“When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus’ disciple: He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered.” Matthew 27:57,58
There are a lot of Josephs in the Bible. Just like we have common names today, Joseph was a common one back in that day. Here, we are discussing Joseph of Arimathea, called this and distinguished by the fact that he is identified as coming from the town of Arimathea. “(The same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them;) he was of Arimathaea, a city of the Jews: who also himself waited for the kingdom of God;” Luke 23:51.
From the Bible alone, what can we know of Joseph? I say that because there is much legend and hazy history regarding his life before and after the Bible accounts; we will only talk about what the Bible is clear about.
- As previously discussed, Joseph was from Arimathea, a town near Jerusalem.
- He was rich. “When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus’ disciple” Matthew 27:57
- He was a disciple of Jesus. See above.
- He was a member of the ruling council of the Jews, the Sanhedrin. “And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counsellor; and he was a good man, and a just:” Luke 23:50
- Even though Joseph was a disciple, he was so secretly. “And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews….” John 19:38.
I think we all know the rest of the physical story. Joseph went to Pilate after Jesus death and requested His body so that he could prepare it and place it in his own unused family tomb. The accounts in full can be read at the links in the heading of this post; the story appears in all four of the Gospels.
Was Joseph of Arimathea called of God? Well, sure he was! There is no account that Joseph had any sort of personal visit from God, or vision or anything like that. Last time I checked, we don’t all get one of those, so this is no big deal. Joseph seems to have been called the same way that even today we are called; somebody told Joseph about Jesus and he responded. We aren’t told this, but Joseph may, as a member of the Sanhedrin, even observed some of the great works of Jesus. We know he responded; God told us such: “When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus’ disciple” Matthew 27:57
Was Joseph saved, and if so when? It seems odd to have that discussion, as it sort of seems evident that he was, and that he had a true personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, some ask the question and debate it.
Two things get brought out by some who say that Joseph was not saved until some point later in time, after the Resurrection.
First, folks are quick to pounce on poor Jospeph for being a “secret” disciple. I say to this: “So what?” If being secretive and circumspect about our faith was a sign of not being saved, most Christians today would be in a big heap of a mess. Also, we don’t know what was going on between God and Joseph; certainly him having and keeping his position with the Sanhedrin mattered a great deal to our story. “And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.” Isaiah 53:9. God had a plan, and Joseph was part of it. Had he been ejected from the ruling council and had no position, then we might have had a dangling prophecy so to speak.
Some make a big thing of the fact that, apparently, Joseph did not know of the Resurrection; or that if he did, he wasn’t sure about it. That actually seems likely, as he clearly came to prepare a body for permanent burial. Friends, I am totally on board with the fact that, if we are to be saved, belief in the resurrection of Jesus is essential to belief in the right Jesus. We are told this: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” Romans 10:9. So, some would say that Joseph came to salvation at some point after that, maybe after hearing of the actual resurrection, or perhaps even seeing the Resurrected Jesus.
Friends, even the disciples who followed Jesus around for 3 years were not fully on board with the Resurrection! They had all scattered like frightened sheep! So, that’s really not a disqualifier.
There are a couple of passages that will illustrate my point.
“Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God…” Mark 15:43
“… he was of Arimathaea, a city of the Jews: who also himself waited for the kingdom of God.” Luke 23:51.
Did you get that? Joseph waited for the kingdom of God.
The question sometimes comes up, “How were Old Testament saints saved?” Friends, they were saved exactly the same way we are and are excluded from salvation the same way some are today. Many have this idea that somehow salvation in olden times was the Law and Works, and that today it is all faith in Jesus Christ. This is not so; salvation has always been by faith, ultimately in the Lord Jesus Christ. Salvation has NEVER been attainable for us by our works and efforts.
Revelation through God’s Word has always been successive and in stages. What Joseph had was the same thing all Old Testament saints had, and that was the promise of the Messiah; Joseph of Arimathea clearly believed that, through faith.
I look forward to meeting Joseph of Arimathea in heaven!