The Book of Luke, The Aftermath of Christís Death - Lesson 242
Luke 23:50-56, And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counsellor; and he was a good man, and a just: 51(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. 52This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. 53And 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. 54And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on. 55And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid. 56And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.
Luke introduces us to a man named Joseph by using the word "behold."
This word "behold" is a command word and it indicates the fastening of the eyes upon an object, to see with attention, and to observe with care.
It is like saying, this is an unusual thing, so take care to observe it in detail for this does not often happen.
When we observe carefully we see a man whom we have not seen before.
He is a man named Joseph who was from a place called Arimathea, a town of the Jews.
Some say this was the same town from which Samuel the prophet came, the town of Ramah.
This Joseph appears in the scriptures without prior introduction, he does what he is appointed to do and then he disappears from the scene as far as the Biblical record is concerned.
All of the gospel writers write of Joseph and all provide some unique information about him.
Matthew tells us he was a rich man who was also Jesusí disciple.
He also tells us that the tomb in which he laid Jesus was a new tomb, it was his own tomb and it was carved out of the rock.
From this we can infer that Jerusalem was where he lived, with Arimathea being the town of his birth, for he intended to be buried there and not in his hometown.
Mark tells us that Joseph was an honorable counselor.
In todayís parlance he would be called a statesman which is one who proposes the doing of right rather than that which is partisan.
As we know from observing our congress, statesmen are few and far between.
Luke tells us that Joseph was a good man and just.
He proved his goodness of heart, his fairness and honesty, by not consenting to the decision and action against Jesus by the governing counsel which was called the Sanhedrin.
Luke also tells us that Joseph waited for the kingdom of God.
This waiting was in concert with the message of Christ and apparently Christís message found a place in Josephís heart.
From Mark we learned that Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but John tells us that this allegiance was kept secret for fear of the Jews.
John also tells us that another man, a man whom we have previously met in the 3rd chapter of John, the man who came to Jesus by night, the man named Nicodemus, helped him with the burial of Jesus Christ.
Again we ponder the word "behold" used by Luke to introduce us to this scenario.
I think Luke uses that word to make our minds perk up with questions.
It is obvious that these two men were given this task by God.
God the Father wanted his Son to be buried in a certain place and in a manner which He could use to properly announce the resurrection of his Son.
It was well known that, according to Roman law, those condemned to death had no right to be buried.
The body of Jesus, the crucified, normally would have been disposed of as were the bodies of the other two men who were crucified along with Jesus.
Most likely the bodies would not even have been buried, but only cast in the garbage dump of the city where they would burn with the refuse placed there by the Jews.
You would think that Christ would have been buried by his family or at least by his disciples but they are absent from this scene.
But we find two men, one of whom we have never heard from before this event, chosen of God for this solemn duty.
I doubt if the disciples knew these men at all.
Perhaps they had a peripheral view of Nicodemus and may have remembered his visit to Jesus by night.
But Joseph of Arimathea, and Nicodemus were both, to a great degree, strangers to our Lord and to the disciples.
The disciples, who were insiders, did not step up to this duty but it was outsiders who responded to Godís direction to bury His Son.
The eleven disciples, who spent the last three years of their lives with Jesus, are hardly visible here.
But God did not choose them for this task and instead chose a man who was equipped to help, for Josephís tomb met Godís exact specifications for the burial place of his Son.
Joseph lived in Jerusalem, because he was a member of the Sanhedrin, the "Governing Council".
He was a man waiting for the kingdom of God and Jerusalem was the place to wait, for Jerusalem was to be the capital of Israel where the King would reign.
According to Mark he was a prominent member of the Council, a man of influence among those on the Council.
Luke takes care to tell us that he did not consent to their decision to put Jesus to death.
But Luke also infers in Luke 22:70 that the Council came to a unanimous decision that Jesus was guilty of blasphemy, and that they unanimously pressed Pilate to put Him to death (Luke 22:70Ė23:1; Mark 15:1).
I think this conflict can be answered reasonably by concluding that neither Joseph nor Nicodemus were called to attend this meeting or to take part in the decision.
This was a setup from the beginning for the end result was a foregone conclusion.
Only those who supported this conclusion were invited to the meeting.
The Sanhedrin was interested in a quorum of those who would agree to the death of Jesus and therefore they would have excluded any who they thought would differ with their decision.
So marginal members were not invited when the Council was called together illegally the night of Jesusí arrest.
They knew who they could count on and Joseph and Nicodemus were not in that group.
There is an old adage that says: Birds of a feather flock together.
There were two groups of birds, a large group who wished to see Jesus dead and the second group composed of only Joseph and Nicodemus.
Joseph and Nicodemus were likewise birds of a feather.
Both seemed to have been secret disciples of Jesus Christ.
Not completely secret but secret enough where they did come out boldly in favor of Jesus.
But the little favor they showed must have come though to their fellow council members for they were excluded.
Joseph of Arimathea is mentioned in none other event of the New Testament but Nicodemus is, and from the actions of Nicodemus we can see somewhat the heart of Joseph.
Nicodemus was also a Pharisee, a leader of the Jews and most likely he was also a member of the Council.
He was drawn to Jesus and chose to seek him out Him, but when he sought Him out, he came to Jesus by night.
We read of this in John 3.
I think we could infer from this nighttime visit that Nicodemus had, as Joseph did, some kind of interest in Jesus.
Nicodemus had many things to ponder when he left Jesus that night.
He had to ponder what it meant to be born again.
He also had to ponder what Jesus meant by saying that in order for men to have eternal life, the Son of Man would have to be "lifted up" like Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness.
Nicodemus was eventually forced to take some kind of stand.
Jesus was controversial wherever he went and during the Feast of Tabernacles he created a great division among the people and between the people and their leaders
These leaders, realizing that they were losing control, ordered the temple guard to arrest Jesus, but they came back without Him.
The guards said in John 7:48-52, Never man spake like this man. 47Then answered them the Pharisees, Are ye also deceived? Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him? 49But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed.
50Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,) 51Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth? 52They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.
Here is where Nicodemus leans toward Christ.
He speaks up against their absolute that no Pharisee believe in Jesus as the Christ.
He receives incredulity from them.
This is how peer pressure presses!
They are aghast for no prophet comes from Galilee.
Wise up Nick, read the scriptures, he hears!
But Nicodemus at least took a weak-kneed stand here, not on the identity of the person of Christ, but rather on a principle of the law.
Under Jewish law, the accused had the right to be heard before he was pronounced guilty.
Jesus had never had a "hearing."
The Sanhedrin in an outward going through the motions way, responded to the objections of Nicodemus when they gave Jesus His "hearing" the night of His arrest.
But maybe this challenge concerning the birthplace of Christ was taken up by Nicodemus.
Maybe he inquired into the birthplace of Jesus, and found that He was born in Bethlehem and was of the lineage of David.
He may also have found that he met the messianic prophesy of the ninth chapter of Isaiah that spoke of a ministry in Galilee.
Nicodemus seemed to have been a student of the law as well as of the prophets.
Coming to Jesus by night revealed that he had a quest for knowledge and did not, without question, accept what his peers had to offer.
He obviously came to understand that they were wrong to reject Jesus for his conclusion led him to believe that Jesus was the Messiah.
But both Nicodemus and Joseph became disciples of Jesus, however at this time it was the beginning stage of their following.
They did not reveal this outwardly for they feared the rejection of their peers.
As birds of a feather flock together they found each other in the group and became partners in the burial of Jesus, the day of His crucifixion.
They were not of strength nor did their faith call them to defy the Council when it condemned Christ nor were they part of the night time Council that brought him to his crucifixion.
But once the crucifixion had taken place the little faith that they did have moved them to cast off their fear.
They determined to take a stand in protest of the action of the Council.
For Joseph and Nicodemus to request the body of Jesus in order to give it a proper burial was a public statement that Jesus was not a criminal, but that He was the Christ.
Jesusí body would have been cast into the trash heap had it not been for God using the little faith that Joseph had to
boldly go before Pilate to ask for the body.
Joseph determined that the body of the Messiah was to be placed in the finest burial place possible and it was in his power to place His body in his own tomb.
God knew there was little time to prepare for the Sabbath was upon them.
Time had been taken in getting permission to claim the body, time had elapsed in getting the body off of the cross, time had been taken to prepare the body with spices and to place it in the tomb.
The Council had to know what Joseph had done, for when they asked for a guard to be posted at the grave site, they would have had to have been told that Joseph claimed the body and buried it.
Because of this they would have had to ask Joseph where the body was buried and therefore known of his complicity.
Showing respect for the body of Jesus was the only thing that Joseph and Nicodemus could do, at this point in time, to disassociate themselves from the actions of the Council, and to associate themselves with Jesus
This act on their part gave credence to His ministry, and to the fact that they believed he was the Messiah.
They did what they could, and they did it well.
The gospels commend Joseph especially for he took the lead but Nicodemus can also be included in any commendation.
Where were the disciples?
Where were Jesusí kin?
They were nowhere to be seen but God had men who showed courage at this critical junction of Jesusí death.
Men who showed their love for the Savior by showing respect for His body.
We donít know anything about them except what is recorded in the Gospels.
We donít know what their contribution was to the early church if any.
We are not told.
But they stand out as examples of faith of those who come though for Christ in difficult times.