JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA, WAITING FOR THE KINGDOM
50Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, 51who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea and he was waiting for the kingdom of God. 52Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus' body. 53Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid.
"What are you waiting for?" —-That question has been the guiding theme for these Advent MidWeek messages.
Simeon nurtured an intense craving in his heart,--> waiting for, looking expectantly for, yearning, longing, and holding-OUT for God's CONSOLATION in Christ, the Light for gentiles and Glory of Israel. By grace Simeon's faith was rewarded with seeing, holding, and blessing the Christ-Child--> the Very God begotten of His Father before all worlds joined to humanity in the Body of a Baby!
Anna was waiting for REDEMPTION. Recognizing the deep-seated rebellious nature of sin, she awaited the Price that would indeed pay-and-earn forgiveness for herself and all people. - Rather than dazedly and passively stand around for it, she actively dedicated her heart and whole self, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day, not departing from the Temple. To realize that the Ransoming Price had come in the same tiny Person that Simeon held set Anna to vocally thanking God and to speak about Him to others who were present around her.
With Joseph of Arimathea, this third and last meditation touches on the same theme, but is moved ahead in time by exactly the young life-span of Him who had BEEN held by Simeon and seen by Anna as well. - No longer an Infant, it was now the beaten, tortured and dead Body of a Man that Joseph saw and held.
What connects the three persons Simeon, Anna and Joseph is a term used by the Gospel-writer Luke that identifies the searching quest of each;--> that each had a heart that was seeking. -- Joseph sought "the KINGDOM of God."
Everyone seeks something! It's part of the universal condition of humanity. People the world-over thirst for something to quench the emptiness with which sin has marked all. Every man, woman and child has certain desires that he or she wants satisfied.
One man searches for knowledge, reading shelves of books and spending years of study. In human terms it's a fine and commendable pursuit, but it becomes a curse if that man makes it the "end unto itself" for his life. He can add one degree after another to his name and gain the title of "Doctor" in even SEVERAL sciences or disciplines - yet still not be satisfied. He realizes there's MORE yet to be learned, and his soul remains empty. Recognition he receives for his academic feats holds no meaning in the end.
Another man thirsts after money and the things it can buy. He works every over-time opportunity, neglecting family and friends. No time is given for worship, prayer-time or devotions. He goes to the kinds of parties and social gatherings where he can meet prominent people who might help him get ahead. - The more he gets, the more he craves. There's NO END to such thirst, as Solomon says, "He who loves money will not be satisfied with (it); nor he who loves wealth, with gain..."
The quest of someone else is just entertainment - excitement - pleasure. He keeps late hours, visits one questionable place of amusement after another, bends over the intoxicating cup and perhaps even dabbles in stimulating drugs. His purpose is to drain every possible drop of pleasure out of life, but neither is HE EVER satisfied!
Still another person wants power. His aim is to be a little Caesar--> a dictator who wants people to come to himSELF, to take orders from HIM, to do HIS bidding and will. And the more powerful he becomes, the more HE grabs after! - (The members of Jerusalem's high council to which Joseph belonged were people such as this.)
SUMMARY: People EVERYWHERE are groping about and trying in vain to fill their burning desires. They're like branches of ivy reaching out for something to twine themselves around and be at rest.
JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA - LOOKING FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD
Here's where the example of Joseph of Arimathea becomes an appropriate consideration. Even if he had not heard the Lord's "Sermon on the Mount," - in his heart he carried Christ's teaching there: "Seek ye first the KINGDOM OF GOD..."
A. JOSEPH HIMSELF
The Gospels don't go into great detail about Joseph, but they do give some critical information. - The Text says he was "a good and righteous man" as we learned of Simeon. If that's not enough of a clue, then elsewhere it says that Joseph WAS actually a "disciple" of Jesus. Like Nicodemus who met with Jesus in secret, though, Joseph kept the fact of his discipleship hidden for fear of retributions from Jewish leaders. And like Nicodemus, Joseph was one who held membership on the nation's governing council, the Sanhedrin. - Joseph was a man with some authority, status, and influence, and was relatively well-to-do. He was the RARE type of rich man, though, whose wealth did NOT get the best of him.
Joseph was apparently not summoned when Jesus stood at trial before the Sanhedrin, for Scriptures say that those who WERE present were UNANIMOUS in condemning Jesus to death, but the Text tells us that Joseph "had NOT consented to their purpose and deed." - As a follower of Christ, Joseph knew Him to be innocent.
B. JOSEPH'S LOOKING FOR THE KINGDOM...
But Christ came not to remain the cute Baby we adore for nestling in the hay when no better conditions were available, but for the very purpose of suffering the jealous power-play of those in Israel's governing body.
1. Joseph Realized the Need for God's Kingdom
Joseph was no doubt quite familiar with the power-games and sinister deceit of almost the whole outfit. His peers were for the most part a band of biters and scrappers, vying with one another to get to the top of the heap.
From personal experience he understood how people mismanage and grasp after position and power. He knew that sincere politicians, too, either fail to reach their good goals oftentimes, or else are swayed to the side of corruption. Joseph must have realized that righteous governing does not equal the power to inflict and enforce one's own will on others. - He was keenly aware of mankind's need for right government and that it would not be found in any human invention or system.
With his own position, however, Joseph had to have been pretty well educated in the promises of the Prophets that God WOULD provide a righteous government and King one day. (We hear some of those same promises especially in appointed Old Testament readings on Advent's Sundays.) - With his association with Jesus, Joseph had come to embrace by faith that He was the One by whom God's righteous rule had MADE its advent into the world! Joseph's heart craved THIS Kingdom come from God for the world.
2. By Faith Joseph Took Action
Blinded by jealous hatred, Joseph's governing peers succeeded in having Jesus put to death. Their power quest was so unreasoning that nothing less would have been enough for their bloodthirst. (History has often shown us how the power-hungry resort to murder and war.)
We don't know how much Joseph understood of the necessity of Christ's suffering and death to bring forgiveness for the sins of the whole world, but what IS certain is that Joseph now ACTED out of the faith he DID have.--> He made good use of his influence and authority to go to Pontius Pilate and request the Body of Jesus. And with that being granted, he wrapped Jesus "in a linen shroud and laid Him in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever yet been laid," the Text says. Other Scriptures say that it was Joseph's OWN tomb, and it would have been highly expensive, having taken workers many months (if not years) to have chipped it out by hand. (How else could they do it with no explosives available in those days?!)
Like Anna, ACTIVELY pursuing her faith and hope for REDEMPTION by dedicating her whole life to God's Temple, Joseph finally moved to identify himself with and honor Jesus in His death -- at great personal risk! - He used his position on the Lord's behalf and gave at a great cost to his pocketbook as well in giving the space of his own tomb. --- Having his heart SET on the Prophets' promises of God's Kingdom, Joseph ended up fulfilling Isaiah's words concerning Christ:--> "...They made His grave...with a rich man in His death..."
It's interesting to note that, once Jesus finished suffering for sin and gave up His Spirit, having clinched the victory over Satan and sin, God permitted NO MORE abuse to touch Jesus! -- Roman soldiers did not break His legs as was often done to those being crucified. His Body wasn't carted off to some mass grave for unknowns, but was treated with respect and honor, and lovingly carried to an individualized tomb of great status. --- The beginning of Christ's Glory as King already took place on Good Friday, and, by grace, at Joseph's hands.
Christ's glorious rule included descending into hell to proclaim His victory over Satan and its citizens, and rising Bodily from Joseph's tomb to be seen by many over a long period of 40 days! - He rules over even the last enemy--> death itself.
To any who feel empty and unfulfilled, unable to gain satisfaction through money, power or whatever - - WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!
Did you find yourself identifying at all with Simeon, Anna or Joseph? - When Jesus came, He provided the VERY thing each of them was seeking! - Like them, by faith in Christ, we can have peace now already and the fulfilling and stilling of our deepest longings:--> for CONSOLATION, REDEMPTION and GOD'S KINGDOM which has COME in Christ, and which is YET to come in His Glory! Set your heart to wait for it expectantly!!!