Stepping Through Darkness

Stepping Through Darkness

Keep praying, keep waiting, keep looking for the kingdom you cannot trace. Set your weary heart like a watchman on the walls, asking and aching for morning. Obey your Lord in the darkness, and dare to believe that he will bring the dawn.

For some saints, in some seasons, the spiritual darkness can rest so thick, and last so long, that normal patterns of obedience begin to feel futile.

We’ve read and prayed and fought temptation, for weeks or months or maybe years. But now, perhaps, we wonder what’s the point. Why read when little changes? Why pray when God seems silent? Why obey in the lonely dark when no one seems to see or care? The days have been sunless for so long; why live as if the sky will soon turn bright?

Not all of God’s people have known such seasons. But for those who have, or will, God has not left us friendless. Here in the dark, a brother walks before us, his day far blacker than ours, his obedience a torch on the road ahead.

His story takes place on Good Friday, dark Friday, dead Friday. For some time, he had let his hope take flight, daring to believe he had seen, in Jesus, his own Messiah’s face. But then Friday came, and he watched that face drain into gray; he saw his Lord hang limp upon the cross. And somehow, someway, he did not flee. He did not fall away. He did not sink into despair.

Instead, Joseph of Arimathea “took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus” (Mark 15:43). Three nails and a spear had snuffed out his sun. And without any light to guide him, Joseph still obeyed.

Joseph’s Unlikely Obedience

In this simple account of Jesus’s burial, we find a most unlikely obedience.

First, Joseph was not one of the twelve disciples, whom we might expect to see at such a moment. Until now, in fact, he had followed Jesus “secretly” (John 19:38). “A respected member of the council” (Mark 15:43), Joseph was a disciple in high places, a man who kept his allegiances mostly quiet. Yet on Good Friday, when his allegiance was least likely to do him good, he speaks.

Second, burying Jesus would have cost Joseph dearly. Financially, he bought the linen shroud himself and placed Jesus in a tomb he had just cut — no doubt with other purposes in mind (Mark 15:46Matthew 27:57). Ceremonially, handling a dead body rendered him unclean. And socially, he embraced the indignity of touching blood and sweat, of bending his grown body under another’s, as if he were a slave or Roman soldier.

Third, and most surprising, Joseph, along with the other disciples, had every reason to feel his hopes crucified, breathless as the body he carried. We have no cause to suspect he saw the resurrection coming. Like the eleven, huddled in that hopeless locked room, he surely expected the stone to stay unmoved.

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