Sermon: Joseph of Arimathaea

The podcast can be found here.


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My friend, Thomas à Kempis, writes about Joseph of Arimathaea in his book, On the Passion of Christ:

“Venerable Joseph, rejoice because the task you accomplished was most holy and gave you the opportunity to express your unspeakable love for Christ.  Indeed, I am most grateful to you and I laudably commend your noble character in doing what you have done and for carrying it out in a most dignified and deferential manner.  Not only did you request Pilate’s permission to bury Jesus’ body, but you also offered your own sepulcher, which you had prepared for yourself and in which you expected to be placed after your own death.

“How greatly God must have cherished you, for him, whose power extends over the entire world and over all that is contained in the heavenly orbits, to choose to be buried in your tomb, rather than in any other place on earth.  Most illustrious of men, I tell you that as long as this world lasts and there are faithful on the earth, you will be held in honor before God and men.” (p.158-9)

Thomas is referring to the readings that we hear most often during Holy Week, leading up to Easter.  During that time, we can become so focused on the great work that Our Lord is accomplishing, that these details about the acts of others such as Joseph or Simon of Cyrene or the remaining disciples, get pushed to the side.  That is perhaps what these individuals would desire, not wanting to draw attention away from the Savior, however, their actions in service to our Lord were so commendable, the Gospel writers were compelled to mention them by name, and we are therefore invited to think on them.  

As I thought about Joseph of Arimathaea, two thoughts came to mind.  The first, what we set aside for ourselves, we must be prepared to give over to God for his purposes.  It may be that he turns and gives it back to us, but it may also be that he takes it and uses it for Himself.  For example, consider the gifts and talents he has given you.  Quite often we use these for our employment and pleasure, but at times, the Lord needs them.  We must be prepared to give them up to his service without hesitation, knowing his ways are greater than ours.

My second thought is in the form of a question: What place will I offer Jesus to rest?  To go about his work, he gave up a throne in the highest heaven for a bed of straw in a manger, for sleeping rough on the ground or in the bow of a boat.  He gave up his throne for the hard wood of the cross.  When this work was complete, Joseph gave him a new tomb so that he might rest in peace.  Now, what place will I give him to rest?  The answer (at least for me): I will lay the body of my Lord in the tomb of my heart, so that when he rises, he will fill my body, dead with sin, with his resurrected life.

Think on Joseph of Arimathaea and ask how you might serve the Lord in such a way that your name will also be recorded in the annals of Heaven.

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