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Commemoration of Joseph of Arimathea

Commemoration of Joseph of Arimathea
July 31

The Lord be with you

Today, in the LC-MS, we remember Joseph of Arimathea. This Joseph is mentioned in all four Gospels. He came from a small village called Arimathea in the hill country of Judea. He was a respected member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish religious council in Jerusalem that condemned Jesus to death. Joseph, of course, did not support or consent to the actions of the Sanhedrin (Luke 23:51). He was a wealthy man (Matthew 27:57) and so owned his own unused tomb in a garden not far from the site of Jesus’ crucifixion (Matthew 27:60). Joseph, a man waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went to Pontius Pilate after the death of Jesus and asked for Jesus’ body (Mark 15:43). Along with Nicodemus, Joseph removed the body and placed it in the tomb (John 19:38-39). Their public devotion contrasted greatly to the fearfulness of the disciples who had abandoned Jesus.

One thing we can learn from Joseph’s story, that might not immediately be obvious, is to read the Bible carefully. Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin so, while the Sanhedrin condemned Jesus to death, clearly not everyone on the council was on board with Caiaphas’ plan. Also, when the New Testament says Jesus was condemned by the Jews, we should not think of all the Jews as supporting this decision by the “power brokers” of the leaders. Joseph was a Jew and on the Sanhedrin, after all.

Many legends about Joseph have sprung us over the centuries. Perhaps the most enduring is the ones from the Middle Ages where Joseph traveled to England as a missionary bringing with him the cup Jesus used at the Last Supper (the Holy Grail). This legend, and the others, “are without any historical foundation,” according to Pfatteicher. The date of July 31 was taken from the old Roman Catholic calendar (they bumped him to August 1 to make room for Ignatius of Loyola on July 31).

Prayer: Merciful God, Your servant Joseph of Arimathea prepared the body of our Lord and Savior for burial with reverence and godly fear and laid Him in his own tomb. As we follow the example of Joseph, grant to us, Your faithful people, that same grace and courage to love and serve Jesus with sincere devotion all the days of our lives, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Other appropriate prayers:

• For courage to do the right thing
• For generosity of substance and spirit
• For those who care for the dead and prepare them for burial
• For a sure and certain hope of the resurrection

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

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