Begging the body of Christ

Published 8:59 am Friday, November 24, 2017

On this day after Thanksgiving, my hope and prayer is that we still find ourselves thankful. Gratitude should be an everyday occurrence, not just once a year! As I have reflected on all my blessings, I know at the very top of the list is the fact Jesus Christ gave his life for me. Oh, praise the Lord for paying our sin debt! I read the crucifixion story out of Luke 23 this past week, and God begin to speak to my heart pointing out something I had never considered. Let’s take a closer look at Joseph of Arimathea. He begged Pilate for the body of Christ after his death.
Joseph was a Biblical figure who played an important role in the burial of Jesus Christ. His account can be found in each of the four Gospels: Matthew 27:57–60; Mark 15:42–46; Luke 23:50–53; and John 19:38–42. He is called “Joseph of Arimathea” because “he came from the Judean town of Arimathea” (Luke 23:51) and to distinguish him from other Josephs in the Bible. While there is not much information in the Bible about Joseph of Arimathea, there are certain things we can glean from the text. In Luke 23:50, we learn that Joseph was a part of the Council, or Sanhedrin, the group of Jewish religious leaders called Pharisees and Sadducees who called for Jesus’ crucifixion. However, as we read on to verse 51, we see that Joseph was opposed to the Council’s decision and was, in fact, a secret follower of Jesus (see also Mark 15:43). Joseph was a wealthy man (Matthew 27:57), although the source of his wealth is unknown. In addition, the Bible refers to Joseph as a “good and upright man” (Luke 23:50).
After Jesus’ death on the cross, Joseph, at great risk to himself and his reputation, went to the Roman governor Pilate to request Jesus’ body. Nicodemus, the Pharisee who had visited Jesus at night to ask questions about God’s Kingdom (John 19:39; cf. John 3), accompanied Joseph. The two men were granted custody of Jesus’ body, and they immediately began to prepare the body for burial. Following Jewish custom, they wrapped the body in strips of linen and mixed in myrrh and aloe. However, it was the Day of Preparation — the sixth day of the week, just before the Jewish Sabbath — and it was late in the day. So, Joseph and Nicodemus hurriedly placed Jesus in Joseph’s own tomb, located in a garden near the place of Jesus’ crucifixion. Unbeknownst to Joseph and Nicodemus, their choice to put Jesus in Joseph’s tomb fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy spoken hundreds of years before Jesus’ death, “And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.” Isaiah 53:9 This is one of the many prophecies confirming Jesus’ identity as the Messiah and Son of God.
Even though Joseph of Arimathea attempted to keep his love for Jesus a secret, he boldly went to Pilate and begged for the body of Jesus to be placed in his trust. This is significant in and of itself. Joseph of Arimathea, not Mary, Jesus’ mother, not Mary Magdalene, nor any of the apostles were entrusted with the act of taking Jesus down from the cross. Most of the apostles had fled at this point. Joseph and Nicodemus took the body down and put it in the new tomb. According to various historical sources, Joseph’s actions provoked both the Roman and Jewish elders and he eventually did spend time in prison for his support of Jesus, and he tainted his reputation in the community by assisting a “blasphemer.”
As I read this passage of scripture, God spoke to my heart and ask me a question, “What did Joseph get compared to what you got?” I first I thought that was an odd question, but upon further deliberation, I could see exactly what the Lord wanted me to see, and the answer brought tears to my eyes. Joseph risked his reputation and, according to history, spent time in prison to take beg from Pilate a lifeless body, marred and beat beyond recognition off a cross, cleaned and anointed the body, and then carried and placed the body in his own tomb. In comparison, I never begged for the body of Christ, but rather on January 8, 1989, I asked the Father to give me his Son! Unlike Joseph, I received a living Savior with power to forgive and forget my sin; a mental, emotional, and spiritual healing; and a friend that anointed me with his Spirit by moving into my soul. I got the victory over death, hell, and the grave, and was set free!
Joseph took down a dead man, and we lift up in praise a living Savior. Joseph cleaned and anointed a lifeless body, and Jesus washes our sins away and anoints us with his Presence. Joseph carried Jesus to the tomb, and one-day Jesus will call us out of our graves! As you can well see, we are the ones that are blessed. Joseph of Arimathea solved a problem by taking down the body of Jesus and placing it in his tomb, but Jesus solved our problem when he resurrected on the third day to defeat death, hell, and the grave!
(The Solution Column is provided by Pastor Brandon Young of Harmony Free Will Baptist Church, Hampton, and his associate, Hunter Greene.)

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