“Now when evening had come, because it was the Preparation Day, that is, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent council member, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, coming and taking courage, went in to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate marveled that He was already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him if He had been dead for some time. So when he found out from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph. Then he bought fine linen, took Him down, and wrapped Him in the linen. And he laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock, and rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses observed where He was laid.”—Mark 15:42–47 (NKJV)
The cross is a revealer of many things. It reveals the depth of depravity in mankind, the unspeakable penalty of our sin, and the wisdom, mercy, forgiveness, and love of God. It also reveals the character of those who stood in its shadow, namely a man introduced to us as Joseph of Arimathea.
Joseph was a high-ranking member of the Jewish council, which would have put him at the top of the social pecking order in that day. He was someone who had “arrived” in the worldly sense of the term. He was a “somebody” that would have been highly esteemed. He was also patiently awaiting God to establish His kingdom. He wasn’t really caught up in the world he’d risen in, but was looking ahead to the better one to come. He also heard enough of Jesus to know He truly represented God, because at this point Joseph does something incredibly bold and sacrificial.
Despite his social status, and despite every appearance that the life of Jesus had come to an end, Joseph publicly asks for Jesus’ body so he could give it a proper burial. Keep in mind, the very council he belonged to had just gone to great extremes to have Jesus executed. What do you think that did to Joseph’s popularity and prestige?
If you’ve ever done something that went against the tide of popular opinion, you have a faint sense of what Joseph did here. It was a step that would forever alter his social and vocational path. But he took it, because in his heart he was devoted to Jesus and the kingdom He represented than the counterfeit kingdom this world offered.
Joseph placed Jesus’ body in what was actually his own tomb (Matthew 27:60). This reveals yet another layer of Joseph’s devotion, because the tomb was reserved for him and his own future, yet he willingly sacrificed it for Jesus. And again, as far as Joseph knew this was the end of the Jesus story—he sacrificed without any expectation of receiving anything in return. He simply did this because He was devoted.
God would use his dedication in an incredible way. Without realizing it, Joseph helped to establish the conditions that would authenticate the resurrection of Christ! Apart from Joseph’s intervention, the corpse of a crucified “criminal” would likely have been tossed into a mass grave. There would have been no way of securing Jesus’ body much less prove it had been miraculously raised. He didn’t know it at the time, but Joseph’s devotion would pay spiritual dividends beyond calculation the world over in the centuries to come.
Never underestimate the value of your devotion to Jesus. Don’t worry what anyone else thinks about it. Let your devotion to Him express itself as His Spirit leads you, trusting He will use it in ways beyond all understanding and expectation.
Pause: What did the cross reveal about Joseph?
Practice: Apply the lesson learned from his life to yours.
Pray: Lord, may I look past the opinions of this world and live in whole-hearted devotion to You, simply because You are You! Amen.