Letters From Golgotha, Pt 4

Joseph of Arimathea

In the aftermath of Jesus' crucifixion, Joseph of Arimathea emerges from the shadows to tend to His body, thus defiling Himself in advance of the Passover.

The following is a”letter” inspired by the experiences of an eyewitness to the crucifixion. It is excerpted from a sermon entitled “Letters From Golgotha,” which I presented in August 2010.

Joseph.

My friend and brother Nicodemus.

I wanted to say thank you for your help this evening. I honestly don’t know how we arrived at this day. It just doesn’t seem real. I must admit that, when you first told me about your conversation with Jesus that night, I thought he must have been crazy. Who could be born again? It sounded ridiculous, but for some reason, I found it strangely compelling. And tonight, I think I finally understand.

It was greed which drove the Council to have Jesus executed. Greed mixed with more than a little power-mongering. They – no, we – were too busy trying to hold onto our own wealth, power and prestige to stop and truly consider what we were doing.

I know, Nicodemus, that you and I did not cast the vote that sent Jesus to Pilate, but were we not responsible simply by not saying anything at all? We could have challenged the midnight sessions. Protested the clearly false charges. Or at the very least questioned the decision to turn him over to the Romans.

Yes, we – you and I – sent an innocent man to die today.

Surely, if there was any doubt that our race is broken and sinful, we have seen today what I believe history will likely remember as the single most grievous, irrefutable example of all time. We deliberately and maliciously hunted down a man that – and can there be any doubt of this after the darkness and earthquake this afternoon? – truly was the Son of God. And for what? So that we wouldn’t be hung up there with him?

My friend, Jesus was exactly right in what he said to you that night a lifetime ago. We must be born again. Not literally, obviously. But the first time we are born, we are clearly bent toward evil. We must therefore be reborn, remade so that that bent can be overcome.

And if that bent is to be overcome, it cannot be enough to simply sit quietly by while others continue to follow its destructive course. We cannot simply sit quietly by.

To that end, Nicodemus, I have reached a conclusion. I can no longer remain a secret follower of Jesus. Though I do not know what will happen of his teachings, or how posterity will ultimately recall his wonders, I do know that I cannot sit idly by while others figure that out. And I would submit, my friend, that neither can you.

To remain a so-called secret follower of Jesus, at this point, is a contradiction of terms. If we are to endorse his teachings and embrace him as the Son of God that I think we both believe him to be, then we must come forward, profess our belief, pursue his teachings, and let the whole world know that we are followers of the Christ.

Who knows but that’s not exactly what today was all about? To clearly illustrate our own sinfulness and compel men like you and I to choose to either continue wallowing in that sinfulness or to leave it all behind and embrace the life and message of Jesus wholeheartedly. I mean, didn’t he say just the other day that he had to die?

My friend, I believe that Jesus was – is – the Son of God. I believe He wanted – wants – me to pattern my life after everything he did and said. I believe that Jesus would have me emerge from the shadows and choose this day who I will follow. It just seems to me that my secrecy was a direct cause of his death. And I cannot stand to let that be true ever again.

I know today was difficult for you, as it was for me. And I know that sitting through temple tomorrow may be the single most difficult thing I will ever do. But I also know that, come Sunday, I will choose to be an open follower of Jesus, the Christ. I will choose to live the life He called us all to live.

I hope you will join me. And I hope that, together, we can locate his disciples so that we may join them.

And you know, Nicodemus, something tells me we haven’t heard the last of Jesus. I honestly don’t know what that means, but I do believe that this will be merely the beginning of the most amazing and exciting transformation of our lives.

I will look for you on Sunday.

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