No claims of absolute originality are made for this material. As one man said, "I milk a lot of cows, but I churn my own butter." Please use these sermons as the Lord leads, but nothing on this site may be used for profit without my expressed, written permission!
JOSEPH: THE SECRET DISCIPLE
Intro: In the fourth-century there lived a Christian named Telemachus. He lived in a remote village, tending his garden and spending much of his time in prayer. One day he thought he heard the voice of God telling him to go to Rome, so he obeyed, setting out on foot.
Weary weeks later, he arrived in the city at the time of a great festival. The little monk followed the crowd surging down the streets into the Coliseum. He saw the gladiators stand before the emperor and say, “We who are about to die salute you. Then he realized these men were going to fight to the death for the entertainment of the crowd. He cried out, In the name of Christ, stop!
As the games began, he pushed his way through the crowd, climbed over the wall, and dropped to the floor of the arena. When the crowd saw this tiny figure rushing to the gladiators and saying, “In the name of Christ, stop! they thought it was part of the show and began laughing.
When they realized it wasn’t, the laughter turned to anger. As he was pleading with the gladiators to stop, one of them plunged a sword into his body. He fell to the sand. As he was dying, his last words were, “In the name of Christ, stop!
Then a strange thing happened. The gladiators stood looking at the tiny figure lying there. A hush fell over the Coliseum. Way up in the upper rows, a man stood and made his way to the exit. Others began to follow. In dead silence, everyone left the Coliseum.
The year was 391 BC, and that was the last battle to the death between gladiators in the Roman Coliseum. Never again in the great stadium did men kill each other for the entertainment of the crowd, all because of one tiny voice that could hardly be heard above the tumult. One voice—one life—that spoke the truth in God’s name.[i]
That story illustrates the power one person can have when they courageously take their stand for the Lord. We see the same sort of courage in the passage before us today.
In these verses, Jesus Christ has given His life on the cross. His broken, bloody body hangs lifeless and dead. The crowds depart. His mother Mary and John leave the scene of His death. The soldiers are preparing to leave Calvary. It is a sad scene of death, pain and sorrow.
Out of the darkness of that bleak moment at Calvary shone the light of one brave soul. Out of all the people there, one man was willing to identify himself with the Lord Jesus. One man was willing to claim and minister to the body of the Lord. It is this man that we want to consider together today.
The bravery of Joseph of Arimathaea stands as a challenge to believers in all ages. His heroic deeds call to us and demand that we take our stand with Jesus as well.
I want to preach about Joseph: The Secret Disciple today. I want to see Joseph’s Character; Joseph’s Concealment and Joseph’s Courage. I want you to allow these characteristics of this great man’s life speak to you and challenge you in your walk with the Lord.
I. JOSEPH’S CHARACTER
· All four of the Gospel writers tell us about this man named Joseph. Their descriptions reveal a man of character and integrity. Joseph has a character worth studying.
Ψ He was from a place called Arimathaea In Old Testament times, the city was called Ramah, or Ramahthainzophim. It was located 20 miles northwest of Jerusalem and was the hometown of the prophet Samuel, 1 Sam. 1:1.
Ψ He was a wealthy man Matt. 27:5 - His ability to purchase an expensive garden tomb near the city of Jerusalem bears this out.
Ψ He is called a “good” and a “just” man Luke 23:50 The word good means to be ready. Joseph was man who could be counted on. He was a man of integrity. The word just means that he was upright. He was a man who honored the Word of God to the best of his ability. Joseph possessed a good moral character and set an excellent religious example.
Ψ He is called an “honorable counselor” Mark 15:43 The word counselor tells us that Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin. This seventy member body was the supreme ruling body of the Jews. They possessed ultimate power in all matters of the Jewish religion and social life. They were immensely powerful men. This was the very body that condemned Jesus to death.
The word “honorable means he was in good standing; he was an influential and respected member of that body of men. Literally, Joseph was a leader among the leaders. He would have been well-known and well-respected by the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the Scribes.
Ψ He “waited for the kingdom of God This means that Joseph, like Simeon and Anna, who confessed their faith in Jesus in the Temple when He was a baby, Luke 2:22-28, was a man with genuine faith in God. Joseph was more than just a religious Jew. His faith was real and he looked for, and longed to see, the Messiah.
Most of the Jewish leaders possessed a religion that was dead. They denied God by the way they lived and by the way they practiced their religion. Joseph, on the other hand, was the real deal! He possessed a living faith that affected the way he lived his life!
· Joseph of Arimathaea possessed many qualities that cause him to stand out. He is the kind of person who would have made a great church member and a great friend. He also possessed some characteristics that should be true of every person in this room today.
No one here is from the town of Arimathaea. No one here will ever be a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin. Most of us will never be wealthy. We can all strive to possess the same kind of moral and spiritual qualities that Joseph demonstrated in his life.
We can all be “good and just We can never be good in the sense of being perfectly righteous, but we can be like Joseph, available and ready to serve the Lord at all times. We can never be just within ourselves, but we can like Joseph and be people of integrity, who live clean lives to the glory of God.
We can all be like Joseph by possessing a genuine faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. What made Joseph different was his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. That is what separated him from the dead religionists that lived around him. All they had were their rituals, their rules and their self-righteousness. Joseph, on the other hand possessed a living faith that changed his life.
Just so you remember today, religion and good works will never save your soul. Salvation does not come through works of righteousness, Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5. Salvation comes solely through faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Ψ Salvation occurs when a lost sinner is drawn to Jesus by the Holy Spirit, John 6:44.
Ψ That sinner is made awakened to his condition. He is made to see his sinfulness, Rom. 3:23.
Ψ He is also made aware of the holiness of God and of the price God demands because of sin, Rom. 6:23.
Ψ Then, that sinner is drawn to Calvary. He sees the price Jesus paid for his sins on the cross. He sees the Savior broken, bleeding, suffering and dying for sin, Mark 10:45.
Ψ He sees the Savior buried in the tomb.
Ψ He sees His rising in power and victory three days later, Matt. 28:1-6.
Ψ The sinners these things and is made to understand that Jesus Christ alone is the way of salvation.
Ψ The lost sinner looks away by faith, believing these things and that sinner is instantly, and eternally saved, John 6:37; Rom. 10:13; Acts 16:31. That is biblical salvation!
· While we can never be Joseph, we can be like him in the ways that matter most. We can possess the good traits of His character in our lives. We can be saved by grace, and we can serve the Lord!
I. Joseph’s Character
II. JOSEPH’S CONCEALMENT
· Joseph of Arimathaea was a Jewish leader, but he was also a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. Joseph had come to embrace the truth that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah that was to come and save Israel.
· We do not know exactly how Joseph came to his faith in Jesus Christ, but we can be sure that he had many opportunities to see and hear Jesus Christ in person. Perhaps he had been sent out by the Sanhedrin to investigate this radical from Galilee. Perhaps Joseph had listened as Jesus taught about the coming kingdom of God and the way of salvation. Maybe Joseph heard Jesus as He denounced the dead religion of the Jews. Perhaps Joseph was there when Jesus accomplished some of His miracles. There can be little doubt that Joseph heard the testimonies of the many people who were helped and ministered to by the Lord Jesus Christ. Something led Joseph of Arimathaea to faith in the Lord.
· While Joseph was a believer, he kept his faith a secret. John 19:38 says, “And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus. Joseph was a believer, but he was afraid of what would happen to him if the other Jews found out.
· We don’t know how long Joseph believed in Jesus, but we do know that he opposed the efforts of the Sanhedrin to condemn Jesus to death, Luke 23:51. Joseph was a wealthy man, but he was not willing to pay the price of identifying himself with the Lord Jesus Christ.
· Joseph had many commendable qualities, but his failure to publically declare his faith in Jesus is not one of them. In this aspect of his life, Joseph is not someone we want to emulate.
Sadly, there are many believers who fit the same profile of Joseph of Arimathaea. They are so deeply undercover that the CIA couldn’t identify them as a child of God. Their neighbors do not know they are saved. Their coworkers do not know they are saved. Their classmates do not know they are saved. If you watched them day in and day out, there would be little evidence that they are saved.
Their lives are not all that different from the world around them. They do not attend church faithfully. They never stand up, even in church, and give a clear testimony of salvation. They use some of the same language and do the same things as the lost around them. they intentionally hide their faith because they are afraid of what people will say about them. Listen to Pro. 29:25, “The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.
Fear of others is the trap Satan sets to ensnare the timid saint of God. When Satan can silence your testimony, he can hinder the cause of Jesus. When he can prevent you from standing up boldly and declaring your faith, he can prevent others from hearing the Gospel. Fear is a trap we must avoid at all costs!
· If you are saved, be a silent, fearful disciple no more. Take your stand boldly for the God Who saved you. Open your mouth and give praise and glory to the Savior Who died in your place. Give loud vocal testimony to the One Who redeemed your soul from Hell, forgave your sins and changed your life. Be quick to honor Him for all that He has done for you!
· Our testimony for Him is commanded; it is expected; and it is well-deserved, Psa. 107:2; 113:1-9; 47:1; 111:1-10. We can do no better than to openly declare our faith in; our love for; and our allegiance to, the Lord Jesus Christ, for His grace, His love, His mercy, His forgiveness and His salvation. Renounce the “secret service saints of God and openly embrace Him!
I. Joseph’s Character
II. Joseph’s Concealment
III. JOSEPH’S COURAGE
· Joseph had purchased a tomb near the city of Jerusalem that he planned to be buried in one day. Tombs that were carved out of the rocks were very expensive. Only the very rich could afford one. That tomb would be the earthly monument to his wealth, his power and his accomplishments during his life. That tomb was designed to declare his glory.
When Joseph of Arimathaea saw Jesus dying on the cross, his priorities changed. What the life of Jesus had not been able to do, the death of Jesus on the cross did. As Joseph watched Jesus die that day, he made a decision. He would be silent no more. He would hide his faith no longer.
· When Jesus was dead, Joseph went boldly to Pilate to ask for the body of Jesus. After determining that Jesus was indeed dead, Pilate gave the body to Joseph and he allowed Him to take it away for burial.
By the way, the attitude of these two men toward the dead body of the Lord is worth noting. Look at Joseph as he asks for and tenderly cares for the Lord’s body. To him, it was a precious thing that deserved to be treated with the ultimate of compassion and care, v. 43, 46. To Pilate, the body of Jesus was merely a corpse, a piece of rubbish to be disposed of.
· When Jesus died, His mother and the women around the tomb were in no position to deal with His body. John was there, but he was probably in disguise, for he also feared the Jews and the Romans. The Lord’s half-brothers were probably not even there to witness His death. Joseph knew that is someone didn’t do something, the body of Jesus would be taken down from the cross and thrown away like it was a piece of trash.
The Jews had already made a deal with Pilate that the bodies would be taken down from the cross, John 19:31-34. The next day was the Passover and the Jews wanted the bodies taken down and disposed of before the holy day dawned. That is why Pilate ordered his soldiers to break the legs of the crucified men. With their legs broken, the condemned men could no longer push themselves up in order to exhale. Without that ability, they would die within minutes. So, the soldiers took a wooden mallet and broke the legs of the dying men with brutal blows. When they came to Jesus, however, He was already dead. To confirm this, they thrust a spear into His side and water and blood came out. This signaled the fact that death had retaken place. The plasma and the platelets in His blood had already separated.
· Our text says that Joseph “went in boldly to ask for the body of Jesus. That phrase means to work up the courage. Remember, this man had been afraid to openly take his stand as a disciple of Jesus. Now, having seen Jesus die on the cross, he is emboldened. He walks into Pilates presence and asks for the body. Pilate is amazed that Jesus is already dead. He sends for the centurion, who confirms the fact that Jesus is dead. Pilate releases the body to Joseph and he, along with Nicodemas, John 19:38-42, begin the burial preparations.
(Note: It would seem that Nicodemas was influenced by the courage he saw in Joseph. They may have been there that day as part of the delegation set by the Sanhedrin to observe the death of Jesus. If so, these men came to Calvary representing a dead religions, they left representing a living Lord!)
The language of verse 46 is the language of tenderness. Joseph and Nicodemas treated the body of the Lord with tender care, preparing it the best way they could for burial. They would have washed His body, then wrapped it in strips of fine linen. Between the layers of linen, the various spices and perfumes would have been applied to the body. All of this would have been done in hast, as the shadows lengthened signaling the coming of nightfall.
· When Jesus died on the cross, Joseph was no longer concerned with his own glory. He is now emboldened to step up and openly declare his faith in Jesus. He declares his faith by openly asking for the body. Then, he and Nicodemas go take the body of the Lord down from the cross. They carry it through the streets of the city, not caring who sees them. They prepare the body and they place the body in the tomb, rolling the stone to seal the tomb.
It took great courage for Joseph to go before Pilate to ask for the body of Jesus. Let me mention a few of the issues he faced.
Ψ As a member of the Sanhedrin, Joseph might have been expelled by Pilate who was probably still angry from his earlier run in with them.
Ψ By identifying himself with a man who had been executed for treason, Joseph might have been implicated as a traitor to Rome too.
Ψ When Joseph identified himself with Jesus, he would have been promptly expelled from the Sanhedrin.
Ψ The common Jew would have turned on him too. They would not have understood this man identifying himself with a man who had been condemned by the other leaders as a blasphemer, a traitor and as a false messiah.
Ψ Joseph would have lost money, power, prestige and popularity.
Ψ By touching a dead body, Joseph defiled himself and would not have been permitted to participate in the Passover meal.
Ψ Joseph paid a high price for standing up for the Lord Jesus.
· It still costs something to be a true disciples of Jesus. The Lord put it this way, “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me, Matt. 16:24.
To be a genuine disciple of Jesus is to live a life of shame. It is to live a life where you give up your rights and your will. You deny yourself, giving yourself over to the will of the One Who died so redeem you from your sins on the cross, 1 Cor. 6:19-20. It is to live a life that is out of step with the world around you. It is to live such a radically different life that the world looks on you with hatred, distrust and misunderstanding!
(Ill. Hugh Latimer was raised to the bishopric of Worcester in the reign of Henry VIII. It was the custom of those days for each of the bishops to make presents to the king on New Year’s Day. Latimer went with the rest of his brethren to make the usual offering; but, instead of a purse of gold, he presented the King with a New Testament, in which was a leaf doubled down to this passage, “Whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.[ii] That took courage, especially with someone as volatile and violent as Henry!)
· That is what the Scriptures teach, but I fear that most believers do not live such a life! We should! Jesus gave His all for us, we should give Him no less in return!
Conc: This is a sad place to end this message. I do not like to end any sermon with Jesus Christ left in the tomb. I do not like to see a crucifix. Jesus is no longer on the cross and He is no longer dead.
Our passage closes with Jesus being laid in the tomb. The stone is rolled against the door. Everyone thinks the story is over, and that the dream has ended. Jesus is dead and their hopes and dreams have died with Him.
Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus walk away and go home. John takes Mary and they leave. A couple of women take their place outside the tomb and sit there for a while. Verse 47 says they “beheld where He was laid. The word beheld means they couldn’t take their eyes off the place.” Well, after a while, darkness came and they too left the tomb where the body of the Lord had been buried.
Let me just say, when we leave this text, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming! By the time these women return to finish the preparations of the body of Jesus for burial, Jesus will have already risen from the dead. This sad scene is not the end of the story. No, it is merely the beginning! Lord willing, on next Sunday we will rejoice in that resurrection as we move into Mark 16.
Before we leave this text today, let me ask you a couple of questions.
· What kind of disciple are you? Are you vocal and bold in your witness and your testimony? Or, are do you tend to hold back out of fear for what others will say or think about you? Has God spoken to you about being more bold in your witness?
· Have you been saved, but have never told anyone about it? Are you like Joseph of Arimathaea in that you are keeping your faith a secret? You need to take a public stand with your Savior today. Stand up and tell the world about your faith in Him! It is God’s will that we stand up for Him.
· If He has spoken to you and touched any area of your life, right now would be a good time to come before Him and do what He is telling you to do.