Tomorrow's Good Friday. This week, I had a nice time explaining to my kids why the day Jesus died is called good. Good in what was bad. Life in suffering and death. The wonderful mystery of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
This week, I also have been reading (and listening to my Bible app while driving) the last 10 chapters of the Gospel of John which depicts the last one week of our Lord Jesus’ earthly life. It’s something I do on every Passion Week. And, it amazes me like it does always how John spends the entire half of his book on just the last one week of Jesus’ life. Chapter 12 begins on “six days before Passover” and the book’s last chapter (ch 21) ends on just a day or two after Passover.
Among the many beautiful sayings and stories of Jesus’ last week recorded in these 10 chapters, the one that speaks to my heart especially this year is the story of Good Friday that we don’t usually pay a lot of attention to in the last section of chapter 19 (19:38-42). After Jesus has died on the cross, a man named Joseph of a nearby town called Arimathea goes up to Pilate and asks for Jesus’ body. Now, the text says he was a secret follower of Jesus because he fears the Jewish leaders who have conspired together to put Jesus to death. We also k
now from the other Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) that Joseph was a “rich and prominent man” and a member of the Jewish Council. And Mark states this man went to Pilate “boldly”.
Now, going up to Pilate to ask for a body of the person he has just crucified would be a scary thing to do. What if Pilate asks him questions why he wants the body. What if Pilate is in a bad mood and wants to interrogate him about his exact relationship to Jesus. However, the boldness Joseph had in going up to Pilate was more in regards to his social and religious status that was being jeopardized. The socio-religious body he belonged has just put Jesus to death. Luke 23 says Joseph “did not consent to their decision” of sending Jesus to his death. That probably was bad enough to his peers. But, now he is “boldly” going up to Pilate to ask to bury this person’s body in his personal tomb?
Lastly, it’s interesting to note that he was "accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. You remember in chapter 3 the visit by this prominent Jewish council member who came at night to ask Jesus, “how can a man be born second time?” to which Jesus replies with the famous statements of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world…” (John 3:1-21).
What made this man named Joseph (and his fellow council member Nicodemus) do what they did? I’m sure they wanted to give Jesus a proper burial. But to risk their social and religious status? To be willing to risk their money, power and perhaps even their lives? They must have found something in Jesus that was so valuable to them that they were willing to risk everything in their lives for it. Just like anything else in life, we can only give up something we’ve enjoyed only if we’ve found something even more valuable. Boldness is possible when you have found something worthy of your deep conviction and beliefs. Speaking of boldness, I’m also reminded of the story in the early part of the same chapter in John (19:1-16) where Pilate is simply dumb-founded by the lack of fear or any kind of desperation he saw in Jesus. Pilate asks “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” to which Jesus simply replies, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above [God].” Jesus was a bad___ man!
In this Passion Week, thinking about the kind of week Jesus lived and died boldly and confidently, and also the boldness his unknown followers, Joseph and Nicodemus, showed in the aftermath, I simply ask myself: what am I willing to risk in my life? and for what? For what I have in Christ, could I risk my social or financial status? Could I even be willing to face some small hardships that might come from being misunderstood, ridiculed, or rejected?
Jesus lived and died for something he truly believed in. His followers, though imperfect, followed him with a sense of deep conviction and sacrifice. Can I learn to do the same - starting with some small steps I can take on this Good Friday?