Did Joseph of Arimathea become a disciple?

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By BibleAsk Team


Joseph of Arimathea is a biblical figure best known for his role in the burial of Jesus Christ. He is mentioned in all four Gospels, but his background and significance are often subjects of interest and debate. This essay will explore whether Joseph of Arimathea became a disciple of Jesus, using references from the Bible. We will examine the Gospel accounts, the cultural and historical context, and the implications of his actions and beliefs.

Gospel Accounts of Joseph of Arimathea

Matthew’s Account

In the Gospel of Matthew, Joseph of Arimathea is introduced as a rich man who was a disciple of Jesus:

  • Matthew 27:57-60:
    • “Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be given to him. When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed.”

Matthew explicitly states that Joseph had become a disciple of Jesus, indicating his commitment and belief in Jesus’ teachings and mission.

Mark’s Account

The Gospel of Mark provides additional details about Joseph’s social status and his bold request to Pilate:

  • Mark 15:42-46:
    • “Now when evening had come, because it was the Preparation Day, that is, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent council member, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, coming and taking courage, went in to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate marveled that He was already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him if He had been dead for some time. So when he found out from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph. Then he bought fine linen, took Him down, and wrapped Him in the linen. And he laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock, and rolled a stone against the door of the tomb.”

Mark describes Joseph as a “prominent council member” who was “waiting for the kingdom of God.” This indicates that Joseph was a respected member of the Jewish council (Sanhedrin) and had a deep spiritual longing, aligning him with the values and hopes expressed by Jesus about the coming kingdom.

Luke’s Account

Luke adds more about Joseph’s character and his dissent from the council’s decision:

  • Luke 23:50-53:
    • “Now behold, there was a man named Joseph, a council member, a good and just man. He had not consented to their decision and deed. He was from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who himself was also waiting for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a tomb that was hewn out of the rock, where no one had ever lain before.”

Luke emphasizes Joseph’s righteousness and integrity by noting that he did not agree with the council’s decision to condemn Jesus. This opposition to the council’s action further suggests his alignment with Jesus and his teachings.

John’s Account

The Gospel of John provides a unique detail about Joseph’s discipleship and his collaboration with Nicodemus:

  • John 19:38-42:
    • “After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury. Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews’ Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby.”

John explicitly calls Joseph a disciple, though secretly due to fear of the Jewish authorities. This secrecy underscores the perilous situation for those aligned with Jesus, especially among the Jewish leadership.

Analysis of Joseph of Arimathea’s Discipleship

Discipleship in Secret

John’s account indicates that Joseph was a secret disciple due to fear of the Jews. This suggests a complex dynamic where Joseph believed in Jesus but was cautious about openly displaying his discipleship. The socio-political context of the time made it dangerous for prominent figures like Joseph to openly follow Jesus, as this could lead to severe repercussions from the Jewish authorities.

Acts of Courage and Faith

Despite his secret discipleship, Joseph’s actions following Jesus’ crucifixion demonstrate significant courage and faith:

  1. Requesting Jesus’ Body:
    • Joseph’s request to Pilate for Jesus’ body was a bold and risky move. It required considerable courage, as it publicly associated him with a condemned and executed man, potentially subjecting him to scrutiny and danger from both the Roman and Jewish authorities.
  2. Providing a Tomb:
    • Joseph provided his own new tomb for Jesus’ burial. This act of generosity and devotion indicates his respect and honor for Jesus, as well as his commitment to ensuring Jesus received a proper burial.

Alignment with Jesus’ Teachings

Joseph’s actions and his description as one “waiting for the kingdom of God” align with the teachings of Jesus, who frequently spoke about the kingdom of God. This alignment suggests that Joseph not only respected Jesus but also resonated deeply with His message and mission.

Historical and Cultural Context

The Sanhedrin and Jewish Leadership

Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council. The Sanhedrin played a crucial role in the trial and condemnation of Jesus, making his dissent from their decision significant. His position within this council would have given him insight into the proceedings against Jesus, and his refusal to consent to their actions reflects his moral integrity and possibly his belief in Jesus’ innocence and righteousness.

Burial Customs and Significance

In Jewish culture, proper burial was of utmost importance. By taking responsibility for Jesus’ burial, Joseph ensured that Jesus’ body was treated with dignity and respect. This act also fulfilled the prophecy in Isaiah 53:9 about the Messiah being buried with the rich:

  • Isaiah 53:9:
    • “And they made His grave with the wicked—But with the rich at His death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth.”

Joseph’s provision of his own tomb for Jesus’ burial not only fulfilled this prophecy but also highlighted his devotion and belief in Jesus’ significance.

Implications of Joseph’s Actions and Beliefs

Public Association with Jesus

Joseph’s request to Pilate and his provision of a tomb were public actions that would have made his association with Jesus known. These actions indicate a level of commitment and discipleship that went beyond private belief. Even though he may have been a secret disciple initially, his actions following Jesus’ death were public and bold.

Testimony to Jesus’ Death and Burial

Joseph’s involvement in Jesus’ burial provides crucial testimony to the reality of Jesus’ death. By personally handling Jesus’ body and ensuring its proper burial, he served as a witness to the fact that Jesus truly died, countering any claims that Jesus’ resurrection was merely a resuscitation from a state of unconsciousness.

Conclusion

Joseph of Arimathea is depicted in all four Gospels as a disciple of Jesus. His actions following Jesus’ crucifixion—requesting His body from Pilate, providing a tomb, and ensuring a proper burial—demonstrate his commitment and faith. Despite the risks associated with his position in the Sanhedrin and the dangers of openly aligning with Jesus, his deeds reflect his belief in Jesus and his hope in the coming kingdom of God.

While Joseph’s discipleship may have begun in secret due to fear of the Jewish authorities, his courageous actions following Jesus’ death reveal a deep and genuine faith. He stands as a significant figure who not only fulfilled prophecy but also provided essential testimony to the death and burial of Jesus Christ. His story encourages believers to act courageously in their faith, even in the face of potential risks and opposition.

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In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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