Sincerely Yours #111
During World War I, a British commander was preparing to lead his soldiers back to battle. They’d been on furlough, and their first day back was a cold, rainy, muddy day. As they marched, their shoulders sagged because they knew what lay ahead of them: more mud, chilling cold, possibly even death. And so, no one spoke. It was a somber time.
While marching down the pot-holed road, the commander of the group glanced into a bombed-out church. On the back wall he saw the figure of Jesus on the Cross. At that moment, something happened to their disheartened commander. He remembered the One who suffered and died, but most importantly, the One who rose again. The Cross was a sign of victory and triumph.
“How often have we struggled with doing something for God solely because of fear?”
As the troops neared the church, he shouted out, “Eyes right, march!” Every eye turned to the right. As the soldiers marched by, they, too, saw Jesus on the Cross, and… something happened to that company of men. With shoulders straight, they began to march with courage, for there, on that dreary road, they were reminded of victory after suffering. There’s something about what Jesus did on the Cross that gives us courage. And that’s exactly what we find in today’s reading.
Jesus, the miracle Worker, the Holy One sent by God, had just died on the Cross, and His crucifixion provoked some very different responses. Some, we find attempted to comfort Him, while others continued to hatefully mock Him. And in verse 39 of Mark 15, a Roman officer – one of those men who crucified Jesus – was overheard boldly stating, “Truly, this was the Son of God!” But it’s what happened later, after the crowds were all gone, that I want to focus on today.
Evening was approaching and the crucifixion… was over. It was during this time that an unfamiliar man did something very courageous. Before we read what he did, let’s discover who he was. He was Joseph, of Arimathea, a highly respected man in his neck of the woods. This was probably because of the position he held. You see, Joseph was an honored member of the Jewish high council, the same high council that handed Jesus over to Pilate. We know that a good majority of these men hated Jesus, resented His interruption of their highly ordered religion. And these were Joseph’s peers, his fellow priests. So in light of all of this, let’s read what he did. Verse 43…
“As evening approached, an honoured member of the high council, Joseph from Arimathea (who was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come), gathered his courage and went to Pilate to ask for Jesus’ body.” – Mark 15:43
I like that. Joseph first had to gather his courage, and then he did what he knew he must. I’m so glad that the Scriptures recorded the notable men of the Bible as they were – ordinary men. Joseph’s struggle with courage was born of fear. Fear of what others would think of his actions. Fear of how his life might change afterward.
How often have we struggled with doing something for God solely because of fear? It’s been said that, “Love is what we are born with. Fear is what we learn thereafter.” And in the book of Deuteronomy we’re given a promise that our often fearful hearts need to remember. Deuteronomy 31:6…
“Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic… For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” – Deuteronomy 31:6
Courage and fear. They’re two sides of the same coin. It’s as we unashamedly give God our fear that He will supernaturally transform it into divine courage. And like the priest, Joseph of Armathea, we will boldly stand up for Jesus, no matter the cost.
And in the process, help others to do the same.