Courage and devotion
Matthew 27:57-61 & John 19:38
The New Testament speaks of a fascinating character- Joseph of Arimathea. The Scripture doesn't say much, and yet in those few words, it shouts so much of his valour.
Joseph of Arimathea, a Jew, had the boldness to ask Pilate for Christ’s body. It was customary for criminals who had been crucified to be left to rot on the cross and be eaten by scavenger animals. It was normal for the disciples of the deceased person to ask for the body, as was the case for John the Baptist (see Matt. 14:12). However, in this instance, the closest of Christ’s disciples had abandoned Him and fled for their lives.
The risk to his own safety was great for Joseph. Peter had outwardly denied the Lord Jesus three times over because clearly the risk of his association with Jesus was monumental. If the religious leaders found out about his pursuit of Jesus, his life would have been in jeopardy. And in fact we see that a short time later the Pharisees and chief priests did indeed find out that Joseph had secured Jesus’ body for a dignified burial (see Matt. 27:62-66).
This bravery reminds me of Esther, who put her own life at extreme risk in approaching the king of her own accord to secure the freedom and safety of the Jewish people. What courageous devotion to God she had! Many are called a 'national hero', but such a title is certainly applicable to Esther. Scripture salutes her bravery by including her story in a book in the Old Testament, and stunningly this is the only book in the Bible that neglects to make a single reference to God.
Joseph buried Jesus in a newly-carved tomb. According to Biblical scholar, Matthew Henry, it is likely that Joseph was burying Christ in a tomb that was constructed for himself. Joseph gave up his own tomb for the dead Christ. Joseph of Arimathea would most likely not have known that Christ was going to rise from the dead in three days- Christ tended to emphasise this future event with the twelve. The tomb represented Joseph’s present and future. Joseph offered the dead Christ his ‘now’ and his ‘forever’.
Joseph had a right to that tomb, and he laid down this supreme right for Jesus. What are you courageously putting on the line for the Lord Jesus? Is there at least one area in your life where you're showing great courage for Jesus? Does your devotion and surrender correspond to that of Joseph's wholehearted 'yes'? May God give us the grace to live lives of radical courage and devotion like that of Joseph of Arimathea.