His dark shadow looms in the distance—heart pounding with trepidation and grief. He saw in the sacred pages that something like this would happen. So he made the proper plans. Now he must step from the shadows, stand, and speak.
His simple but significant act is recorded in all four of the gospels. Yet somehow we often overlook him during Passion Week.
Joseph of Arimathea spent much of his discipleship in secret. He enters the cross scene at the last second, securing the Savior’s body just as the Sabbath descends upon Jerusalem. His final act fulfills prophesy and finishes the sovereign plot.
It’s easy to rush over this part of the story. No one wants to look at death or linger at the tomb. But stay with Joseph for a minute, and we’ll learn what it means to step out of the shadows and into true service.
Joseph was a member of the counsel or the Sanhedrin. He ruled Israel. He ran their religious institution.
This governing body of men was appointed to their judicial positions and functioned much like a supreme court. They enjoyed power and prestige, accolade and wealth. They could also be voted out.
When Joseph asked for Jesus’ body, he stood against his peers’ evil plot and served the One they’d just condemned. In so doing, he put his career, reputation, and safety on the line.
Stepping from the shadows always costs us something. It’s never simple or safe. But when we leave our secret life behind, allowing God to use our platform for His purposes, we start to see why He placed us there all along.
For Joseph—and for us—this call impacts our personal lives and our public roles. Regardless of whether our platform is large or small, the same challenges still tug at our soul:
Stand for justice – While his peers questioned Jesus and then condemned Him to death, Joseph refused to consent to their scheme. He wouldn’t cast his vote for undue death nor condone their murderous deed.
We might not be called into court, but we still face plenty of opportunities to promote justice. Will we turn a blind eye when public policy encroaches upon the vulnerable? Will we speak up when a peer sabotages a team member? Will we teach our kids to stand up instead of caving to peer pressure?
Leverage a position – Not just anyone could approach Pilate. Joseph’s high position allowed him to address the Roman ruler and asked for Jesus’ body. His authority provided a unique opportunity to meet a need few others could arrange.
We each operate in a variety of roles—mom, supervisor, teacher, or team leader. These positions provide us with opportunities. How will we shape the little lives entrusted to us? How will we speak truth to the women listening to us? How will we care for those working in the office on either side of ours?
Utilize resources – Joseph used his own financial means to provide a proper burial for Jesus. Only the wealthy could afford tombs, and he used his own—or one he purchased especially for this event—to hold the Savior’s carefully wrapped body.
We all have resources. In some stages, they might be monetary. At other times, our greatest assets might be our time, intelligence, or creativity. Will we take inventory? Will we consider what needs we might meet? Will we act, even when it costs us?
Passion Week might be over. But the Savior who stepped out of the tomb still calls men and women out of the shadows. Will we step out and serve?