Lent 2012: Day Forty-Six – Easter Eve

John 19:38 After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body.

my voice record of blog in video

A beautiful verse from the Gospel of John today.

We are told that Joseph of Arimathea is a disciple of Jesus. This is not a name of one of the specifically named twelve in the gospels. They are:

  1. Simon Peter
  2. Andrew
  3. James son of Zebedee
  4. John
  5. Philip
  6. Bartholomew
  7. Thomas
  8. Matthew
  9. James son of Alphaeus
  10. Thaddeus
  11. Simon the Cananean (or Zealot)
  12. and Judas Iscariot.

Although, let us bear in mind that the Gospel of Luke names Jude, rather than Thaddeus. This verse is reminding us not to take the idea of twelve disciples too literally. Jesus had many disciples. And it happens that at Jesus’ burial, it is a hidden disciple, Joseph, who asked for the body of Jesus and buried it. And it was Mary Magdalene, the Gospel of Mathew tells us, who accompanied him. Why? Where are the twelve who are supposed to have been closest to him? I am no expert on theological interpretations here, but it seems to me that we can learn a lot from this. Sometimes, those who believe that they are closest to God, are further from God than the ones they think are ashamed of their faith, or too female to be any good. I don’t know what the twelve specifically named disciples thought of Jesus’ closeness to Mary Magdalene. But I bet it was beautiful.

And who is Joseph of Arimathea interacting with in this passage? Pilate. The one who is so often blamed and pictured as the head murderer – alongside Judas Iscariot – of Jesus. Yet I have never understood that image. I have always seen Pilate as someone who wanted to understand Jesus. Who asked him what truth was. Who didn’t do enough, but if he had not been so afraid would have helped him.

It is Pilate who respectfully handed over the body, Joseph of Arimathea who buried him, and Mary Magdalene who accompanied Joseph and sat by the tomb, awaiting his return and resurrection. Tomorrow, we will celebrate that…

John 19:38 After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body.

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