crucifixion speak volumes. At the peril of being shunned and denounced by his contemporaries, and perhaps, stripped of his rank, Joseph boldly approaches Pilate and asks for Jesus' body so it can be honorably buried in a proper tomb.
At long last, Joseph is willing to sacrifice his earthly accolades and his standing with the elites to do the right thing in God's eyes. If that means losing his place on the fast track of success, so be it.
So Pastor Graham challenges us, as Christians, to speak up and act with courage on the Lord's behalf in our daily lives. Christians, he states, should be willing to risk the loss of worldly acclaim to stand firm in the faith.
This certainly give me pause for some serious thought and reflection. Do I love the Lord with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength? Am I willing to proclaim the Word of God with courage, even if it means losing my status in the world's eye?
Maybe, my friends, there are questions we should all ponder deeply during this Lenten season, as we prepare for the celebration of Christ's resurrection on Easter Day.
And I wonder . . .
What was Joseph of Arimathea's reaction when he got word of the empty tomb?
I can only imagine that it was one of overwhelming joy!
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