He was a man of principle—that’s one of the first things you noticed about Joseph of Arimathea. And, then as now, you couldn’t say that about many people involved in politics. He felt privileged to be a member of the ruling council but, unlike many others, hadn’t compromised his principles or traded in his values.
That’s why he knew that what had happened to Jesus wasn’t right. Joseph still wasn’t quite sure what to make of Jesus, but he knew that he didn’t deserve death by crucifixion.
But what could he do, now that Jesus was dead? Perhaps he should have spoken out more strongly in his favour… but it was too late for that now. Then he suddenly thought—“At least I could give him a decent burial”. He owned a plot of land, a tomb, a space in which Jesus could be buried with dignity.
So, having made his offer (which, through her tears, Jesus’ mother Mary gladly accepted), he plucked up the courage to ask Pontius Pilate for the body. To his surprise, there seemed to be no problem about this—perhaps Pilate just wanted, once again, to wash his hands of anything to do with Jesus.
And so the deed was done. Jesus’ body was carried from the cross to the tomb, and a large stone rolled in front of it. How ironic—that Jesus should be born in a borrowed stable, and now be buried in a borrowed grave.
This was certainly an act of kindness, and Joseph took considerable risks in being identified with Jesus. But was there more going on here than meets the eye?
I think that Joseph, in giving up his grave, created space for the resurrection. If you like, by his actions he had given God room to perform the miracle that would change the world.
And in a sense that’s the Easter call to each of us: to make space for God to act in our lives, in our churches and through us in our relationships at work, school, home and in our neighbourhoods. We can’t make God act in resurrection or in anything, but we can provide the space.
The trouble is, in our busy society we’re not very good at making space for anything, particularly the unexpected.
I thank God for Joseph of Arimathea—an unsung hero—who made space for God to work the ultimate miracle of resurrection. May we this Easter also dare to make space for the release of Christ’s risen life within and though us.
“Hallelujah, Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!”
Pray: Lord, thank you for Easter. I may never understand it fully - but I do understand that you suffered for our sake, so that we could be forgiven for all the wrong things we do, think and say. Help me to focus my eyes on you today, this week and always. Amen.
Think about: If Jesus hadn't risen again on the third day, how would that have changed things? What would it have said about who Jesus was, and what he did?
Challenge: Being of service to others usually means a personal sacrifice of some kind. Joseph gave us his tomb; Jesus gave up his life. How ready are you to make a sacrifice, large or small, for someone else? How about someone you hardly know, or someone you've never met?