Luke: Stepping our of the shadows-02/09/2020

Message: Stepping out of the shadows’
Text: Luke 23:50-53

Introduction: The Our Daily Bread’ devotional tells the following story. PP: The evangelist Billy Sunday use to tell of a Christian who got a job in a lumber camp that had a reputation of being very ungodly. A friend hearing that the man had been hired, said to him, ‘If those lumberjacks ever find out you’re a Christian, you’re going to be in for a hard time.’ The man responded, ‘I know, but I need the job!’

The next morning he left for camp. A year later, he came home for a visit. While in town, he met his friend who asked, ‘Well, how did it go? Did they give you a hard time because you’re a Christian?’ ‘Oh no, not at all,’ the man replied. ‘They didn’t give me a bit of trouble – they never even found out.” [Our Daily Bread. 11/83]

Now… I think I too might be a bit timid sharing my faith with lumberjacks, who always have sharp tools in their hands… Just saying 😊

PP: Did you ever stand up for something you believed in?

It could have been to a boss for something you thought was right.
It could have been to a parent for something you disagreed with them on.
It could have been for a cause like; Moms Against Drunk Drivers, or Autistic Awareness, or animal cruelty to name a few.

It’s relatively easy to stand up for what seems to be a socially moral issue because many others will.

PP: But… there are issues, if you’re going to take a stand, you may have to take it alone, or at best with only a few standingwith you. And in taking that stand, the chance of opposition is often great.

To our great shame, that arena is most often Christianity.

Generally speaking, the reason Christians fail to stand up for the cause of Christ in the public arena, is because they lack courage.

PP: Scholar, pastor and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote: Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act, is to act. (Mark Schaeufele)

PP: Courage… that’s what I see as lacking in far too many who call themselves Christians yet don’t exhibit much evidence to prove theyre followers of Jesus Christ.

In our text today, we’ll meet two men man, who were believers in Jesus, but, because they lacked the courage to publicly walk asone of His followers, they lived in the shadows. That is, until they made a conscious choice… to step out!

The two men, are Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus.

Transition: Open your Bibles to Luke 23:50

1. Luke 23:50-51  Joseph in the shadows

PP: Now there was a man named Joseph, from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, who had not consented to their decision and action; and he was looking for the kingdom of God.

Let’s first take a look at Joseph’s bio.

A. Luke 23:50  Joseph’s bio

PP: Luke 23:50 Now there was a man named Joseph, from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man.

You all know what a bio is right? It’s short for biography. According to Wikipedia A biography, or bio, is a detailed description of a person’s life. It involves more than just the basic facts like education, work, relationships, and death; it portrays a person’s experience of these life events. 

This is what we see in verse 50, a bio. So, what do we know about Joseph?

Not a whole lot, actually. But what we do know accurately tells a story of who he was.

Joseph of Arimathea is only found in connection to the burial of Jesus. BUT, he’s mentioned in all 4 Gospels… that’s significant.

Now, legend has it that in the year 61ad Joseph was sent by Jesus’ disciple Phillip to Britain. With him he brought the cup that had been used at the Last Supper, and in it was some of Jesus’ blood.

That chalice became known as the Holy Grail, which was the dream of King Arthur’s knights to find.

That’s legend... what do we know for sure?

First, Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish council that sentenced Jesus to death.

Second, according to Matthews Gospel, Joseph was a believer in Jesus, one of His disciples, but,

like the guy who took the job as a lumberjack,

no one, with the exception of Nicodemus, knew it.

In other words, Joseph lurked in the shadows of the unbelief of the world around him.

As sad as that sounds; that Joseph was afraid to live out his faith, theres something that just might be an encouragement to us:

Joseph was a believer in Jesus, who lived and worked in the midst of non-believers.
And not just any non-believers, people who hated Jesus and not only wanted Him dead, actually saw too it that he was wrongfully executed.

That should encourage those of you who work or go to school in an environment that’s not Jesus friendly. It is possible to be a genuine follower of Jesus, even in a group that openly rejects Him.

Third, we’re told that Joseph was a good and righteous man.

Joseph was good in that he was a good man, in thought and action, the Greek word implies doing good to others. Well see the goodness of Joseph in vs. 53.

Joseph was also called righteous. Being called righteous, doesn’t mean he was perfect… It couldn’t since he kept his faith in Jesus a secret.

When the Bible uses the wordrighteous to describe someone, it means they had a relationship with God through faith in Messiah, Jesus.

This should encourage us in that even though we fail Jesus at times, even though we continue to sin, even though we have doubts, and fear what the world can do to us,

through our faith in Jesus, we’re still righteous… we are still God’s children.

B. Luke 23:51  Joseph’s heart

PP: Luke 23:51 who had not consented to their decision and action; and he was looking for the kingdom of God.

Even though it’s true that Joseph lurked in the shadows of the unbelief of the world around him,  Dr. Luke gives us a glimpse into Joseph’s heart.

We’re told Joseph did not give his consent in the council to have Jesus killed. (Luke 23:51)

In Matthews Gospel it says that all of the Sanhedrin gave its consent to convict Jesus. So it seems either Joseph didn’t place his vote in the box provided or he was not present for the vote.

PP: Next Slide

What we learn is that even though Joseph was lurking in the shadows of the unbelief of the world, he refused to give in to its influence.

He took a stand, albeit a quietone in this case.

But, his heart was in the right place, it belonged to Jesus. The darkness of the unbelief and hatred towards Jesus in the council, was not strong enough to influence Joseph to give his consent to killing God’s Messiah.

Courageis beginning to rise up in Joseph’s heart.

Next the text tells us, Joseph was looking for the Kingdom of God (Luke 23:51)

Joseph was, spiritually speaking, forward facing. His hopes were not placed in his current situation, but in his future position in Christ, the Messiah.

He longed for, and eagerly awaited what God had promised…
life under the Messiah in the Kingdom of God.

Perhaps it was that passionate longing for God’s Kingdom that was responsible for courage begining to show itself in Joseph’s heart.

And that courage is about to be visibly displayed, as Joseph of Arimathea steps out of the shadows.

2. Luke 23:52-53 Joseph steps out of the shadows

PP: This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid Him in a tomb cut in stone, where no one had ever yet been laid.

Here we see Joseph stepping out of the shadows by doing two things:

By asking Pilate for the dead body of Jesus.
And by burying Jesus in hisown grave.

A. Luke 23:52  By leaving the Sanhedrin

PP: Luke 23:52 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.

It seems Jesus’ death changed everything for Joseph of Arimathea.

Before Jesus’ death, during Jesus’ trial and conviction, Joseph was a silent follower of Jesus because he was afraid of what the religious leaders and other Jews might do to him if they found out.

Now, Jesus is dead, and He’s still on the cross.

It’s likely Joseph was in the crowd the day Jesus was crucified. He was a member of the Sanhedrin and as verse 49 says, an acquaintance of Jesus.

As he watched Jesus beaten, and the nails hammered into His wrists and feet,
as Jesus cried out to the Father in anguish My God, My God why have You forsaken Me?,
as Jesus last words fell off his lips Father, into Your hands I commit my Spirit..

I believe Joseph’s heart broke.

The guilt of his silence.
The guilt of his willingness to stay in the shadows of the unbelief of the worldweighed heavy on his heart.

But, when Joseph heard Jesus’ grace filled words… Father forgive them… his guilt was replaced with courage, with confidence, with an overabundance of faith. And it was at that moment,

Joseph was no longer a silent disciple lurking in the shadows of the unbelief of the world…
he was no longer afraid of what the religious leaders might do to him.

No, he stepped out of the shadows and in to the light.. his faith in Jesus visible to all.

Speculation? Look at what the Apostle Mark wrote: PP: Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. (Mark 15:43)

The Greek word for courage here means went in boldly.

The same man who had been afraid to openly speak of his faith in Jesus, is now openly taking a stand as a disciple, a follower of Jesus Christ.

Jesus’ death on the cross movedJoseph to publicly profess his life in Christ and not only possess it privately.

By asking for Jesus’ body,

Joseph knew his membership in the Sanhedrin was over.
He knew he would be the target of persecution from the religious leaders for his betrayal.

But listen… none of that mattered.

His love for Jesus overcame and replaced his fear of the religious leaders.

And the Holy Spirit filled Joseph of Arimathea with confidence and courage.

And look, that’s the same way it happens today when we’re living in the shadows of the unbelief of the world around us.

The Apostle Paul writing to the Christians in Corinth said For the love of Christ controls us

(2 Corinthians 5:14a)

The love of Jesus, our love for Jesus, motivates us, influences us, leads us
to trust Him…
in every way, in every situation

Listen to what Paul wrote to the church in Rome:

Through Him (Jesus) we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:2–5)

The Holy Spirit pours God’s love into our hearts and that provides in us, courage to step out of the shadows to face whatever the unbelieving world can throw at us.

B. Luke 23:53  By burying Jesus

PP: Luke 23:53 Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid Him in a tomb cut in stone, where no one had ever yet been laid.

Just two things here… significant things, but just two.

First, take note to the careful and respectful way Joseph prepared Jesus’ body for burial. It reflected how he felt about Jesus.

He gently removed Jesus’ body from the cross.
He brough a linen cloth to wrap Jesus’ body in.
He gently placed Jesus’ body in a tomb he had purchased for himself.
In Johns Gospel we find that he also placed about 75 lbs of spices on Jesus’ body and between the layers of cloth. That was much more than the normal person would have gotten. It was enough for a King.

Everything Joseph did was in line with the Law established for properly burying a Jewish man.

Joseph of Arimathea was a good man.

Understand something.

Joseph did all this; he risked his reputation, his life, his anonymity… for a dead man who he thought was going to stay dead.

Joseph knew he would get nothing in return for his goodness.

That’s a wonderful display of love for Jesus.

Second, Joseph didn’t step out of the shadows of the unbelieving world alone, he didn’t care for Jesus’ body by himself… Joseph had help.

Another secret disciple of Jesus, who by this act, stepped out of the shadows himself.
His name was Nicodemus.

If you remember in John chapter 3, Nicodemus came to meet with Jesus in the shadows of night.

It seems somehow Joseph reached out to Nicodemus and asked him to bring the 75lbs of spices since he had to stay with Jesus’ body.

I guess, by his actions, Nicodemus was no longer willing to lurk in the shadows either.
We find that in John chapter 19.

Both men were formally secret disciples of Jesus who were lurking in the shadows of the unbelieving world.

But now, as a result of Jesus’ death, they stepped out of the shadows and took a public stand for Christ… And they did it together!

Listen, this tells me that fellowship, spending time with, opening out hearts and lives to other Believers

is essential to a faithful journey of faith in Jesus
is essential to using the courage God gives us to live a public testimony of our faith in Jesus.

PP: Next Slide

Conclusion: Will you step out of the shadows?

For a year I worked in an inpatient drug and alcohol program. I worked there… I wasn’t a patient…don’t miss that part. Among my duties was to lead groups.

When the group started and someone wanted to speak, they had to say
Hello, my name is…. And I’m an alcoholic or I’m a drug addict.  

The purpose was to get the patients to publicly acknowledgethat they had a problem with drugs and/or alcohol.

Listen, because this is also true for Christians who are lurking in the shadows:

When you open up the dark, hidden places in your life, to the light through public profession, there can be great healing.

So Christian, let me ask…

Have you been lurking in the shadows of the unbelief of the world around you?
Have you been like the man who got a job with lumberjacks who never knew he was a Christian?

If you’ve answered yes,

Admit it.. hand over yourguilt to God and allow His love to pour into your heart,giving you the confidence, the courage you haven’t had.
Then, what do you need to do, what words do you need to tell someone
that will bring you out of the shadows and will reflect the light of Jesus in you?

On Thursday, I read Psalm 135 as part of my devotional time with the Lord. And as I read verses 15-18 God opened my eyes to how lurking in the shadows of the unbelief on the world around us, happens to far too many Christians.

PP: Psalm 135:15-18 The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes, but do not see; they have ears, but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths. Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them.

This is what happens to us when we blend in, when we lurk in the shadows of the unbelief of the world around us.

We are drawn by idols… wealth, success, possessions, popularity… sports.
We no longer use our mouths, eyes, ears or mouths to speak of our faith in Jesus.

Because when we fail to take a stand for Jesus, when we fail to step out of the shadows of the unbelieving world around us..  

we become like the unbelieving world around us.
Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them.

Christian, make the choice today, right now

To no longer blend in to the unbelieving world around you.
To no longer play it safe.

Christian, choose this day to step out of the shadows!

PP: Next Slide