Joseph of Arimathea
IT IS early in the spring of the year A.D. 33 (Nisan 14 according to the Jewish calendar) as we look in on the home of the high priest Caiaphas in Jerusalem. What a gathering of distinguished men we see! Some threescore and ten, consisting of the older men of influence of the nation, the chief priests and the scribes, are present there, many of whom belong to the sect of the Pharisees. And how excited they are! Why? Because they have a prisoner before them who is none other than the miracle-worker, Jesus of Nazareth.
As we note the proceedings one thing becomes very obvious: the lofty principles of this Sanhedrin court, that every man is presumed innocent until proved guilty and that its purpose “is to save, not to destroy life”, have been pushed aside. It seems as though the entire body (with one or two exceptions) is actuated by malice and the one presiding seems determined to prove the accused one guilty and so worthy of death. Evidently a conspiracy is afoot, for many false witnesses have testified.
The high priest is losing control of himself, the trial is not at all going the way he would like to have it go. So, addressing the prisoner, he shouts: “I charge you, on your oath, by the living God, tell us whether you are the Christ, the son of God.” The defendant, Jesus, answers: “It is true. Why, I tell you you will soon see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Almighty and coming upon the clouds of the sky!” Feigning extreme righteous indignation, the high priest tears his clothing and exclaims: “He has uttered blasphemy! What do we want of witnesses now? Here you have heard his blasphemy! What is your decision?” The council, with a pompous sanctimoniousness to cover up its malice, answers: “He deserves death.”—Matt. 26:63-66, AT.
But the verdict was not altogether unanimous. No, a few, but very few, did not give their consent nor approve of the action taken. Among these was a rich man, Joseph of Arimathea. In fact, he was a disciple of the accused, of Jesus. A disciple of Jesus? Yes, according to the three Gospel-writers Matthew, Mark and Luke, he was a disciple of Jesus, a rich man, a highly respected member of the council, who was himself living in expectation of the reign of God.—Matt. 27:57, 58; Mark 15:43; Luke 23:50, 51, AT.
Why should Joseph of Arimathea, a disciple of Jesus, be associated with that great religious body, the Sanhedrin, which was so violently opposed to Christ Jesus? The apostle John gives us the answer. He describes Joseph of Arimathea as “being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews”.—John 19:38.
But with the conviction and execution of Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea gained courage. He boldly went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. “Accordingly he bought fine linen and took him down, wrapped him in the fine linen and laid him in a tomb which was quarried out of a rock-mass.”—Mark 15:43-46, NW.
Whether or not Joseph of Arimathea followed through and became a fearless footstep follower of Christ Jesus the Scriptures do not reveal. However, from what is recorded regarding him we can appreciate why the Scriptures state “how difficult a thing it will be for those with money to make their way into the kingdom of God!”—Luke 18:24, NW.