Today’s reading: Matthew 27:57-66
One of the first things that struck me while reading this passage was how bold and courageous Joseph of Arimathea was to go to Pilate to request the body of Jesus. I don’t know if being very wealthy had something to do with it, but I just can’t imagine going to one of the most powerful men in the country at the time and asking for the body of someone who was condemned of high treason.
The second thing that stood out to me was that the tomb Joseph buried Jesus in was his own. Besides the Bible describing Joseph as rich, Joseph having his own tomb is a clear indicator of his immense wealth, because in ancient times, only royalty or incredibly wealthy people could afford to have their tombs carved out of stone. These tombs were also often for families, with multiple generations being buried in the same tomb. So it makes sense that owning one of these tombs would have been wildly expensive, considering how much work it takes not just to chip away but to create what is essentially a vacant room inside of a giant rock or in the side of a mountain.
Two key points were impressed upon me while meditating on the two details above. The first point is that when we strain towards the will of God, He sets up the perfect way for us to use the gifts He has given us to do His beautiful work. Interestingly, Joseph is one of the few characters in the New Testament who is both wealthy and a disciple of God. This may seem strange to us, because Jesus always seemed quite strict when it came to giving away all earthly treasures in order to become His disciple. But in the sentence where Joseph is introduced, he is esteemed in the Bible by being named a disciple; and it is precisely through his wealth that he faithfully carries out what must have been an uncomfortable and physically taxing work, as well as a financial investment—while Jesus’ twelve apostles are nowhere to be found. Joseph of Arimathea is not a character we often think about when we think of those who have served Jesus during His time on earth, but we see that Joseph was in fact the sole person who took on the responsibility of the beautiful work of honoring Jesus’ earthly body.
This leads us to the second point: that in this passage, there is a real emphasis on the importance of physicality and of our bodies. I personally often find it tempting to undervalue the body in favor of the spiritual, or even the intellectual—but what is implied here, as well as explicitly called out in the Christian narrative, is that God has given us these precious bodies to use to exalt and worship him, as well as to physically do the work that He has called us to do.
So on Good Friday today, could we all take a moment to reflect on where and how God is calling us to do the work he has set before us? In what ways does that include the way we recognize our bodies’ value, as well as the way we love the body of Christ? How could we do all things faithfully, in grateful remembrance of the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus paid with His blood, as well as in joyful anticipation of God’s coming Kingdom?
Anna Lee ’20 is a Comparative Literature concentrator.