Courage Found (Mark 15)
1. Good evening. I bring you greetings from the midst of Jesus' greatest human enemies. That's right--the Sanhedrin. My name is Joseph and I'm from the town of Arimathea. I was one of two secret followers of Jesus on the Jewish ruling council. The very people who sentenced Jesus to death for blasphemy. We had gone along with the Sanhedrin as they sentenced Him because we were afraid. We were afraid of what the rest of the Sanhedrin would think of us. They could have kicked us off the Council. They could have taken our property. They could have excommunicated us from the Temple and the Jewish community. To keep from having any of these things happen, we stayed silent. We went along with it and just cast our nonverbal assent in the unanimous decision.
2. But one thing kept eating at me all day that Friday. Caiaphas had asked Jesus point blank, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" (Mark 14:61) It seemed as if He had been looking straight at me when He answered, "I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of Heaven" (Mark 14:62). It was as if He KNEW that I believed in Him, but I was afraid and hiding in my comfort zone. I was comfortable sitting where I was with a secure job and life. I had a position in society that many people envied. I saw how everyone else around me were treating Jesus and I didn't want to have anything to do with it. I'd potentially have to give up everything. For a man in my position, that was a daunting possibility. I admit it, I was hiding, protecting myself. But from what? Social ridicule? Bankruptcy? God? After Jesus was taken away, I stayed behind. I just couldn't understand it. There was something about Jesus, but this was all wrong. Nicodemus also stayed behind. Most everyone else went to Pilate so that they could make sure that our spineless prefect would actually execute Jesus.
3. As I said, there was something wrong about the entire situation. Jesus had played right into Caiaphas' hands. It was almost as if Jesus WANTED to be taken before Pilate. It was as if Jesus WANTED to face the death penalty that hung over His head. It wasn't until after everything that I fully realized that Jesus was doing this to show me and all other people compassion. I believe it was the Apostle John who told me, "Jesus' Passion is at the heart of His compassion." Jesus was showing His compassion to me as He willingly took His place my place and yours on the Cross. He was showing that His was the true plan coming to fruition. His suffering and death were probably the bravest and most courageous thing that anyone has done in the history of the world. After all, we just heard from St. Paul Sunday, "For one will scarcely die for a righteous person--though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die--but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:7-8). Jesus didn't allow Himself to be killed for just anyone. He allowed Himself to be killed for EVERYONE. If Jesus had the courage to do that, I could at least have the courage to say that I believed in Him.
4. I could have the courage to express my allegiance to Jesus without fear of the repercussions. I went to Pilate and asked for the body. It wasn't until much later that I understood my own place in the Messianic prophecies. Isaiah had prophesied about the Messiah: "And they made His grace with the wicked and with a rich man in His death" (Isaiah 53:9). Although I had briefly flown through that in my studies of the great prophet Isaiah, it didn't click to me until my mind was opened to the Scriptures by the Holy Spirit. I ended up losing everything for my boldness. Since I had proclaimed myself a follower of Christ by taking His body from the Cross, the rest of the Sanhedrin kicked me out. I became like the rest of the disciples--at each other's aid with whatever I could do. I still had my property. And like others I sold bits and pieces of it when there was a need among the believers (Acts 4:32-37). It didn't take long for someone to want to buy my property. In fact, if I remember right, it was a priest who had come to faith in Jesus after the Resurrection (Acts 6:7). I did what was necessary. That's the main reason I buried Jesus in my own tomb. He needed a place to be buried. I had a new tomb that was waiting for me to die. I gave it to Him instead. Necessity was there. The necessity also came to speak the truth about Jesus to others. That's why I'm here tonight. Jesus' example of God's perfect steadfast love made me find the courage to follow Him. Not from the shadows or in the dark of night, but in the light of day for everyone to see. I pray that He allows you that same gift tonight. Amen.