His Fear Was Short-lived & His Faith Remembered
Matthew writes that Joseph of Arimathea was "a rich man" and had "become a disciple of Jesus." (27:57)
Mark writes that Joseph of Arimathea was also a "prominent" member of the Sanhedrin (the "Council"). He "was waiting for the kingdom of God." (15:43)
Luke writes that Joseph was "a good and righteous man" who had "not consented to [the Council's] plan and action." (23:50-51)
John writes that Joseph was a disciple, but he had a phobia, that is, a "fear of the Jews" that led him to be a disciple only "in secret." That is, he kept his opinions about Jesus to himself and followed him in secret. (19:38)
Sound familiar? It's not so uncommon for us to be swayed (or reticent, or reduced to silence) by peer pressure, by the opinions of others who could remove us from jobs or positions of privilege. There is, indeed, a certain powerful inertia present in the "establishment"—and it doesn't matter what the political persuasion of that establishment is. It could be totalitarian, socialist, Marxist, republican, tribal, or what have you. There are things you can't do or say unless you wish to face censure, disdain, persecution, removal from office, exile, or other means of punishment.
But note what Mark adds: Joseph "gathered up courage" and "went in before Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus." (15:43) A decision needed to be made, and he made it. The Greek word tolmao, so says my laptop lexicon, means "to be so bold as to challenge or defy possible danger or opposition." Joseph was so bold as to ask the Roman governor for the body of Jesus, who in the eyes of Rome had been executed as a possible threat to Pax Romana, a troublemaker. Perhaps Joseph thought Pilate knew Jesus was innocent; it doesn't matter. Joseph knew he was and stuck his neck out to do the right thing. This disciple was no longer one in secret and not fearing the ruthless Roman rule, no longer feared his fellow councilmen.
His courage should be an example to all of us at various times when courage is most needed.
Wishing a Blessed Holy Week to the Orthodox, and Easter Season to the rest.
Yours for Christ, Creed & Culture,
James M. Kushiner
Executive Director, The Fellowship of St. James
James M. Kushiner is Executive Editor of Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity, and Executive Director of The Fellowship of St. James.