In some Anglican and Orthodox calendars, today is the Feast of Joseph of Arimathea. There is some disagreement about the proper day for his feast. The Romans have it on March 17th.
Joseph has some fun legends about him. I particularly enjoy the story of his founding the church of the Isle of Glastonbury.
But the reason he comes to mind this year is the relevance of his good example. In the midst of hostility to Christ and his followers, he went out of his way and risked his reputation and more to honor Him in His death by having him buried in his tomb. To the urging of the Jewish leaders (and Joseph of Arimathea was a devout Jew) and of the mob and by the order of Pilate, Jesus was very publically executed as a criminal. Yet Joseph went to the same Pilate to ask for the body of Jesus so that he may give him an honorable burial. And that when many of Christ’s followers were already in hiding.
Moreover, Joseph of Arimathea was a “rich man” as Isaiah 53:9 prophesied. Taking up for executed criminals usually is not good for business.
Today, there is more and more hostility – and persecution – of Christ and his followers. Western culture is certainly becoming more hostile to practicing Christians. (Although, as I’ve mentioned before, this is nothing compared to the outright genocide against Christians committed by several groups of extreme Muslims.) Yet we are all the more called to honor Christ in the midst of an opposing and derisive culture. Christ’s honor comes before our own honor, comes before the culture’s approval.
May God help us to follow the good example of Joseph of Arimathea by putting Christ and his honor first no matter the risk to our reputations and livelihoods.
Merciful God, whose servant Joseph of Arimathea with reverence and godly fear prepared the body of our Lord and Savior for burial, and laid it in his own tomb: Grant to us, your faithful people, grace and courage to love and serve Jesus with sincere devotion all the days of our life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.