I have not thought much about the extraordinary faith of Joseph of Arimathea (except to note that he is one of the “good guys” of the gospels), but I just had this thought: he was a “respected member of the Council” (Mark 15:43), which was the very Council that condemned Jesus to death (Mark 15:55). Still, he requests permission from Pilate to bury Jesus (Mark 15:42ff). Allow me to draw an analogy to illustrate why I am so impressed with this:
Imagine that the Nebraska Cornhuskers are about to play Alabama. (I graduated from Nebraska, but I now live in Alabama.) Imagine, then, that I talked all kinds of trash before the game, telling anyone who would listen that Nebraska was going to humiliate Alabama into a much deeper shade of Crimson.
This is understandable, even if foolish: the game has not yet started, and my predictions certainly might be correct.
Imagine, though, that Alabama pounded Nebraska into the ground. (This was more likely to happen over the past six years than it will be in the near future.) I would have to be crazy to continue to insist to everyone in Alabama that my team was, nevertheless, better than theirs.
Here’s my point: it is very common (and easy!) to support something that has not yet proved itself. Even if the disciples didn’t completely know who Jesus was before his crucifixion, they still believed that he was the Christ (Mark 8:29). But, when Jesus’ claims seemed to have come crashing down upon his head at the cross, virtually everyone abandoned Jesus–the game was over, and the Pharisees had crushed the once-feisty underdog. Logically, all sort of support should here cease, because the Pharisees had disproved Jesus’ claims to be the Messiah, right? (Don’t forget that the common perception of the Messiah was NOT that he would be the Suffering Servant depicted in Isaiah.)
It is at this point, though, that Joseph breaks with his own Council, with great risk to his reputation (and possibly his wealth and safety, too) to ask Pilate for the body of Jesus so that our Savior could have a proper burial. The game was over, Jesus had lost, but Joseph stubbornly hangs on to some hope-against-hope that God might find some way to gain a victory despite the man’s horrific defeat.
This is beyond band-wagon support, and even beyond what I commonly call my own “faith”–I don’t know what Joseph was thinking, but he will be absolutely vindicated in the end.