When evil has become official policy, initial resistance is no less courageous for its quiet beginnings.
Luke narrates how 1st-century Jewish religious officialdom and the humid presence of Rome managed to collaborate in executing Jesus, this despite unsuccessful thrashing around for justifiable reasons to do so.
Not everyone agreed. But against this powerfully convenient coalition, what was one to do?
Now there was a man named Joseph, from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, who had not consented to their decision and action; and he was looking for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. (Luke 23:50–52 ESV)
This Joseph of Arimathea is described, as a righteous minority in a conflictive moment that demands silence and cooperation often is, from a variety of angles.
He was ‘a good and righteous man’. One surmises that it was this strength of character that explains his failure to ‘consent to their decision and action’ regarding the swift dispatching of Jesus to the rolls of for-a-while messiahs.
Yet there is more to Joseph. His eyes were among those that scan the landscape fore evidence that the God of Israel is quietly on the move. He was ‘looking’, this Joseph, ‘for the kingdom of God’. Most would imagine that the descriptions of power and the powerful were pretty well complete by the time one had taken the Herods and the Pilates into account.
Joseph did not. He was awaiting something more, something deeper, something enduring, something beyond the self-referential conspiracies of the religious and political elite.
What do you do in such dangerous times?
For Joseph, you do the next, merciful thing. You ask Pilate for the dead man’s body and give it a decent burial.
Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid him in a tomb cut in stone, where no one had ever yet been laid. (Luke 23:53 ESV)
Such is the this-worldly care of men and women who are better than this world, yet in loving it look for its true king.