glastonbury timWhen it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body, and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock; and he rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb, and departed. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the sepulchre.  Matthew 27.57–61

Traditionally, Joseph’s role in the story of Jesus has been understood simply as the fulfilment of prophecy: he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth (Isaiah 53.9). But we might expect ‘making his grave with the rich’ to have a significance of its own—if it was only that a rich man would be involved, what would be the purpose of the prophecy? Perhaps more important than Joseph’s wealth is his discipleship. He has listened to Jesus’s teaching, and unlike the leading disciples, who drift away in despair, disappointed in their hope, he takes the body of Jesus, and puts it in the place prepared for his own dead body. In the Greek, ‘his own’ is emphasised. A nice bit of teaching, right up there with Jeremiah buying the field or Hosea marrying the whore: Jesus died in my place. Makes all attempts to put it into words seem very clumsy indeed.

And so the proclamation of salvation begins, even before the resurrection is known, outside the corridors of ecclesiastical power. Alleluia!