“When you are forgotten, or neglected, or purposely set at naught, and you don’t sting and hurt with the insult or the oversight, but your heart is happy being counted worthy to suffer for Christ, THAT IS DYING TO SELF.” Nicoletta Ceccoli
Early yesterday morning, two friends and I were discussing Joseph of Arimathea, over coffee. For those that may not be familiar with him, he was the man who took the body of Jesus down from the cross and laid it in the tomb. Often times this is as far as we sojourn when we think about Joseph. But let’s dig a little bit deeper….
JoA (as I will now call him) was a wealthy and revered member of the high council of Jewish religious leaders there in Jerusalem at the time. Being in this position JoA would have been exposed to Jesus’ speaking and teaching in the Temple throughout His earthly ministry. Surely, he had been an eye witness to the set-up of Jesus by the Pharisees and heard the false accusations during the mock trial. He very well may have stood at a distance as Jesus was flogged, beaten, crucified, cried out to His Father, prayed for those who were torturing Him, encouraged the thief next to Him and watched Him take his final breath. He also would have been on hand when impending darkness covered the land and the earthquake struck when Jesus gave up His Spirit, causing the curtain of the Temple to be torn in two. Scripture also points out an interesting tidbit regarding JoA’s heart, “….and he was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come.” (Mark 15:43 b) So here we have a God fearing man, actively waiting for the Kingdom of God to be revealed AND watching all of these things go on around him….
It is safe to say that God was active and at work in this man’s life.
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. ‘I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord….” Jeremiah 29:13 & 14(b)
Have you ever visited the graves of those that were held in high esteem? Often times these opulent places represent how the person wanted to be remembered. They can be a way for an individual to frame their own legacy for future generations. Being the wealthy and respected religious leader that he was, JoA had done the same. He had pre purchased his “garden” tomb, which in his mind would make a final and lasting statement regarding the legacy he wanted to leave behind. That is, until something drastically changed in Joseph one Friday afternoon….
“As evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea took a risk and went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Mark 15: 42(b) & 43
While the other Pharisees were most likely gloating over the death of Jesus, JoA decided to break rank and directly approach the prefect who had sentenced Jesus to death just hours earlier. By doing this, JoA was putting his career and livelihood on the line.
“Joseph bought a long sheet of linen cloth. Then he took Jesus’ body down from the cross, wrapped it in the cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone in front of the entrance. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where Jesus’ body was laid.” Mark 15: 46 & 47
JoA took the time and made the effort to not only to do the messy work of removing Jesus from the cross but also to give Jesus a proper burial before the Sabbath….using the tomb that he had purchased. The tomb that would have been his own final resting place, legacy, place of honor and remembrance….he gave it to Jesus. Why did he do this?
We can only speculate but I believe that he understood who Jesus was. Being convicted by what he had seen and experienced that fateful day, he recognized that it was not he but Jesus who was worthy of being laid in that place of honor. It was Jesus that deserved to be remembered not only for the life that He had lived but also because He had willingly laid down that life as the sacrificial Lamb of God. It was Jesus who deserved what he originally thought would have been his lasting legacy in that peaceful garden setting. I can’t help but also recognize how God honored JoA by having him specifically included, by name, in this account. JoA’s legacy, which otherwise would have died within a few hundred years of his own death (or less) is now remembered through the millennia for his humble actions.
So what can we do with this?
I would encourage you to be honest with yourself as you consider these questions: How do we treat Jesus in this regard? If we look at our own lives, is He on the throne or are we? Are we solely focused on building our own legacy or do we honor Him first? Do we wrestle within ourselves to put Him in the place of prominence in our lives by how we live, act, speak and steward our blessings or do we just try to inflate our own ego and somehow dominate those around us?
“He must become greater, I must become less.” -John the Baptist (John 3:30)
It is of critical importance to take stock of where you are. If you recognize that your life is built to be more about you than Jesus, ask God to forgive you and to help you have the proper heart and perspective, along with the strength to follow through in regards to those convictions. Ask Him to give you the vision and strength to honor Him each day. Are you ready? If so, it’s time to step forward.
“When you plant a seed, it must die before it starts a new life.” 1 Corinthians 15:36