It is difficult enough to move on after each of the earlier posts in this series, but it is even more difficult to move on after such an inadequate treatment of the crucifixion of Jesus. Saying that we have gazed at the death of Christ because we read a few posts or listened to a sermon is like saying that we have seen the Rockies because we flew from Detroit to Las Vegas. The death of Christ is a mountain of revelation, and we have hardly traced its outline. But if we’re to see the outworking of what happened at Calvary, we must move on.
But we also must take the cross with us. We saw in last week’s post that the cross was like a sword plunged into the earth, but now we find that it is also like a key carried in our pocket. It unlocks the rest of revelation. It opens the door for us to understand the fall, the Law, the Covenants, and the kingdom. In fact, we can’t even understand ourselves apart from the cross.
But we cannot understand the cross apart from the empty tomb. Take away the resurrection (something antagonists to Christ have tried to do since the very beginning) and the cross is a meaningless tragedy.
And that is exactly what his disciples thought on the day it happened. It was an unmitigated disaster. Their hopes had been dashed; their confidence shattered. And now they faced the very real possibility that the powers that executed Jesus would come after them. Don’t forget that when the authorities interrogated and tortured Jesus, they tried to find out all they could about his disciples (John 18:19).
After the execution, the disciples went into hiding, as John put it, for “fear of the Jews” (John 20:19). Violence, injustice and threat of persecution drove them into the shadows. But that same violence, injustice and threat of persecution brought another of Jesus’ disciples out of the shadows and into the light.
His name was Joseph, and he was from the town of Arimethea. Matthew 27:57 informs us that he was rich. I think it is safe to assume that he was also influential. For one thing, he was a member of the Sanhedrin, the national ruling body of Israel. For another, he was able to walk into the governor’s office, be granted a meeting on the spot, and have his request fulfilled within minutes. This was an important man.
John’s gospel tells us that Joseph had been so afraid of what his colleagues would say that he kept his relationship with Jesus hidden. How interesting that the very circumstances that sent Jesus’ known disciples into hiding brought this hidden disciple out into the public eye.
Joseph was a member of the judicial council that condemned Jesus to death. If I understand the evidence correctly, certain members of the council never received word that an emergency nighttime session had been called. One of those members was Joseph. Now, by taking a stand for Jesus, he was bringing on himself the wrath of his colleagues. His action was political suicide.