COME OUT OF THE SHADOWS 4-16-06 (Resurrection Sunday)
COME OUT OF THE SHADOWS
Luke 23:50 Now behold, there was a man named Joseph, a council member, a good and just man. 51 He had not consented to their decision and deed. He was from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who himself was also waiting for the kingdom of God. 52 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53 Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a tomb that was hewn out of the rock, where no one had ever lain before. 54 That day was the Preparation, and the Sabbath drew near. 55 And the women who had come with Him from Galilee followed after, and they observed the tomb and how His body was laid. 56 Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment.
Introduction: I realize that I am breaking some traditional norms by not preaching from certain passages today. I am of the hope that the majority of the people I am talking to are Christians. I also hope that there are people seated in this room who do not know Jesus as personal Lord and Savior, who will come to know Him today. But the first business I would like to take care of today is that there is not a bunny rabbit on this planet that has ever given his or her life that the world might be saved. So our celebration of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ is not just one Sunday in the year, like the world, but every day of the year.
Paul writes in Rom 1:16 - 17; For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”
The word “salvation” basic meaning is “bring into a spacious environment,” but it carries from the beginning the symbolic sense of “freedom from limitation” and the deliverance from factors which constrain and confine. Salvation means the deliverance from disease, from trouble or enemies. In the vast majority of references, God is the author of salvation. So God saves His flock, He rescues His people and He alone can save them; there is no other savior besides Him. He is the refuge and savior of His people. He saves the poor and needy when they have no other helper. The word of Moses, “stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord” (Exodus 14:13), is the heart of the OT idea. Therefore to know God at all is to know Him as a saving God; so the words “God” and “Savior” are virtually identical terms in the OT. The great instance of God’s saving deliverance was the Exodus (Exodus 12:40–14:31). The redemption from Egyptian bondage through the intervention of God at the Red Sea was the determining factor for all of Israel’s reflections of God’s nature and activity. The Exodus was the mould into which all the later interpretation of Israel’s history was poured. It was sung in worship (Psalm 66:1–7), retold in story (Deut 6:20–24), re-enacted in ritual (Exodus 13:3–16). So the idea of salvation comes forward from the Exodus which is permanently stamped with the elements of God’s mighty acts of deliverance in history.
Now I said all of that to set the stage for our study today. Because what we must understand is that we are talking about a saved man who was living in the shadows of what he believed.
Joseph of Arimathea was a man of courage and fear, who made a decision to step out for Christ while Jesus’ eleven disciples were too confused and frightened to leave the safety of a locked up room.
Who was this man Joseph of Arimathea? All four Gospels (Matt 27:57-60; Mark 15:43-46; John 19:38-42 and here in Luke 23:50-56), tells the story of this man who stepped forward to bury the body of Jesus. We are told that he was a council member. That means he was a member of the Sanhedrin, the supreme court of the Jewish people. We are also told that he did not agree with the decision reached by the council concerning Jesus. This could mean he disagreed by not attending or that he was there but did not vote or that the council had not informed him because they knew how he would vote.
We are also told that he was a “good and just man.” The Bible never uses words unnecessarily; therefore there must be a difference between “good” and “just.” When it says that he was a “good” man, it speaks of what he was in himself. Being a “just” man speaks of what he was to others. His just dealing was just the outward expression of his inner goodness.
But before we examine his courage we need to accept a few basic facts. According to John’s account (19:38) while Joseph of Arimathea, was “a disciple of Jesus,” he was a secret one, “for fear of the Jews.” He allowed his fear to keep him from making his decision about Jesus public. His fear had caused Joseph not to take a bold stand for Christ even though he knew that his heart was telling him to do so.
What kind of fear was it that kept Joseph a secret disciple? Was it fear for his life, for his family or was it for his position? It’s not always easy to step up against the establishment.
So for awhile Joseph remained a “secret’ disciple. It is as if he is on the fence trying to keep a foot on each side. In Luke 16:13 Jesus had taught, “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
If there has ever been a time that you should have taken a stand for Christ but instead you just blended in with everyone else, take encouragement from the story of Joseph of Arimathea. Even if you have given up on Jesus, He has never given up on you. Even if you have been a secret disciple in the past, God can still use you if you will just recognize a few simple truths.
Faith Will Demand Us To Take A Stand…COME OUT OF THE SHADOWS
Mark in his account (14:43) points out that Joseph exhibited “great courage” in going before Pilate to request the body of Jesus. What Joseph did in going to Pilate and requesting the body of Jesus took courage for several reasons:
First, it took courage because under Roman law those condemned to death had lost the right to be buried. They were either left for the birds to eat or they were taken down and thrown in city garbage dump.
Secondly, it took courage because Pilate was already angry with the Jewish religious leadership. They had brought Jesus to him on trumped up charges and had insisted that he find Jesus guilty and condemn Him to death. When Pilate resisted they all but threatened to complain to Rome saying, (John 19:12) “If you let this man go, you are not Caesar’s friend.” Joseph had no right to expect that Pilate would give him the body of Jesus. He had no right to the body and he had no right to expect any favors from Pilate. But he went any way.
Third, it took courage to request the body of Jesus, because in so doing he was declaring that he was a believer in Jesus Christ.
Faith Will Demand That We Pay A Price…COME OUT OF THE SHADOWS
I don’t think that we today can really imagine the price that Joseph paid by going to Pilate to ask for the body of Jesus and the price to his personal self-respect. It is hard to humble ourselves to such a degree. In our text in verse 52 where it says he “asked for the body of Jesus,” the Greek word translated means “begged.” The suggestion here is that Pilate made Joseph beg and plead for the body of Jesus.
The Price To His Social Status…COME OUT OF THE SHADOWS
How was he going to explain to Pilate why he wants the body? How can he as a member of the very group who demanded Jesus’ death, now justify wanting to give him a decent burial without admitting that he was follower of Jesus. Joseph must have known that the news that he had gone to Pilate would soon reach the Sanhedrin. He had every reason to expect that as soon as this was known, he would lose his social standing, his status, in fact he would lose everything he had. It’s not hard to imagine that they voted Joseph out of the Council, excluded him from any position of religious or social influence and did every thing they could to ruin his reputation in Jerusalem. What a price to pay!
What I think is even more amazing about this story is that he is making all of these sacrifices for a man who is dead and as far as he knows, will stay that way. What an amazing commitment!
The Price To His Personal Finances…COME OUT OF THE SHADOWS
There was certainly a financial cost to Joseph. He had given up his personal tomb, which was a very expensive thing to do. Remember, he is NOT expecting it to be empty in just three days. He could have provided a cheaper tomb outside of the city, but he gave Jesus his best. He also bought the linens and spices to care for the body of Jesus in the best way possible.
God used one Joseph to place His Son in a rented feeding trough and another to place His Son in a borrowed tomb. The first Joseph placed Him a feeding trough, because He is the “Bread of Life” and Joseph of Arimathea placed Him in a borrowed tomb because He said “after three days, I will rise again.” So are you giving God your best or are you giving Him out of your left-over’s?
How did Pilate answer this request? Mark 15:44-45 said: “Pilate marveled that He was already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him if He had been dead for some time. So when he found out from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph.”
Faith Does Not Always Demand That We Stand Alone
In verse 53 it says, “He took it down,” but it cannot mean that Joseph took the body of Jesus down from the cross by himself. Taking a lifeless body down from a cross is no one-man job.
He had helpers. At least one of those who helped Joseph seemed to be Nicodemus, another member of the Sanhedrin and another secret disciple (John 19:39-42). I want to suggest to you that two cautious followers of Jesus came together and gained the courage to go public with their faith.
Joseph and Nicodemus took the body of Jesus from the cross and prepared it for burial.
John tells us in his account (19:39), brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighting about 100 lbs and then the two men wrapped the body of Jesus in strips of linen, in accordance with Jewish customs. The only time that anyone got anointed with 100 lbs of this stuff was when they were royalty. These two men were saying to the world, you may not accept Him as King but He is!
Why did Joseph (and Nicodemus) step forward now? Why did they finally come “out of the shadow,” after keeping their beliefs to themselves for so long? Why, now, after Jesus is already dead? The answer, at least to me, is that faith required it of them in this situation.
Faith Will Demand That We Sacrifice Our Religion for A Relationship
Joseph was a good man, a religious man, a man very involved in the work of his religion. But, in order to bury the body of Jesus, he had to defile himself ceremonially by touching a dead body (Numbers 9:6, 19:11-12). On the very eve of the most important religious celebration of the year, this act would make it impossible for him to participate. Both Joseph and Nicodemus felt that it was more important to give Jesus a proper burial than to remain ceremonially clean so that they could participate in the Passover. They let go of their rituals and laid hold on Christ who was and is the true Passover Lamb.
I wonder today if your religion sits between you and a real relationship with Jesus Christ. By religion I mean anything you do or don’t do that you think makes you right with God. Religious people take pride in what they do and don’t do, but they often ignore the sins of the heart such as pride. They put on a good front at church, but their actions stink. At home they are angry and hard to get along with; at work they are judgmental and harsh. Is it Time give up on Religious Rituals and Step Out Of The shadows?
A preacher and an unconverted manufacturer of soaps met on the street. Sneering, the manufacturer exclaimed, “The gospel you preach can’t be very good, for there are still a lot of wicked people.” The preacher was silent until they passed a child making mud pies. The tot was smeared from head to toe with dirt. Pointing to the youngster the preacher said, “George, your product can’t be very effective, for there is still a lot of filth in the world.” “Oh, but my soap cleans only those to whom it is applied,” answered the manufacturer. “Exactly!” shouted the preacher.
Come out of the shadows in to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ!