Joseph of Arimathea

Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus. (Mk 15.43)

Yesterday while praying with Heather on Daisy Hill (though there's more coneflowers there than daisies), I noticed Mark's description of Joseph of Arimathea. All the gospels speak of him (Mk 15.43-46; Mt 27.57-60; Lk 23.50-53; Jn 19.38-42). And he's an interesting character.

Matthew calls him a rich man, and a disciple of Jesus. Luke says he was a member of the council and "a good and righteous man." And I've heard people commend him as an example of how wealthy and politically powerful followers of Jesus ought to be.

I agree. Joseph appears in Jesus' story at the point when he is stepping out of the shadows and beginning to really follow Jesus. John says that Joseph had been a disciple "secretly, for fear of the Jews," and associates him with Nicodemus, another man of position who sought Jesus secretly. Not the best way to be a disciple. But here both Joseph and Nicodemus step up publicly in support of Jesus (even if it is to bury him).

I wondered about Joseph being "a respected member of the council"--the same council that condemned Jesus. Even if he "had not consented to their purpose and deed," as Luke says, it is no honor to be respected by those who sent Jesus to his death. Did Joseph continue as a member after this? We don't know. But I imagine he was not so well respected after laying Jesus, a condemned blasphemer, in his own new tomb.

This was a generous gift, to be commended. In his wealth, Joseph was far from Jesus' own example, far from "sell all, give to the poor, and follow me." But in this act he did give away something, at a great risk. This was definitely a step in the right direction. And if he continued acting this generously, he wouldn't continue to be a wealthy man for long.

Mark said Joseph was "looking for the kingdom of God." As he stepped out of the shadows and out of his fears, away from his wealth and the respect of the powerful, he may have begun to actually see it.