My dear Covenant Partners and GEM Family,
The gospels give us sufficient information about Joseph of Arimathea to draw the conclusion that he was a righteous man who was seeking the kingdom of God. Mark and Luke tell us that he was a member of the Sanhedrin. Jewish tradition hallowed this renowned institution, going all the way to Numbers 11: 16: “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Assemble for me seventy of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be elders and authorities among the people, and bring them to the tent of meeting… I will also take some of the spirit that is on you and will confer it on them, that they may share the burden of the people with you. You will then not have to bear it by yourself.” According to God’s original intent, the Council was supposed to serve the spiritual well-being of the people. However, in Jesus’ time, the Sanhedrin had become corrupt and self-serving.
Luke 23: 50 describes Joseph of Arimathea as a virtuous and righteous man who was awaiting the kingdom of God. In Mark’s gospel, being a distinguished member of the council is added to the list. Matthew tells us that Joseph was a rich man who was himself a disciple of Jesus. And John tells us that Joseph was a secret disciple of Jesus for fear of the Jews. From the way he has been described in all the four accounts, Joseph would appear to have been the ideal choice for membership in the Sanhedrin whose sacred duty was to uphold the Mosaic Covenant laws. Joseph lived the way a Sanhedrin member was supposed to live, as an earnest seeker of truth. No wonder he was attracted to Jesus. Another argument in favor of Joseph being the right kind of council member was the fact that he had not consented to the Sanhedrin’s plan of action to have Jesus arrested and crucified (Luke 23: 51). In the depths of his heart, Joseph had already begun his journey toward accepting and committing himself to Jesus as his Savior and Lord.
After Jesus’ death, Joseph no longer remained a disciple in secret. His first and public decision as a disciple of Jesus is described in Luke 23: 52: “He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. After he had taken the body down, he wrapped it in a linen cloth and laid him in a rock-hewn tomb in which no one had yet been buried.” As a distinguished member of the Sanhedrin, Joseph’s voice carried weight. Pilate granted his request thus ignoring the ban. Pilate also knew that the Sanhedrin would be mightily displeased with his decision and he did not vacillate. Joseph offered his own tomb for Jesus’ burial. Were it not for Nicodemus who provided the oils and spices, and Joseph who provided the tomb, Jesus would have been disposed of as a criminal, dumped on the heap of rotting corpses! The help of these rich and honorable men was greatly needed in that hour of darkness. They had been able to do for their dead Master what would have been impossible for the Blessed Mother and the hapless disciples to do. Now, when the Jewish Leadership was trying to destroy the infant church, Joseph came forward in her defense. No longer cautious and questioning, he encouraged the faith of the disciples and used his wealth to help sustain the church at Jerusalem and advance the work of the gospel. For the sake of Jesus, his Master and Lord, Joseph was willing to be scorned and despised by his former colleagues in the Sanhedrin. In the Roman Martyrology of the Catholic Church, Joseph is commemorated along with Nicodemus on August 31. God bless you! You are in our daily prayers!