Joseph of Arimathea, Mark 15: 42-47

Joseph of Arimathea is mentioned in all four gospels as the man responsible for Jesus’ burial. Typically, the bodies of criminals were not buried, they were burned like trash outside the city walls in the Himmon Valley. In Greek, it is called Gehenna which is the word that we translate as Hell. By asking Pilate for the body, Joseph literally saved Jesus from the fires of hell.

It is only John’s gospel that tells us Joseph was keeping his faith a secret because he was afraid. Joseph is accompanied on the public task of burying Jesus by Nicodemus, the Jewish scholar to whom Jesus speaks the well-known passage about having to be born anew. Both men may have been secretive about their belief in Jesus as the Messiah when he was teaching, but it seems that they are committed now. To publicly ask for the body of a convicted criminal and to bury it in your own family’s graveyard makes quite a statement – both against the Jewish rulers and for the crucified Christ.

The book of Revelation starts with seven letters to seven churches. The last letter goes to the church in Laodicea and Jesus says this, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm– neither hot nor cold– I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” At some point, we must decide – do we offer Jesus our faith or not? Now is the time to get off the fence. Easter is tomorrow. Are we lukewarm or are we willing to stand up and be counted, knowing that there are consequences? Jesus ends the letter to the church in Laodicea with these words, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” We need to decide today if we will open the door.