"joseph of arimathea"
mixed media collage (found papers, vintage papers, gesso, acrylic paint, glue) on stretched canvas
gregory a. milinovich
here is my latest installment in the collage series i'm doing for lent, which is my creative response to our evening series at church, "in search of resurrection," in which we are looking at different characters and how badly they - and we - need the resurrection of Jesus to be real and true.
last night we talked about joseph of arimathea, whom we often think of as a kind and good man, boldly going to pilate to ask for Jesus' body after the crucifixion, and then taking the body of the Lord and preparing it for burial, and generously placing it in his own tomb. but we sometimes fail to remember that he was a "prominent member of the council," that is, the sanhedrin, or high court of the Jewish law. it was a gathering of the who's who of Jerusalem leaders in those days, and Joseph was not only an active member who had paid his dues, but a prominent member. this makes him seem all the more respectable until we remember that it is this same "council" - the sanhedrin - that held a late night "trial" for Jesus at Caiaphas' home, a trial with no real witnesses and no real evidence. it was an illegal trial, a morally wrong one, and it ended with a completely unjust guilty verdict. and yet no one spoke up. there is no evidence that joseph from arimathea, this sometimes bold and generous popular figure, had anything to say for biting his tongue and gazing at his shoes. why? we can only assume he was scared of all he would lose: reputation, career, even his life? scared of ruffling feathers, he kept his mouth shut, and then tried to act out his discipleship in secret, by night.
so perhaps he isn't the admirable figure we may have thought. but before we protest to vociferously, let us examine ourselves with the same scrutiny: don't we do the same thing?
don't we often try to be disciples "by night?" aren't we guilty of being generous with our praise and maybe even our money on sundays, but far more stingy with our words on monday? aren't we guilty of boldly offering our service to our church or to a volunteer organization, but when it comes to standing up for a victim against the bully, or excusing ourselves from a situation of gossip, we are suddenly gripped by cowardice? aren't we scared of ruffling feathers? of disturbing the status quo? of offending someone? of being labeled as a ignorant christian, or a bible-thumper? of seeming weird or different? aren't we terrified of what people might say?
like joseph of arimathea, we can be great disciples in the dark, offering exquisite gifts (75 pounds of spices?), but it is often misplaced generosity, offered from the places of comfort and security, rather than at the real moment of need. like joseph, we can sometimes find great courage to follow Jesus, but it is often too little too late, for in those moments when courage is most needed, we have been too scared to speak up and too fearful to follow.
that's why we, like joseph, need resurrection. we need this Jesus to pop up from the grave and verify everything that he said, and that the saints have said about him: that there is forgiveness and mercy. that there is redemption. that our cowardice can be redeemed for courage. that our stinginess can be exchanged for generosity. once we receive the love of calvary and the miracle of the empty garden tomb, we cannot really help but be bold and free in sharing this good news, can we?