On the run-up to Christmas last year, people were brought to my mind who were in need of a card, or a call, and I was very aware of how I had totally failed during the year to reach out to a lot of people that I care about. When I sat down to write my Christmas cards it was again brought home to me as, with nearly every other name on my list, there was someone I should have called with, sent a card to, arranged a coffee catch-up, invited over for dinner … and so it went on. I confess it had been a theme with me in recent months - people on my mind that I knew I should reach out to in some way, but I hadn't got organised and made it happen. A list of "should dos" that were never done. Follow through has never been my strong point!
Then one morning I was reading in my Bible the account of Joseph of Arimathea.
"Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had 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 27:57-60).
As I sat enjoying my hot cup of tea, it struck me what a beautiful act this was. Joseph was a member of the religious elite that had condemned Jesus to death, but he loved the Lord. He wanted to reach out and do something to show his love for Him. He was not intimidated. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus - it cost him his reputation. He voluntarily gave what was to be his own tomb - it cost him financially. He wrapped the body in a clean linen cloth - it cost him in time and effort. We remember him for this act. We honour him. We can see his love for the Lord shining through.
And yet when we read in John 19:38, we see that Joseph was a disciple of the Lord, “but secretly, for fear of the Jews". He wasn't like Peter and the other disciples, who left all and followed the Lord so there was no doubt they were His disciples. Joseph was a man of high status. He had become convinced that Jesus was the promised Messiah and had believed on Him, but was afraid of the repercussions of letting everyone know where his affection lay.
But now...Jesus has died. Joseph knew what it was to have regrets. Did he wish he had publicly proclaimed his belief in Jesus? He had missed his chance. It was too late! Or was it?
As though a switch has been flipped, Joseph goes into action. His Lord has died, but he will see to it that His body is given a fitting burial. He could do that. He would take care of it.
In that act, his love shone for all to see.
Now, I am not in any way equating what Joseph did for the Lord to the small everyday things that I do in my life. But it did make me think. Joseph didn't sit and brood on how he had failed. He didn't give in to despair and feelings of his own worthlessness. There came an opportunity and he grasped it. He jumped in there and did what he could. He didn’t look back and dwell on his past failures, letting them bog him down and feeling too embarrassed to start to do something now when he had missed chances before. He got his mind on the present. He saw the need. He knew he could meet the need. He determined to do it. And he did it!
There have been times when I have known that I should do something but haven't done it, or have kept putting it off, until I was too embarrassed to do it as it was so late. But as I read about Joseph of Arimathea, I am encouraged to just go and do it. Perhaps I need to apologise to someone, or give someone a call, or send a card. It is not too late. I can be like Joseph.
Don't look back and live in regret. Go forward and determine to bless those around you in small, meaningful ways. Let your love shine through. I'm praying I can make it more than mere good intentions this year and, like Joseph, just do it!