Perhaps the component of the life of Jesus narratives that has most struck me during this cycle through the gospel of Luke is to see the highlights of those characters who were willing to be publicly identified with Christ. And we encounter another of those today in the person of Joseph of Arimathea.
It was just a year ago at this time that we had our Easter season walk-through program. I played the character of this Joseph, who requested the body of Jesus and buried him in his own tomb. It was great fun to especially have the body “vanish” while people looked away. This was done by the ingenious means of a false bottom under the “form” of Jesus – invented by our own Angelo Marino.
Here is a script of the Joseph of Arimathea character that I wrote and portrayed last year. If you did not see it, guests walked into a room made to look like a tomb in the rocks. And there was a covered form of a body on a sort of table, and Joseph spoke …
Yes, it is Jesus. And yes, I am Joseph from the Judean town of Arimathea.
It was two nights ago that I received permission personally from Pilate to take down the body of Jesus. It was unusual that this request would be granted by the Romans, as their practice generally was to allow bodies to rot on the cross as an additional deterrent to crime.
I might suspect that you could surmise that my boldness in identifying myself with a crucified criminal as very gallant. Oh that it were so!
My life has been very blessed by God. He has given me great wealth. I have served the nation by prominent membership on the Sanhedrin – the Pharisees and Sadducees who by overwhelming numbers voted to seek the crucifixion of that innocent man. I did not consent with this, not that my voice was terribly loud in opposition. The only other I saw dissent was my friend Nicodemus.
Here is the truth: I became a silent follower of Jesus after hearing his teaching. I long to see God’s Kingdom established, and I became convinced the Jesus was the Messiah-King. But I confessed next to nothing of this amongst my peers in the Sanhedrin. Jesus was terribly unpopular there – a threat to their way of life and leadership. I just “went along” quietly out of fear, I guess.
As events transpired and I saw this innocent man on the cross … saw the thief who believed in him … heard his magnanimous words of forgiveness … the midday darkness, the earthquake … it was time for action. Hoping Pilate would not want dead bodies silhouetted against the sky during the Jewish holiday, I made the request. He gave me the body.
I had a tomb I had purchased for myself, here where wealthy people are buried. The least I could do to assuage my guilt was to give my place for his burial. Nicodemus and I, along with our servants, took the body from the cross and brought it here.
I spared no expense in wrapping him for burial … here, let me show you … you sir, come here (wrapping cloths around a person). This involved a total of 75 pounds of spices … so it took us at least a couple of hours to complete the process.
At this point I would begin to wrap cloths around the head of a guest, taking the attention and focus of the group away from the “body” of Jesus – which would slowly “disappear.” I would then turn everyone’s attention away from the man to look at the empty table, where “Jesus” was gone! It worked well.
But, of course, the real difference between our portrayal and the real event was that there was a body of Jesus, and that real body made a real resurrection. We’ll talk about that tomorrow!
Luke 23:44 – It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”[Psalm 31:5] When he had said this, he breathed his last.
47 The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” 48 When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. 49 But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
50 Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, 51 who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God. 52 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. 53 Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. 54 It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.
55 The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. 56 Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.