Choosing Devotion in the Moment of Doubt.
The pain from the rocks under his knees eventually became too much for him to bear. In one motion, and with whatever energy that was reserved deep in his bones, he hauled himself to a standing position once again. His eyes were burning, his chest was aching, and his knees still trembled underneath him. There was a dark, sinking feeling he felt somewhere deep inside, but he pushed it down further to deal with it another time.
Most people had left now; the hillside had cleared once the "show" had had reached its conclusion. Only a few drifting souls were left. Confused. Scared. Mournful. He looked up once more to the horrifying scene left on display. There was a man hanging, no longer breathing. Dead. The body that hung from the tree no longer looked like the man he had known. That man had been full of life; everywhere he had gone that place became holy. Now, only a bloody, beaten body hang; unrecognizable to any person who did not witness the torture as it was taking place.
The man looked away. He recognized the anguish creeping up from inside of him once again. This was shameful. No one of his stature, of his position, should be weeping under the body of a known criminal. In fact, it was his sect, his co-workers, that called upon Pilate for this to happen! He should be rejoicing as he stares at this lifeless body, yet all he can find is sorrow.
No, this wasn't a criminal who died today. This was the Messiah. He knew that in his heart, but all signs pointed to the contrary. The Messiah wasn't supposed to come from Galilee. The Messiah wasn't supposed to spend time with the broken of society. The Messiah wasn't supposed to be beaten, and broken, and killed. The man stopped on that last word. Killed. The Messiah is dead. The Savior of the Jews, the Savior of the world, is dead.
Anger begin to sweep over him and his blood began to boil. This was not an anger against the circumstance, however, but against himself. This was his fault. For too long he has been hiding in the shadows as he followed Jesus; for too long he has kept quiet while those in his sect threw out false accusations against this innocent and good man! While he might not has driven the nails into Jesus' arms, he was as much at fault for hanging Jesus as the soldiers, and the Sanhedrin, and the mob. Why didn't he do anything?
His knees began to tremble again. This was Jesus the Christ. Only gentleness, and love ever came from him and now we hangs like a criminal to be eaten by the birds.
No! His silence would not continue any longer. He was tired of hiding his devotion, of hiding where his true heart resided. While he couldn't fully understand why the Messiah hung lifeless before his eyes, he knew that he didn't have to stay this way. The man would be granted access to Pilate; he could beg to remove Jesus' body from the cross and give him a proper burial. A burial he deserved.
The man would be risking everything.
But that no longer mattered to him. He knew what needed to happen and where he played a part in it. This is the Messiah that hung lifeless and he would not allow others to see him this way. It didn't matter that he didn't understand, it didn't matter what others thought of him. He was going to publicly announce his devotion to Jesus, and he was going to give his Messiah the burial he deserved.
. . . .
Now, standing taller than he has ever stood before, he could see the confusion on Pilate's face: "Joseph, is that you?"
The short account of Joseph of Arimathea is a powerful reminder of our own devotion to Jesus. Imagine his circumstances. He has been following Jesus in the shadows for years, both as his disciple, and as a member of the religious body called the Sanhedrin (the very group that ultimately killed him). What do you think was going through his mind as he looked at Jesus' lifeless body on the cross? This was his Savior, and now his Savior was dead.
In our walk with Jesus there are going to be many times of doubt and heartache. Like Joseph, there are going to be times we look up and wonder if Jesus really is the Messiah, our just another phony. There are times when we have to decide if we are willing to risk everything, our status, our wealth, our life, to be a disciple of Jesus.
I hope Jospeh's actions inspire you. In the midst of his confusion he shows honor to Jesus. In the midst of his sorrow and pain and anger and doubt, he removes Jesus' lifeless body from the cross and honors him as the Messiah. Jesus is not upset at you for your confusion or doubt, but he calls you to still honor him within it.