Stepping Out… – February 18th, 2019

Going against your nature

Going with your gut isn’t always the best thing to do. Part of discernment is knowing when you need to pause and wait, consider and contemplate, or engage and take action.

When we exercise these with discernment, our motivation to pursue a particular course of action is a natural expression of what we’ve identified related to the situation before us. In reality, we’ve made the commitment before we ever begun.

Back a few weeks ago, my pastor used a quote from Charles Spurgeon. I guess I had come to an understanding of this truth earlier, but the way Spurgeon expressed it left an impression on me.

Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is knowing the difference between right and almost right.—Charles Spurgeon

This morning while pondering this bit of wisdom, I considered something else related to this truth.

While discernment isn’t always what our gut would tell us is in our best interest, it will drive us to step into something we might otherwise avoid.

A clear example of this took place shortly after they crucified Jesus.

When it was evening, a rich man from Arimathea named Joseph came, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. He approached Pilate and asked for Jesus’s body. Then Pilate ordered that it be released.

Matthew 27:57-58 (CSB)

There isn’t a lot of attention payed to Joseph of Arimathea, but what he did was risky and had to have gone against his instinct for self-preservation.

The mob had cried for the senseless crucifixion of Jesus over the convicted criminal Barabbas. As a result, Pontius Pilate sentenced Jesus to death, even though he could find no offence worthy of crucifixion.

Common logic would dictate that any association with this Jesus at this point in time would be tantamount to suicide, let alone social alienation.

Despite that, Joseph of Arimathea had the discernment to know what was right in the eyes of God, though he had to know the risks involved, he stepped out on a course which exposed himself to the authorities, by requesting the body of Christ.

The scripture says though he was a rich man, he “had also become a disciple of Jesus.

But there is so much more to this story than the fact that someone claimed the body of the deceased Jesus Christ.

Joseph was a voting member of the Sanhedrin which had a direct hand in the crucifixion of Jesus. It is speculated that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was Joseph’s niece.

Joseph knew exactly what risks he was undertaking when he approached Pilate to ask for the body. There was the obvious possible fall out from Pilate, the mobs, should they find out, and from the Jewish court of which he was a member in standing.

Yet he knew what was right and did exactly that.

So Joseph took the body, wrapped it in clean, fine linen, and placed it in his new tomb, which he had cut into the rock. He left after rolling a great stone against the entrance of the tomb.

Matthew 27:59-60 (CSB)

This act itself was not in keeping with tradition.

Crucifixion was the most crewel and torturous means the Romans had to put a person to death. The public humiliation of hanging the criminal in public view to control the population through intimidation and placed disgrace upon the victims of this punishment.

The normal course of things following the crucifixion of someone was to cast the bodies into a common grave to be buried with others who suffered the same fate.

Josephs intervention had a specific purpose. He may or may not have known of what his actions were doing. I would have to speculate given his position in the Jewish order, he had to be a well-schooled individual that knew much of the ancient scriptures. I think there is a good possibility that Joseph knew he was helping to fulfill the prophecy in Isaiah.

He was assigned a grave with the wicked, but he was with a rich man at his death, because he had done no violence and had not spoken deceitfully.

Isaiah 53:9 (CSB)

If he knew of this or even if he didn’t, Joseph of Arimathea, had to have weighed the possible fallout from claiming the body of Jesus and giving Him the burial Joseph knew Jesus deserved, not in a common grave but in a tomb that Joseph had crafted with his own hands.

Discernment and us

It’s fairly easy to do the right thing when the ‘right thing’ is popular. It makes us feel good about ourselves and pleased that our decision has led us to the point of doing what is right.

But sometimes in the process of following Jesus we must make the hard choices and find the right thing is to do what goes against our instinct to preserve ourselves. 

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will find it. For what will it benefit someone if he gains the whole world yet loses his life? Or what will anyone give in exchange for his life?

Matthew 16:24-26 (CSB) 

That discernment places us at the crossroads of doing what we know is the right thing, and the option to do that which is almost right and appeases our sense of self-preservation. Regardless of if that, prevents us from physical harm, social disgrace, or discomfort; our gut instinct may betray us when we face a similar situation as did Joseph.

Do it, when you know “Stepping Out” is the right thing to do. The thing which Jesus has purposed for us.

In His Grace,

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