Daily office commentary, Luke 23:50-54; Joseph of Arimathea as a dissenter

50-54 There was a man by the name of Joseph, a member of the Jewish High Council, a man of good heart and good character. He had not gone along with the plans and actions of the council. His hometown was the Jewish village of Arimathea. He lived in alert expectation of the kingdom of God. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Taking him down, he wrapped him in a linen shroud and placed him in a tomb chiseled into the rock, a tomb never yet used. It was the day before Sabbath, the Sabbath just about to begin.

Luke 23: 50-54, The Message Bible

I had never noticed the significance of Joseph of Arimathea being a member of the Jewish High Council. This means that he was a member of the leadership of the very religious governing institution that was so threatened by the prophetic and anti-institutional message of Jesus. And yet he “lived in alert expectation of the kingdom of God,” implying that he was not finding the “kingdom” in the institutional religion of which he held a position of trust and leadership.

I wonder what it would have been like to be Joseph in this instance. He was the ultimate “insider” in this instance, afforded every privilege of his community and society. And yet he “had not gone along with the plans and actions of the council.” Had he voiced his disagreement publicly? Did he openly challenge his friends and peers on the council? How much criticism did he take from his peers on the council for requesting Jesus’s body? How much of his social reputation was he putting on the line by doing so? Was he risking marginalization and ostracism from his friends and family? Was he putting his livelihood at risk by making a public show of support for those his community viewed to be dissenters, rabble-rousers, and disloyal apostates?

I don’t know. But in this story Joseph of Arimathea uses his position of privilege and authority to follow his conscience and side with the marginalized, showing compassion and solidarity with those his friends considered to be a threat to their privileged place of power.

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