Joseph of Arimathea: A Secret Disciple of Jesus

My name is Joseph and I live in Arimathea, a small village between Jerusalem and Joppa. This has been my family's home for many generations. The peace and quiet of Arimathea soothes my spirit when I return home from work in the city. My fleet of trading ships operates out of Joppa and sails to ports throughout the Mediterranean. I also have small living quarters in Jerusalem and Joppa since I am in these cities on business nearly every week.

My financial success entitles me to a prominent position on the seventy-one member Sanhedrin, the Great Council of Elders of Israel. This body meets regularly in the Hall of Gazith in the temple in Jerusalem to deal with matters affecting the Jewish people. The Romans, very wisely, let us Jews govern ourselves as long as we pay the Roman taxes. Politics drives much of the council's actions, but I always seek justice for my people.

The latest discussions in the council have centered around a Galilean preacher named Jesus who has been coming to Jerusalem from Capernaum to teach. On one of Jesus' early visits to the temple, He drove out the moneychangers. In my heart I knew He was right but most of the Pharisees vowed to kill Him because He was destroying a business vital to their financial well-being. After that day, I became a secret disciple of Jesus. If the other Pharisees knew of my belief in Jesus, I feared they might throw me off of the council. But if I remained a member, I felt that I could be of some help to Jesus.

Well, I was wrong. Caiaphas, the Chief Priest, was fearful that Jesus would one day gain enough authority among the people that his position would be usurped and given to Jesus. He grew jealous day by day and was determined to have Jesus crucified. My heart was broken when I found that my every effort to intervene on Jesus' behalf was thwarted by Caiaphas. My sadness was intensified as I watched His cruel crucifixion knowing that He was innocent and didn't deserve to die. The injustice of it all enraged me.

Not long ago I had purchased some space in a garden near Golgotha Hill and had commissioned a tomb to be hewn from the rock since I was nearing the age when one must think of such things. After they had pierced His side as He hung on the cross, I wondered about the possibility of taking Jesus' body down from the cross so He could have a decent burial. The guards said that I would have to check with Pilate.

Over the years I had had many dealings with Pilate since my ships were sometimes under contract to his government for hauling supplies between Caesarea Maritima and Rome. So I called on Pilate once again, but this time I found a beaten and despondent man. When I asked him if I could bury Jesus, he muttered to himself, "If only I had listened to my wife instead of the mob." Then he checked with his centurion to be sure Jesus was dead and granted my request.

Another Pharisee, Nicodemus, who was also a secret disciple of Jesus, purchased a hundred pound mixture of myrrh and aloe for the preservation of the body, and I bought a fine linen cloth to wrap Jesus with. Together Nicodemus and I wrapped Jesus' body with the spices and placed it in the unused tomb. While we worked, Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of Joses, watched through tear-stained eyes. After the body was placed in the tomb, I paid six strong men to seal the entrance with a large rock.

As they were rolling the rock across the entrance, I found a seat in the garden. My whole body went limp from exhaustion and discouragement. I had done about as much as I could for this One I had come to love and respect. Still, the inevitable had come to pass. Now, this agonizing day was over and I felt like life was over too. My hoped-for Messiah was dead. Some of his disciples said He would arise from the dead, but how probable could that be?

Still feeling guilty for not having been able to prevent this crime from taking place, I wondered how I would be able to forgive myself. It was then that I remembered the words that Jesus cried out to His Father even while He was on the cross, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." When I looked back at the tomb, the last rays of light from the closing dusk spilled over the large rock sealing the entrance, and I wondered to myself, "Could anything good come from the death of this innocent man?"

Based on Matthew 27:57-61; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:34,50-56;

John 19:38-42; Matthew 21:12, 27:19.

Copyright 1997 by John C. Westervelt

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