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Joseph of Arimathea (1st Century) March 17th

The Gospels tell us that Joseph was a wealthy Israelite, and it is usually assumed that he was a merchant of some kind. He came from the village of Arimathea in northern Judea, about halfway between Jerusalem and the Mediterranean Sea. He was a devout man, waiting for the Kingdom of God. As a secret believer in Jesus, he privately disagreed with the decision of the Jewish Council to arrest Jesus and work for his execution. When Jesus was crucified, Joseph approached Pilate, the Governor, to ask for Jesus’ body. He bought some linen in which to wrap the body and, accompanied by Nicodemus, took it down and wrapped it, along with spices brought by Nicodemus, for burial. Then they laid it in Joseph’s own tomb. He must have known Nicodemus, because he too was a member of the Council and had spoken up for Jesus when the plot was laid to bring Him to trial. Tradition has Joseph visiting England on at least two occasions. If he was a merchant trader, he could well have been brought by Phoenician traders’ ships, as they are known to have been trading across the known world in Old Testament times, including visiting ‘the isles of the farthest west’, which could be the British Isles. The first visit of tradition has him bringing a young Jesus to England, and is the source of William Blake’s famous hymn, ‘And did those feet in ancient time’ (‘Jerusalem’). The second then brings Joseph to the island which is now Glastonbury Tor, bringing the cup used at the Last Supper (‘The Holy Grail’). He and his companions are said to have built a wattle chapel on the Tor. While these tales are no doubt fanciful, they have encouraged Christians in the past to live and work for the building of the Kingdom of God, symbolised by Jerusalem, in British society.

Father God, we thank You for Christians who have maintained their faith in difficult and dangerous circumstances, and those who still do today. May we support them in our prayers, and where possible our giving. Guide us, too, in living our lives today to bring the values of Your Kingdom into our homes, our neighbourhoods and our lands. Amen.