Luke 23:50-56 (CEV)
50-51 There was a man named Joseph, who was from Arimathea in Judea. Joseph was a good and honest man, and he was eager for God’s kingdom to come. He was also a member of the council, but he did not agree with what they had decided.
52 Joseph went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. 53 He took the body down from the cross and wrapped it in fine cloth. Then he put it in a tomb that had been cut out of solid rock and had never been used. 54 It was Friday, and the Sabbath was about to begin.
55 The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and watched how Jesus’ body was placed in the tomb. 56 Then they went to prepare some sweet-smelling spices for his burial. But on the Sabbath they rested, as the Law of Moses commands.
He Did Not Agree
What happens when we disagree with the majority?
Some of us might stand up and suggest a different response. Some of us might try to make ourselves small so that our disagreement doesn’t get us into trouble.
Joseph, we are told, was in that kind of a situation.
Now, this isn’t the Joseph who was Jesus’ earthly father. All accounts suggest that he had died well before Jesus began his earthly ministry, so he is no longer there to have any say over what happens.
No, this Joseph is just a ‘good and honest man’ who sits on the religious council that had decided to take Jesus to Pilate for execution, but nevertheless disagreed with the decision.
What We Don’t Know
We don’t know what he did that morning – just a few short hours earlier – when the group met.
It’s not clear whether he had tried to make his voice heard – whether he had tried to rally support even in Jesus’ favour. We don’t even know whether he had tried meekly to disagree, but felt the overwhelming pressure of the group and fear for his position terrify him into silence.
All we know is that now that Jesus is dead, he is devastated.
And his devastation is enough to make him brave enough to take a risk.
What We Do Know
He goes and publicly requests the body of an executed criminal. Then he takes it to a family tomb he had prepared.
And whether he had spoken up earlier or not, this is an open act of defiance. There are enough witnesses there – including other members of the council – that his action is noticed.
But Joseph knows that Jesus had come to bring God’s Kingdom.
He knows that the religious establishment has killed God’s chosen one.
And whether it is a last-ditch attempt to redeem himself for failing to speak up sooner, or the final act in a multi-year drama of fighting for Jesus’ life that we have simply not been privy to, Joseph stands up and says ‘this isn’t right’.
This isn’t what I signed up for when I said I’d sit on the council.
I didn’t sign up to line the pockets of my co-council members.
I wasn’t trying to vie for power in complicated games of politics.
It was never my plan to see an increase in violence. I never planned to profit off of the backs of my fellow citizens.
And I certainly didn’t sign up to try to stand in the direct path of God’s Kingdom.
And what strikes me about Joseph is that after an entire book full of stories of why Jesus hated the Pharisees and religious leaders, Luke tells us about a religious leader and calls him good and honest and describes this incredible act of selflessness and compassion.
It’s striking because it is quite possibly a story of metanoia. Of allowing God to change the way that we think in ways that change the way that we live and act and behave.
It’s striking because it is definitely a story of courage. Of the courage to stand up for what is right, even if it comes with the very distinct possibility of making powerful enemies.
And it’s striking because it is almost certainly a story of redemption. Of a person realizing that it’s never too late to do the right thing, even when it feels like the story is over.
Because sometimes it takes us a while to realize that we don’t agree. To realize that something is unjust. To realize that someone is being falsely accused.
But Joseph’s story tells us that we can never be too late to the game to change how the story ends.
- Have you ever been witness to injustice?
- Or tried to speak up, only to have your voice muffled, or your ideas shot down?
- Have you ever felt like you were too small to make a difference? Too late for your difference to matter?
- How does the Spirit speak to you through the story of Joseph?
- What is one step you could take to change how the story ends?
This study is part of an entire journey through the book of Luke. If you’ve enjoyed it, please visit https://www.voxalliance.ca/category/devotionals/luke/ for the rest of this series.