Faith or Fear

Luke 23:50-53

Joseph was a member of the council, a good and righteous man. He was from Arimathea; a city of the Jews and Joseph was waiting for the kingdom of God. This is Joseph. From these statements in Luke 23 we can conclude, Joseph had a reputation, he was involved with both politics and religion. He was a man of faith.  What did Joseph do? He went to Pilate to ask for the body of Jesus, he took down the dead body of Jesus, he wrapped up the dead body of Jesus and laid the dead body of Jesus in a tomb. From this we can conclude he was engaged and active.

Jesus instructed his followers in the familiar end of the world text from Matthew 24 to watch, keep alert, take heed -do not let the day over take you like a thief in the night, do not be frightened. Jesus and the apostles taught and preached that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. None, including the prophets of old shied away from preaching about the “day of the Lord”. A day of judgement, a day of tribulation and the time when Jesus would come as a thief in the night, returning with all sorts of signs and wonders. Wait patiently, watch be aware of the time and season we are told…Joseph and the crowds and disciples were told.

Joseph was a good and righteous man who was waiting as Jesus instructed for the kingdom of God, he was doing the will of God, he was on the alert. Yet, his waiting did not look like waiting in a line at the market inactive stuck and paralyzed doing nothing. His waiting looked very much like moving, working and laboring, in no way did waiting for joseph mean being still or tranquil. It did not look like inactivity, secret activity, fearful activity or isolated activity.

Isolated activity? No. Joseph could not possibly have taken the body of Jesus off the cross, carried him to the tomb and laid him in it alone. Joseph was not acting out his fantasies in isolation or without accountability. God has called his body as a body to assemble to meet to commune together, to pray together to take meals together, worship together. He said it is not good for man to be alone, his first command to mankind was be fruitful and multiply, he called Israel a nation, he gave the law to a people. Do not forsake the assembling together and submit to one another and judge one another. These are good and valuable ways to live together in a community of people serving one another and growing up together in Christ.

Secret activity? Nope -Joseph had no choice but to do what he did in the public eye, because Jesus was crucified in the public eye. He was left to die on a public hill, he was carried through the public streets or roads, what Joseph did, people saw and witnessed it was neither secret, private or done under cover.  He did everything in full broad daylight expressing his faith and deed for all men to see. In addition Joseph was submitted to the authorities that God put above him, asking Pilate for the body of Jesus, he went through the proper channels, even though he likely felt that God “wanted” him to do it, he recognized that even God will operate within his own order. Sometimes people think they are above the law because they heard from God, but God created the systems of order and authority, and he respects his own ideas. Joseph did not the body of Jesus, even though no one owned Jesus, he sought permission from a pagan governor to do what he did. He owned it.

Fearful activity? Hmm. Joseph did what he did not as an act of fear but great faith. He approached pilate surely a daunting task to ask for the body of this controversial figure but he did it anyhow. at great risk, he risked the crowds, the Jews the religious zealots, the judgements and critics. He risked breaking the sabbath if he couldn’t finish in time. But with all these potential dangers, joseph moved forward anyway. Fear would have been letting someone else do it.

consider that Joseph was waiting for the kingdom of God but doing alot. Working, sweating occupied, moving. Can you imagine taking a dead body off a cross, carrying it to a tomb, not in a casket; imagine the blood and the filth and the stench. It would have been easier to not do this, to let someone else do it while he sat was waiting for the kingdom. In fact, it was an act of great love because not only did it cost Joseph risk, time, work, but also his own tomb. And for what he had no guarantee that it truly mattered, Jesus could have risen from the dead whether he was laid in a new tomb or tossed in the valley of bones.

For Joseph waiting for the kingdom of God but he was willing to get his hands literally dirty, occupying himself, going about the business of removing dead bodies and wrapping them up. We don’t know that even Jesus’ best friends helped. As Christians today we are in an equally burdened political state. Jesus was crucified in a time of extreme political upheaval and religious division. There are many different sects and denominations even within the same faith systems there are so many different theologies and doctrines and schools of thought about the end of the world, the kingdom of God the coming of the Lord. Prophesies on tube, interpretations, warnings, books, no wonder Jesus warned to watch out for false prophets and don’t follow just anyone. It is clear that we are closer today to the second coming than any other time in history, no believer can deny that the world is a dark and ominous place right now weighted down with sin and perversion, but we don’t stop living life. We don’t stop working and doing. We like Joseph can do both! I would say Joseph was the waiting for the kingdom of God and the kingdom of God manifested itself within Joseph because he was working and being faithful.

It’s good to know and search the scriptures, but what can we learn from the scriptures? What can Joseph teach us as an example in this passage. The scripture was written for us as an example so let’s use it as such. Jesus said the kingdom of God will not come with signs because it is within you. Joseph was waiting but also operating in the power and reality of the kingdom that was within him. He was active in his waiting, working in his watching. Working out his faith, occupying himself with the tasks at hand. James said you can’t have faith without works. Joseph was not hiding or trying to protect himself or others. Believers can stay glued to prophetic utterances like they are watching for a storm, which is good only if it is not replacing the activity God has called us to. Watching and gathering information on the end of the world does not give more knowledge and power only the illusion of knowledge and power. Jesus said go about your business while the Lord is away, do business. Choose life. Do things, be busy. Being faithful. Choose living over knowledge. Joseph was waiting for the kingdom but that waiting didn’t prevent or paralyzes him from working, laboring and using the resources that God gave to him to live and move according to the kingdom within him. Jesus tells a parable about the unfaithful servant who when his master left on a journey gave him money and said do business while I am away, that servant buried his money in fear. The master was not happy because his fear paralyzed him from taking risks, doing work, investing and ultimately obeying what the master commanded.

What I think we can learn is that we can do both. We don’t have to choose between waiting for the kingdom or doing the business of life. God has created us for good works, made us to walk in them. He IS coming back, Tribulation IS promised; but how will he find you- that is the bigger question? living in faith or fear?

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