Many times we have heard the story of the suffering of Jesus on this day we call Good Friday: The unrecognizably beaten form that was led down the Way of Suffering to the Hill of the Skull, Golgotha, and hung to die like a common criminal. He suffered many kinds of pain that day:
1. The pain of betrayal - Judas
2. The pain of injustice – The Sanhedrin
3. The pain of indifference – Pilate
4. The pain of physical torture – Temple Guard and Roman Soldiers
5. The pain of the nails and the crown of thorns – The Cross
6. The pain of breathing while hanging – Survival
7. The pain of humiliation – Hanging almost naked; The wine-vinegar
8. The pain of mockery – The crowds, the priests, the soldiers and the criminal on the cross
There was a man who had watched this entire process. He was there when Judas agreed to betray Jesus; when Jesus was tried by the Sanhedrin; when Jesus was sent to Pilate; when Jesus was abandoned by His own people; when people shouted demands for His crucifixion; and when Jesus was tortured and crucified. He was a disciple of Jesus’, though not one of the Twelve. He wanted to save Jesus, but in the end, his fear of what might happen to him overpowered his desire to save Jesus.
And after Jesus had said, “Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing;” after He had said, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?!” after He said, “I’m thirsty;” after Jesus finally said, “It is finished!” – Right in the middle of the unusual darkness of that terrible afternoon – There he stood, left to consider it all.
Joseph of Arimathea:
1. Until now, a proud, prominent member of the Jewish ruling Council. – Mark 15:43
2. Until now, wealthy and yet of strong character. – Matt. 27:57; Luke 23:50
3. Until now, watching and waiting for the kingdom of God to come. – Mk. 15:43; Lk. 23:51
4. Until now, unwilling to be known as a disciple of Jesus. – John 19:38
5. Until now, divided in his allegiances between Jesus and His own position in the culture.
1. Regretting his silence in the trials
2. Reliving the shouts of the crowd to crucify this innocent man
3. Reconsidering his position and the value of it in the scheme of things
4. Remembering how Jesus spoke of love, of commitment, and of following Him
5. Realizing his own fear and weaknesses
Joseph decided that it was time to be strong and courageous. He went directly to Pilate and boldly asked for the body of Jesus (Mark 15:43) so that he could give Him a proper, Jewish burial. He went, himself, up to the cross and took the body of Jesus down – enlisting the help of another Pharisee-disciple; Nicodemus (John 19:39-40) – and taking the body to a brand new tomb (John 19:41); one that had recently been carved out of solid rock for Joseph (Matt. 27:60). Nicodemus brought along 75 pounds of myrrh, aloes and spices (John 19:39) to wrap in the linens in which Jesus would be entombed. Joseph and Nicodemus personally wrapped Jesus’ body, placed it in the tomb, and rolled the stone over the entrance (Matt. 27:60; Mark 15:46).
Joseph could not go back and make things right. He couldn’t go back and stand up for the Truth in the trial with the Sanhedrin. He couldn’t make any speeches before the crowds who were shouting to have Jesus crucified. He couldn’t order the temple guard to stop abusing Jesus. He couldn’t go back and do what he should have done.
But he could treat Jesus like royalty in His burial. He could come forward and confess that he believed Jesus was worthy of better than what He was given. He could draw that line here and make the statement: Jesus is, in His death, as He was in His life: My King!
What about us? As we stand here today, considering the brutal miscarriage of justice that led to the death of the Savior we claim to love, how does it affect us? Will we continue to live the life of an “Undercover disciple,” in fear of what might happen if we told others that we believe in Jesus? When He died for us in this way, will we remain unchanged?
What can we do, now? We cannot go back and undo all of our mistakes made in weakness and fear. We can’t bring back things, “the way they should have been”. But we aren’t done, yet. There is still today. How will we show Jesus our deep love for Him? How will we let the world know that we believe? What will we do?