Today we remember St. Joseph of Arimathea. This is not the Joseph and Mary guy but the man who, at the end of the Gospels, takes responsibility for giving Jesus’ a decent burial by purchasing a shroud and placing Jesus body in his own tomb. Like, Nicodemus, who also helped with the burial, Joseph was a member of the powerful, ruling Jewish Council. Like Nicodemus he publicly stated his support for Jesus. In doing so, both men jeopardized their position and prestige, but two witnesses in a situation was what Jewish Law required to prove truth. These two men, at the heart of the Jewish political machine, are powerful symbols of Jesus’ message penetrating all levels and layers of Jewish society.
There are all sorts of legends around Joseph. He is credited with having brought the Holy Grail to Glastonbury, in England. It is entirely possible he did visit the island as he might have been a tin merchant and there was a well established tin trade in Cornwall in the far southwest of the country. There is another legend that Jesus visited England with Joseph as a child, that Joseph was an old family friend. Whilst these are legends, I wonder what difference it would make if we thought that Jesus had walked upon the same soil which we do.
The poet, William Blake, certainly pondered this. He wrote the hymn “Jerusalem”. Blake looked out on a landscape peppered with factories and mills which were terrible places to work. He imagined Jesus walking on those same hillsides and sees God rising up in power and glory to build Jerusalem in “England’s green and pleasant land”. A little esoteric perhaps, but what would Jesus see if He walked on the same streets which we do? What would stir Him to action and mighty fury? That is our job, as his people, to figure out – and we are called to public, and costly, proclamation and action as we build a new Jerusalem, the kingdom of God’s justice and peace, in the world around us.