Tag Archives: Joseph

FEAR ITSELF: The Man of Arimathaea

After this, Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus…’

John 19:38

“Prefect of Galilee. Procurator of Judea. It’s a promotion, they said. It will be a breeze, they said. Well, you know what I say? These Jews are impossible! Every month another uprising. But today, today was the worst!” Pontius Pilate trudged down the steps with his servant barely keeping up.
“It’s not the whole council that’s in the court, sire. Just one of them.”
“What more do they want? To get archers to impale the Nazarene while he’s on the cross too? What, a crucifixion’s not enough? Gods, I’m not shouting all of this, am I? Hope he doesn’t get that idea from me. Sounds don’t carry to the court from this stairwell, do they, Gaius?”
“Not that I know of, sire.”
Pilate grunted. “You were never a good liar, Gaius.”
Soldiers stood at attention as Pilate walked into the courtyard. The Jewish council member turned to gaze at him with forlorn eyes, nodding in greeting. “Most excellent Procurator—“
“Yes, yes, we haven’t got all day.”
“I am Joseph, sir. Of Arimathaea. Member of the Sanhedrin.”
“You lot have interrupted my peace twice today over that man. This had better be quick. You’re here to request for the Nazarene’s body.”
“Yes I am, sir.”
“Tell me this, Jacob, tell me this—“
“Joseph.”
“— you Jews are becoming more Roman with your bloodlust. Never more so than this morning. ‘Crucify him,’ the crowd chanted. ‘Crucify him!’ I understand that you hated the man, but what more do you want with his body?”
Joseph had the carriage of a man familiar with the norms of standing and speaking before authority. But his shifting eyes belied his courage.
“Not all of us ‘hate’ him, sir.”
Pilate arched a brow. “You just didn’t agree with his doctrine.”
Joseph winced. “Sir, I want to give the Teacher the good burial he deserves. I own a sepulchre over by Golgotha. A stone’s throw from the crosses. Whatever the cost, I ask for his body.”
Pilate folded his arms. “This is new. Does Caiaphas and his other cronies know about this?”
Joseph nodded slowly. “They will. Eventually.”
Pilate arched his brows. “And you are ready for their vitriol?”
“Better now than never, sir.”
Pilate took a step closer to Joseph. He too had listened to the Nazarene speak. He too had had his own questions about him. Even his wife had been tormented with nightmares on his account. Something about all this did not seem right. “You were on the Council this morning. You sat there as your people called for this man’s death. But you remained silent.”
“Yes, I did. Because I knew there was much to fear from my people. Hate is a terrible thing in the heart of man, sir, especially when he thinks he hates in the name of God.”
“The man claimed to be God, if I recall. A bold claim among your people. Said he had a kingdom not of this world.”
Joseph nodded, the forlorn gaze remaining in his eyes. “Yes. Yes he did.”
“Seemed to think he really was all that, if you can believe it.”
Joseph looked up at him. “I believe he was who he said he was.”
Pilate smirked. “And yet, he dies on a cross like any mortal.”
Joseph stared away. “Yes, he does.”
“Caiaphas wouldn’t take your words lightly. You could lose your place on the Council.”
Joseph shrugged. “I have considered all of this. I know the cost. But to be silent in the face of truth … I can do that no longer. There are worse things than death, sire. This man did not deserve what he got. My position, my standing … the Council, it is nothing in the face of what is true and right and just.”
Everyone who knows the Truth hears my voice, the Nazarene had said juat this morning.
The sound of Marcellus, the centurion, marching into the hall from outside jolted Pilate from his reverie.
Pilate nodded. “Be that as it may, you would have to wait until after he dies. This may take a couple hours, or days—“
“The Nazarene has passed, sir.” Marcellus said, his helmet in the crook of his hands as he saluted. “He’s dead.”
Pilate grunted. “Now that was fortuitous. One could say a deus exit machina, amiright…”
But the horror on the Arimathean’s face silenced him. This man was grieving.
Pilate pursed his lips. “Few things make a man take the risk you have taken. Love, sometimes. Maybe honour. In this particular case, I am not certain they are mutually exclusive.” He nodded. “You will have his body. Go, give him the burial he deserves, Joseph of Arimathaea.”

———-

Joseph of Arimathaea is another figure that pops up on the stage of Scripture in one or two verses, does something, and pops out. But what he did had an effect on history forever. And it wa an act of courage over fear.
Joseph was a wealthy man and a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Council of leaders. He was a secret follower of Jesus, ‘for fear of the Jews’ (John 19:38). He was likely there when Jesus was being tried, but to expose himself as a follower of Jesus would have risked his position and standing in the community, and even his very life.
But later he courageously went to Pilate the governor to request for Jesus’ body. He had a rock-hewn tomb, something only the rich could afford, and he asked to bury Jesus’ body there.
Going to Pilate was an open statement to all, especially to his colleagues who hated Jesus. This same tomb later caused the priests to request for guards to seal it.I do not blame Joseph for hiding the fact that he followed Jesus at the time. But it tells me something about fear.
One thing that fear does is that it makes us silent in the face of what is right. It makes us comfortable with what is wrong as long as we do not take any risks. But this mindset is what allows evil to be perpetrated, especially in these depraved times.
But Joseph took a courageous step and used his tomb.
Apart from the world outside, for ourselves, fear keeps us from reaching out into the much-more that God has prepared for us. If Joseph had done nothing he would most likely have still had a good life. But he did, and he got into something more fulfilling, being a vessel in God’s hands.

To be a part of what God wants to do in us, vessels in His hands, we need to be courageous.
Do you know that Jesus being buried in that kind of tomb was a fulfilment of prophecy, that he would be buried with the rich (Isaiah 53:9) and that his body would not decay (Psalm 16:10). By acting in courage, Joseph became engrafted into a plan God had set in motion long ago.

Courage is not the absence of fear. Rather, it is doing what is right even in the midst of fear.

For a child of God, our courage is rooted in the knowledge and assurance that God is for us and with is and in us, even when we don’t ‘feel’ it, but because God’s Word says so. And that is Truth.It is why when Joshua became the leader of the Israelites to lead them into the Promised Land, God told him over and over to be courageous. He told him to keep on meditating on the Law, the Words of God. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified. Do not be discouraged. For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

You know, Joseph of Arimathaea reminds me of another Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus. He too had to make a courageous decision, to stick by Mary when she was pregnant, at a time and in a society that would have shunned them. But he trusted in what God said and courageously stayed with her. This was the kind of man God trusted to father his Son.Isn’t it just like God to place two Josephs, one at the beginning and the other at the end, to take care of His Son’s body?

To conceive, bring forth and nurture God’s counsel in our lives and in our world, we need to be courageous. Fear is just an illusion in the face of what God can do through you. Don’t let it limit you.And when we do what He calls us to, then we find our true and best selves.

Trust in His ability.

Be courageous.

Point to consider: What things do you know you ought to do that fear has fear kept you from doing?

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FACES OF THE CHRISTMAS STORY: Joseph

‘Joseph, chagrined but noble, determined to take care of things quietly so Mary would not be disgraced.’ Matthew 1:19

 

Joseph was a good man. If that’s the only line you read here, it’s enough. I’m going to be gushing about him for the rest of this article.

Every time I read about Joseph in the Bible I am inspired to be a better person. This mostly silent character played a major role in the unfolding of the Christmas Story. Who is this man that God entrusted with the fostering of His Son on earth?

Do you know that, throughout the accounts, we do not hear Joseph’s voice? There was no place where his speech is recorded, as far as I’ve seen. Though of course he was not mute but the writers did not major on his words. His actions, however, spoke so loudly about the substance of this man that though we barely meet him, we feel we know him completely.

He was a descendant of David the king. Growing up, he must have heard that Messiah would come through their lineage. Perhaps some of his relatives thought one of their children would be the promised king. Joseph had long given up on such fairy tales. If he was a king then perhaps it would be king of hammers and nails, being that he spent so much time with them. He was a carpenter.

But when we first meet him he’s just heard that the girl he is betrothed to is pregnant, and there is no way in creation that he is even close to being responsible. She claims it is the Lord that had – and he had to wash his ears for even hearing the blasphemy of it all— ‘conceived’ the baby in her womb. He felt hurt, cheated and taken advantage of. Had he been too nice? It would have been better if she had simply admitted to an affair with one of the other boys that tried to woo her. Or perhaps the deed had occurred during those three months she spent down south with her cousin. Now she wants to spout a ‘miracle baby’ story like her cousin’s?

He didn’t know what to think.

It made no difference, either way. By law, she should be stoned. In public. By the townspeople. By him.

But Joseph could not and would not let that fly, for her sake. He chose to live above his lawful right of vengeance. He chose to let the situation pass quietly, breaking the betrothal in secret. The girl’s pleading parents could not express their gratitude enough. But he was still hurt.

You know the rest of the story. An angel appears in his dream telling him not to walk out on Mary, because the child in her womb is really of God. Didn’t God just need Mary’s womb alone for a virgin birth? Why was Joseph so important to this plan? What was Joseph needed for? As the story unfolds further, we would see as this man supports his betrothed. In choosing to stay, Joseph risked all kinds of ridicule. But in all that time he did not expose her. He supported her all the way to the baby’s delivery and beyond, for a baby he did not sire. This was a just man.

There is nothing like having faithful people supporting you when you’re birthing something that is of God.

Another striking thing about Joseph is the ministry of angels in his life. God gave him instruction and direction through angels in his dreams, and he did not despise or discard them. These happened at least four times. First, when the angel told him to stay with Mary. When Herod’s men were coming to kill the baby, an angel told him in a dream to leave the country. When Herod was dead, an angels told him in a dream to return. When he found that Herod’s son was in power, an angel told him in a dream to go round to stay in Nazareth. Dreams, dreams, dreams. He was impressionable to God, and this is the kind of heart that God works with, guiding and protecting. This is the kind of person that God can trust with His instructions, because they will listen and obey.

Joseph was also devout, obedient to the law of God. Throughout Mary’s pregnancy, he did not have intercourse with her until the baby was born and they were married. We read of him taking the baby to the temple to be dedicated, along with sacrifices. We later read of him taking a 12-year-old Jesus to the temple and, when Jesus goes missing, he begins looking for him along with his wife. When they do find Jesus, the boy is conversing with the leading scholars of that day.

And when they tell Jesus they’ve been looking for him, Jesus replies, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you realize that I had to be in my Father’s house?”

And here’s the fourth thing I learnt about Joseph. He was aware he was raising a boy that did not come from his loins. Jesus was Someone else’s Son. Joseph was just a caretaker for this boy, though he loved him as his own. How do you think he felt when Jesus referred to his real Father to Joseph’s face?

Stewardship, servanthood— these are undesirable qualities in the me-first world of today, though they are desperately needed. To take care of another man’s property and value it like your own is faithfulness in action. That is the best path to sustainability of anything. Joseph did that, serving God by raising His Son like his own.

God could trust this man.

He raised Jesus and must have loved him like his own. He would still have other children, and his qualities would definitely rub off on them as well. But by the time Jesus begins His ministry, Joseph is no longer in the story. He had most likely died by then, but he had played his role.

There is a lot to learn from and about Joseph, but one is enough for now.

Jesus said to His disciples, “…whosoever would become great among you, shall be your servant; and whosoever would be first among you, shall be servant of all.” (Mark 10:43-44)

Even Jesus came to serve. In God’s Kingdom, service is not ‘just’ a step to greatness. In God’s kingdom, greatness is shown in service. Greatness serves. Service is greatness. Joseph portrayed this.

 

Jesus came so that as many as believe on Him can have the Life of God in them. With God’s Spirit in us, we have the ability to be faithful (Galatians 5:22). Such is the kind of person that He can entrust with the responsibility of being co-labourers in His reconciliation project, bringing men back to life in Himself. He can entrust these people with ideas and assignments that will bless many, feed many, lift many, and help people better see the love He has for them.

This is God’s intent.

These people have angels sent to do service for them (Hebrews 1:14). They are sons of God and are led by His Spirit (Romans 8:14). They follow Jesus daily and learn from Him to serve.

 

This Christmas, allow yourself to be used of God. Learn to serve.

3 days to #Christmas

FACES OF THE CHRISTMAS STORY: The Inn Keeper

The Inn Keeper
“…there was no room or place for them in the inn.” Luke 2:7
 
“Sorry, we’re closed.”
The people in line groaned. Some muttered about having to go stay with some nosy relatives they were hoping to avoid.
The inn keeper rubbed his eyes, holding in a yawn. It had been a long day, what with checking in all these visitors. They had been coming in all week, none wanting to be far from their hometown when Caesar’s deadline arrived. Everyone under Rome’s jurisdiction had to return to their hometowns to be registered, per the imperial order. They would need a place to stay, and that meant big business for people like him. He had even cleared the storage rooms to make more bedding space. Bethlehem had not seen this large a crowd in years, But now, he was surprised how many claimed the town as theirs. Now, the last of the spaces had been taken, and even the lobby was full of people lying on their robes on the bare floor.
It had been a good day for business. He called for his servant as he prepared to close for the day.
A young man bustled in, frantically scanning faces. His gaze fell on the inn keeper. “Sir, please, we need a room.”
“You and every other person,” someone yelled.
“You don’t understand—“
“Sorry, we’re closed,” the inn keeper chimed in. “All the rooms are taken—“
“No, no, wait. It’s m-my wife, she’s with child. She’ll soon be in labour.” The accent was probably Galilean. The innkeeper had gotten used to distinguishing these accents over the past few days.
He looked out over the filled room. This young man’s ruckus was already drawing curious stares, some of which were not too pleased. He leaned in to whisper. “I wish I could help you, sir, but there’s no more space. Not even on the floor.”
“What about the roof?”
“Like I said, there is no space. You could try other inns. I could get Oved to show you a suitable one.” Oved, his servant, hurried over. His reddened eyes showed his need for rest as well. As soon as some of these guests registered with the government tomorrow, they would leave, more space would be available and work would continue. The sooner they got rid of this man the better.
The Galilean stared back out the doorway. “The other inns were closed. You’re my only hope right now. I’ll pay anything.” He was already reaching into his bag.
“Hey!” one of the visitors called out. “The man said there’s no more room! You deaf?”
Oved stepped in before the frantic father-to-be could respond. “Perhaps we should discuss it outside.” He also knew there was nothing he could do to help, but he needed to at least let him down easy. He stole a glance at his master as he tried to lead the Galilean toward the door.
“No, sir, please help us—“
A cry rang out from outside, drawing stares. The Galilean hurried out the door, Oved on his tail. The inn keeper was closing his desk when his servant peeked in at him through the doorway, concern etched on his face. The inn keeper sighed as he stomped over, making a mental note to remind Oved that this was a business, not charity. Sure enough, the Galilean sat holding his young wife by the doorway as she moaned. Oved still stared at his master with pleading eyes, but the inn keeper refused to budge.
“She needs help!” the Galilean cried.
“Sir?” Oved’s voice broke in. “What about the stable?”
He had not expected that. “There’s no way they’ll want to use that—“
“We’ll take it!” the Galilean said. “A stable would be fine.”
So they were desperate, willing to deliver her of this baby just feet away from the cow dung and sheep dip. Desperation was good for business. This was the part where he usually negotiated prices, but while he was a businessman he was no monster. He shrugged. “Oved, you handle this. I’m turning in.”
And with that he went in and took the stairs. What a day. A good night’s rest was what he needed.
Making his way past the lying bodies, he walked into his room on the corner of the roof where it always had been. His bed still sat in the middle, stately and rough. If Kezia was still around it would have been neater and he would have eaten a decent meal.
Kezia. Anytime he turned in for the night, the mostly empty room reminded him of her death last summer.
He fell onto his bed and groaned. A thought popped in his head, of how this would have been a perfect place for a woman in labor to give birth.
But just as swiftly, he shoved the thought as he plunged into dreamland. He had just about enough space for others and he had rented it out, but this was his room. His only lasting memory of her. There was no way he was going to lease it to some strangers.
This was their bed. His bed.
His heart.
 
 
While this is fiction, I really don’t blame the inn keeper. The real one, anyway. He really did not have any more room, so he let them use the animal stable. He had no way of knowing that the Son of God was about to be born as a man, and he had just let Him be born in an animal outhouse. If He had known, what do you think he might have done differently? He possibly would have herded the occupants of the best suite in his inn out the door and refurbished it to the best of tastes. He would have brought them to his own room, deeming it fit to sleep by the door than to let God’s Son be born in his stable. He would have made room because God was coming to his house. But he did not know.
Even today, it is easy to miss out on God’s gift because of how ordinary it may look. God’s help may come to us in the form of a person, or an idea, or even a message sent to us. All of that was encapsulated in the Word, God that became flesh, and many still do not know the Person born that day and what He came to do for us.
Sometimes we may be like the Inn Keeper of the story. For the right reasons, our hearts might be filled with a lot of things. Thoughts on how to pay the mortgage, plans for the next year, decisions to be made. All important things of our lives that we need to organise and plan.
Sometimes, what fills our hearts are pain and hurts that we find hard to let go of. Memories of times we were cheated, memories of times we were wronged, memories of times we made mistakes, memories of times we treated others unfair. Naturally, these memories shape who we become and how we think, for better or worse. A lady who has been cheated may find it hard to trust in another man. A person who failed an exam may find it hard to believe that he/she can ace it the next time. A man may hold on to the memories of lost loved ones at the expense of the comfort and healing the rest of his family and friends are willing to offer. Subconsciously, we hold on to these things believing that we have a right to them. They are our memories, a piece of our identity.
In the midst of all this, God wants to have room in our hearts, and we just don’t see how that could work.
But the truth is that we really do have room for Him. We just don’t realise it. He knocks on the door of our hearts and, if we let Him, He will help us clean house. Baggage we have carried with us for so long, he will carry out. Burdens that have driven us to the ground, he will lift off because He cares for us. With Him as our priority, He helps us to properly prioritise. He gives us wisdom in our daily living and endeavors.
The thing is that, many times, we feel we have to make room before He can come in and, in a sense, that is true. But the only way we make room is by actually opening the door and letting Him come in. We cannot deal with the mess by ourselves.
He sees the mess, and only He can take it out.
Trust Him with all of it. He can handle it.
He will amaze you and comfort you as he turns what was a hurtful memory into a testimony of His faithfulness. He will build you up and enrich your heart so that you can actually think about others, for good. Soon you will find yourself comforting others in need too, as He has comforted you.
Like an inn keeper making room for others to find rest.
But first, we must make room for Him, so that we also will find the rest we need.
 
Christmas reminds us that Christ came so that we can find rest for our souls in Him. Make room for Him to do what He will in your life. He gives healing, and fullness, and joy. And with His love abound in us, we too can make room for others. Give someone a gift, send someone an encouraging message, tell someone the Good News of God’s salvation, be willing to listen.
Make room.
 
 
 
‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears and listens to and heeds My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will eat with him, and he [will eat] with Me.’
Jesus speaking in Revelation 3:20
 
4 days to #Christmas