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Love when all seems lost

Pastor Mike Wittmer

Cedar Springs Baptist Church

233 S Main, Cedar Springs

Joseph of Arimathea performed a necessary though often overlooked role in the Easter story. And next to the suffering of our Lord, his task may have been the most difficult.

Joseph was a wealthy, prominent member of the Jewish council that voted to crucify Jesus (Mark 15:43). He disagreed with their verdict but kept his decision to himself (Luke 23:50-51). He “was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders” (John 19:38 NIV). 

There was nothing Joseph could do to stop the council’s trumped-up charges and false witnesses. Their mind was made up. Joseph cringed as his colleagues mocked Jesus’ claims to be the Messiah, spit in his face, struck him with their fists, and shouted that he must die (Matthew 26:65-67). He watched helplessly as they handed Jesus over to the Romans, who promptly crucified his Lord. The kingdom of God had been defeated again (Luke 23:51).

There was nothing left to do. Nothing that would make a difference. But Jesus’ death had freed Joseph from fear. The dream had died. He had nothing left to lose. Joseph’s hopes had been crucified, but he still had love. It was far too late to help Jesus now, but he might do something to express his devotion. Joseph took a deep breath and paid a visit to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor who had condemned his Lord. He asked Pilate for Jesus’ body. Pilate said yes.

Joseph took along Nicodemus, another secret disciple. They gingerly pulled the nails out of Jesus’ wrists and ankles and lowered his body to the ground. They wrapped his corpse in spices and strips of linen and laid him in Joseph’s personal tomb (Matthew 27:57-60; John 19:38-42). 

Joseph’s brave action is particularly praiseworthy because he had nothing left to gain. His heart had fallen to the floor, yet he picked himself up and did what he could for his Lord. Tomorrow would be a disaster, but today he would put one foot in front of the other and pay his respects. 

What if he hadn’t? What if Jesus’ body had been left on the cross, exposed to birds and jackals? Jesus’ body may have been eaten and God’s “holy one” may have “seen decay” (Acts 2:27). There may have been nothing left to rise from the dead. Joseph’s hopeless act turned out to be essential for our salvation.

Are you stuck in a hopeless situation? I’ve got a few. Joseph’s actions inspire me to take the first step, to do what is right, even when I can’t imagine an immediate reward. The empty tomb means it’s never hopeless. Believe in the One who rose from the dead, who promises to return and reward even a glass of water given in His name (Matthew 10:42). It’s never too late to love.

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Ray Winnie
Kent County Credit Union


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