The Indispensable Person Back to blog list
The indispensable person is essential to God’s design for growth. ‘On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable’ – 1 Corinthians 12:23 NIV.
People, called by God, stepping up, fitting in, helping out, are central to God’s design for the church. Christ’s over-all purpose is the great commission which embraces world evangelism, church health and community change. These three are the key features of the Church’s function in the world. It is in breaking these down to strategies and implementation that the growth facet becomes possible.
Through biblical and church history God periodically threw in unexpected twists and turns, and people. While presenting his overall aim, the Lord was often short on the detail, which when unveiled was surprising. For example, it is doubtful that any of the twelve apostles were aware that Jesus intended to meet Paul on the Damascus road, giving him an apostolic mission. Surely they were all that was needed! Yet, Paul’s call to the Gentile world was unexpectedly popped into the equation. This was of divine design, but it did catch the apostles by surprise. One has only to read Galatians and Acts 15 to see how Paul’s message of salvation by faith to the gentiles had an edge that excluded adherence to the Law and Jewish customs. This caused the Jewish-Christian community to have a thorough rethink: how could Gentiles who were saved by faith through grace not have to also adhere to Jewish covenantal requirements such as circumcision?
Even Paul himself, having been brought into the apostolic fold ‘as one abnormally born’, had to contend with the Lord intervening with a change of plans. Paul had planned on his second mission trip to minister into western Turkey, but the Holy Spirit’s restraint and the Macedonian vision saw him immediately travelling into eastern Europe (Macedonia and Achaia),
As we track through the Bible the Lord is initiating, manoeuvering or changing people’s plans, or raising up people for tasks, despite their formulated plans. Simply, the walk by faith doesn’t mean we as individuals or churches, are the sole planners and are bound to every detail of the path ahead. The Lord keeps much close to his chest. At least the devil has no advance warning as to divine tactics being unveiled.
Now we turn to another key person who played a significant role within an unparalleled divinely designed situation. Joseph of Arimathea, a seemingly last minute guy who played a very significant role in the greatest event of the whole of human history – from the cross to the grave. He was one of many Josephs mentioned in the Bible, but like the Joseph, Mary’s husband, who played a significant role at the beginning of Jesus’ earthly life, Joseph of Arimathea did likewise at the end.
Joseph oversaw the closure of those crucial hours from the cross to the grave. This ‘indispensable man’ emerged from the seclusion of secrecy to discover his role as probably the only man who could bring proper and prophetic closure to Jesus’ earthly life and ministry.
Joseph teaches us four lessons about being an indispensable person.
He stood up.
When the Sanhedrin, of which he was a member, cranked up their anti-Jesus rhetoric, Joseph stood up and voiced his support of Jesus, thus blowing away his stance as a secret disciple. Imagine the quandary for him: does he excuse himself from the Sanhedrin to avoid having to stand up, or bite the bullet, attend and speak up. Yet, despite knowing the Sanhedrin hated Jesus (Lk.23:51-53), he attended. To remain silent at such a critical time would have played havoc with his budding faith, his conscience and his dignity. He stood up against the anti-Jesus majority, and traditions of the day say he became ostracised and a marked man.
This courageous act set in motion a string of events that over the following 24 hours from ‘the cross to the grave’ would see him become an indispensable person in the purposes of God. One small step led to many large steps.
Despite being a secret disciple, Joseph possessed a number of unique qualities that equipped him for the coming challenge. Notably, he held prominent positions in religious, governmental and business circles. He was Kingdom-oriented, having accepted the significance of Jesus. He held to strong godly values when the pressure came on.
Divine design for growth entails God challenging, or inspiring, or calling, or anointing, or using appropriate people, to stand up, hold to their convictions, exercise their influence, and be known for who they really are. At such critical defining moments it’s either stand up or wilt away.
He stepped up.
Standing up with a voice is great; however it almost always then involves stepping up to do something.
Joseph stepped up! With Jesus dead, still hanging on the cross, he realized he could intervene by approaching Pilate to receive authorisation to ensure that Jesus got a proper burial. He was no doubt aware of his unique position and influence, similar to that of Esther:
‘who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?’ – Esther 4:14 ESV.
According to Jewish custom, Jesus’ body could not remain on the cross overnight, especially before the Sabbath. Joseph had the public position, influence, resources and ability to obtain authorisation from Pilate to claim the body of Jesus and complete the burial requirements. He stepped up to embrace the challenge.
It is human nature to say, ‘someone else can do it’, but what if ‘you’re it’, and there is no one else? I see many Christians facing their own defining moments, who wrestle deeply with the decision – should I step up, am I the only viable option, what will this cost me, do I want this, am I capable?
He weighed up.
Touching a dead body before the Sabbath was not a good idea. The purification rites of the Jews were rigid. Upon touching a body Joseph would be unclean for seven days, thus unable to participate in the Passover.
Joseph weighed the pull of religious tradition against magnetism of the person hanging dead on the cross. One wonders what ran through Joseph’s mind as he headed to the cross where he would manhandle the body of Jesus! It is doubtful that at this time he knew Jesus was
‘our Passover lamb who had been sacrificed’ – 1 Corinthians 5:7.
It seems all he wanted was Jesus to have a dignified burial. How do we apply this unique one-off event in the 21st century? Analogously, the forfeiting of the Passover to bury Jesus is ‘making those tough decisions’ that test our resolve, but bring glory to Jesus. For example, I remember in 2001 visiting the Sinai Foundation in Surakarta City, Indonesia where Titus and Artha Lado had set up a very successful Christian Mental Health Rehabilitation Centre. They had been unsuccessful at pastoral ministry, so under counsel they sought the Lord and a door opened – reaching out to the mentally sick on the streets. Their decision enabled them to reach and restore hundreds of mentally and emotionally unstable people. Their aspiration for the traditional pastoral role was left behind as they touched their cross and ran with the future that opened before them.
He offered up.
Joseph provided his own tomb plus a large amount of costly spices for the burial of Jesus.
He came to discover, in hindsight, ‘his own new tomb’ – Matthew 27:60, which he spent time and money preparing for himself, was providentially ordained to fulfil a 700 year prophecy. Isaiah prophesied Christ ‘was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death,…’ – Isaiah 53:9. Although the prophecy was fulfilled, in all probability Joseph was not aware his act of generosity was prophetic. He simply acted with concern, courage, and personal sacrifice at a critical moment. As he discovered later in reflection, he was an indispensable man 100% in tune with God’s prophetic purpose and plan.
Besides providing a dignified burial that was aligned to Isaiah’s prophecy, Joseph also ensured that Jesus’ body was entombed securely. The tomb cut out of the rock with a large rock door in place, plus soldiers on guard to make sure a resurrection occurrence couldn’t be manufactured, only reinforced the resurrection three days later.
Making available his own tomb gives some real insight into Joseph’s heart, for it was not just a monetary contribution, which was extensive, but his generosity was really personal because it was his tomb. There is some opinions that Jewish law declared new tombs could be sold, but not after they were used. Joseph’s gift of his tomb had significant implications for himself and his family.
Providing his tomb for Jesus’ burial was way beyond this wealthy merchant and religious leader merely paying tithes and offerings, or funding some important religious cause, for it was a deeply personal sacrifice. It reminds me of the words of King David,
‘I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing’ – 2 Samuel 24:24 NIV.
This was a heart thing that affected his life deeply. It gives meaning to the lyrics of the song, All to Jesus I surrender; all to Him I freely give; I will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily live. I surrender all, I surrender all; all to thee, my blessed Saviour, I surrender all.
Periodically, as an indispensable person, we find standing up leads to stepping up, and inevitably on to weighing up the implications of commitment, and then on to offering up sacrificially something deeply personal to us.
This offering can be reinvesting our energies selflessly for others or a cause of Christ, breaking up our ‘set in concrete’ plans to consider other alternatives, or investing the resources committed to a luxury item to a more deserving cause.
The four steps that Joseph engaged in required remarkable courage and kingdom orientation. For him to stand up and thus stand out from being a secret observer was commendable, to step up to his ‘you’re it’, the only option shows destiny in motion; to weigh up the implications of a tough call shows he had the goods, and to offer up his personally guarded energies, plans and resources for the cause of Jesus Christ was honourable.
Simply, there is no personal, church or kingdom growth that has God’s design seal on it that doesn’t require standing up, stepping up, weighing up and offering up to those things that come across our path that echo out, ‘this is for you, this is your indispensable person moment’.