03 April 2015

Unexpected Company

So here are Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, two pillars of the Sanhedrin, defiling themselves right before the holiest Sabbath of the year, and for what? The cold, mutilated corpse of an unrepentant heretic.

Joseph and Nicodemus almost certainly knew each other before that grim day. Tradition tells us they were both members of the Jewish ruling body. But did each know of the fearful hope hidden in the other's heart? I wonder.

Nicodemus, curious about this Jesus but unwilling to risk his reputation, went under cover of night to hear what the rabbi had to say. He came away bewildered by the man's talk of wind and snakes in the desert and rebirth.

Joseph was rich and respectable. He followed Jesus in private, like a Shakespearian scholar secretly obsessed with Kim Kardashian. John tells us Joseph was afraid of the establishment -- the one he was part of, and the one that ultimately condemned this innocent man to death.

How Nicodemus and Joseph found out about their mutual faith in the Nazarene is anyone's guess. I like to think their eyes met at Golgotha, and each saw his own pain, loss, and disappointment reflected in the other, even as their shared hope died before their eyes.

Whatever led up to it, I find myself fascinated by the picture of these two devout men gently preparing the bruised, bloody, broken body of Jesus on that grim afternoon. They raced against the sun, intent on finishing their task before the Sabbath. They packed spices against the cold, torn flesh, then wrapped linen around his body.

With their preparations complete, they laid him in a nearby tomb -- the one Joseph had selected for himself. It must have been surreal to lay the young, charismatic teacher to rest there as the sun sank into the west.

Then, these two men must have parted ways, each returning to his home and family, and each haunted by the day's tragic events. But they had discovered something few find in the midst of such darkness: Unexpected company from a kindred spirit.

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