The Wealthy Pharisee

by Stephen D. Edwards

Joseph attends a Pharisees’ meeting in old Arimathea near Samuel’s tomb. One of them says that Jesus has left Jerusalem to return to Capernaum. The council members make plans to go to the Synagogue in Capernaum on the Sabbath to see if He will blaspheme or do work on the Sabbath.

With this talk about attempting to trap Jesus, Joseph cannot wait for the meeting to end so he can meet with Jesus again. He can barely make heads or tails of who says what as he hears, “This Jesus seems to think He can do whatever He wants.”

“Who does He think He is?”

“He is not God.”

“He says that He knows the Father as if God is His father.”

“I heard Him say that He is the Son of God.”

“I have never heard anyone say these things before!”

“Yes, I know. Even the previous Messiah pretenders have not ever done or said anything like what this Man says.”

Joseph thinks, How long will this lashing out at the Messiah who is sinless among us going to go on? He catches the eye of his friend Nicodemus. No one else can see their smiles under their thick beards as they roll their eyes. He wonders if he can slip out unnoticed.

Then Nicodemus says, “I believe we should get moving if we are going to make it by the Sabbath meeting time.”

Joseph nods at his friend and rises. He adjusts his garment and walks toward the exit allowing him to be the first into the bright sunshine.

The rest all look at each other and nod with a chorus of “Yes.”

Joseph mounts his mule and heads north alone. In about an hour, his friend catches up with him.

Joseph says, “Thank you, Nicodemus. I didn’t think they were going to let us leave.”

“I could see that on your face.”

***

With an orange-pinkish glow in the western sky, the traveling partners dismount at the Capernaum home where Joseph last found Jesus. As they unsaddle their animals for the night before going inside, Nicodemus says, “Joseph, I’ve been anticipating an opportunity like this one to talk to Jesus ever since you told me about Jesus.”

Joseph opens the door without knocking and enters as Jesus invited him to do. He says to everyone there, “Good evening, everyone. This is my friend Nicodemus from the Sanhedrin.”

Nicodemus looks around the torch-lit room and says, “Shalom.” He wastes no time declaring, “Rabbi, we know that you come from God, as it is impossible to do the signs you do otherwise.”

Jesus answers, “The truth is that unless people are born again, they cannot see the kingdom of God.”

He responds, “How can a grown man be born? Is it possible to enter his mother’s womb a second time to be born?”

“Let me explain it this way. Only those born of water and the Spirit can enter the kingdom of God. Flesh gives birth to flesh, and the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You hear the wind but cannot tell how it comes or goes. It is the same with those born of the Spirit.”

Nicodemus answers, “How is this possible?”

Jesus responds, “You are a teacher of the Law in Israel and you don’t know this? Truthfully, I speak about what I know and see. Just as Moses raised the serpent, the Son of Man must also be raised. For God loved the world so that He gave His only Son that all who believe in Him may not perish but live eternally. God condemns no one.”

As Nicodemus glances at Joseph’s smiling eyes, he says, “This is profound.”

***

Joseph and Nicodemus wake up at dawn to find some of the disciples preparing a breakfast of fish and bread, the usual fare.

At the Synagogue, Jesus teaches with authority astonishing the people. A man sits before Him with an unclean spirit. He shouts, “What do have You to do here with me, Son of God? Have You really come to destroy me? I know You, Holy One of God!”

Then Jesus rebukes the spirit, saying, “Be quiet and come out!”

Then the demon throws the man to the floor and leaves without damage, amazing the people.

As Joseph leaves the Synagogue, he overhears one of the Pharisees whispering, “Only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, does this Man cast out demons.”

Jesus, knowing their thoughts, says, “All kingdoms divided against themselves are laid to waste. No entity divided against itself can stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. His kingdom cannot stand? If I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do you cast them out? But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then God’s kingdom has come to you.”

Jesus walks away, leaving the Pharisees stunned. Joseph and Nicodemus overhear the others’ idle chatter about how to trap Jesus, as they follow Jesus up a large hill behind Capernaum. Jesus stops and sits near the top of the hill.

As Jesus begins to teach, Nicodemus turns to Joseph whispering, “After last night, I’m looking forward to this.”

Jesus teaches, “The poor in spirit are blessed; the kingdom of heaven is theirs. The mourners are blessed; God will comfort them.”

Joseph and Nicodemus stay for the entire message. They walk down the hill, discussing Jesus’ words. Nicodemus asks, “He said that the peacemakers are blessed as they’ll be sons of God. Does that mean we can be brothers of Jesus?”

“Yes, I believe that is what that means.”

Nicodemus says, “He also said that those persecuted for righteousness’ sake are blessed, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.”

“David faced enemies who persecuted him. God blessed him and expanded his kingdom. God also promised that his dynasty would last forever.”

“Joseph, what about how Jesus said to love and pray for my enemies? He pointed out that God brings sunshine and rain on the evil as much as the righteous, that if I love only my friends, I’m no different from the Gentiles. Then He tells us to be perfect like the Father? How can anyone be perfect?”

“My dear friend, I don’t think Jesus calls us to be perfect as in having no flaw. Instead, it is to be fully mature and complete. We must be graceful and merciful. Perhaps to motivate that, He also told us to expect the judgment of God if we find ourselves angry against a brother and blind ourselves if we lust after a woman.”

Nicodemus says, “So then, as we cannot be perfect, by His own mercy and grace, God sends us His only Son so that we might believe in Him and have eternal life! Just like He told me about last night!”

As they enter Capernaum, Joseph says, “Now we are getting there!”

“Joseph, how do you know all of this?” says Nicodemus as they mount their mules to go back home.

“Nicodemus, I have followed Jesus for a while and heard Him say all these things before. Often after those times, I would search through my memory of when I read something in the Torah or the Talmud that Jesus might have quoted. It never failed to amaze me that His teaching was so in line with everything I learned to become a member of the Sanhedrin.”

Nicodemus says, “That is wonderful! I must go home and review the ten Mount Sinai Commandments which I wish we still had on the tablets from God, because Jesus just told us that He is the fulfillment of the Law.

***

Two years later, Nicodemus accepts Joseph’s invitation to dine with him at his home.

At the table Nicodemus says, “Joseph, I’m not sure why, but I sense something is about to happen to Jesus because He has been saying that the Son of Man must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests, be killed and raised up on the Third Day.”

Joseph says, “I certainly hope you misunderstood all you were told about that.”

Nicodemus says, “Well, the last time I heard Him speak like that, He rebuked Peter as though He was talking to Satan.”

Joseph responds, “Then we know He is serious about it. I haven’t heard Him say anything unimportant, but even more if he talks like that to a disciple. He did say He would rise again.”

Nicodemus says, “I think this may be the best year to go to Jerusalem for Passover.”

Joseph says, “I was planning on observing the Passover here, but if must go, we must leave tomorrow.”

***

At mid-morning on the Sabbath, Joseph and Nicodemus ride into the area around Bethany to see a throng of people in mourning clothes and Mary speaking to Jesus in the distance. Other Pharisees look on from a distance.

As they get closer, they see some men roll a stone away from the entrance of a cave that might be a tomb.

Jesus says with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”

Martha and Mary’s brother comes out wrapped in linen strips and a cloth covering his face. Jesus says, “Remove the strips and release him.”

Joseph approaches Lazarus to tell him, “I just arrived here and witnessed you exiting the tomb. I am glad to be here today. However, I am sorry that you had to go through this.”

Lazarus responds with his eyes wide and speaking fast, “I’m glad to be here too! I am quite surprised, but then not surprised that Jesus could do this thing for me. However, you will not hear me testify that I made myself sick to die and test God.”

“That would be a dangerous way to test God for certain, because death is conclusive if your test fails. You will not ever tell that God forgives such a sin as murdering yourself,” says Joseph.

Nicodemus says, “Sorry to interrupt, Lazarus. Joseph and I have to go. I have just found out that the council will hold a meeting at the Temple and we must attend. We are so grateful to God that He could bring you back from the dead.”

Joseph knows now in his heart that Jesus is the resurrection and that the way to the Father is truly through Jesus Christ.

***

As Joseph and Nicodemus enter the meeting room at the Temple to join the council meeting, they notice others joining close behind them. Gedaliah begins talking without introduction, “Jesus continues to gain more and more followers. Just the yesterday in Bethany, He had a man named Lazarus come out of a cave wrapped in linens as though he just returned from the dead. I’m sure the man was pretending that he resurrected so that Jesus could gain fame and become king.”

Kolonomus, another young Pharisee, adds, “We just saw Jesus ride into Jerusalem on a donkey as followers stood at the side of the road proclaiming ‘Hosanna in the highest!’ laying branches and garments before Him. It is as though they accept Him as king. I later saw Him come into the Temple and drive out everyone who buys and sells there, overturning the moneychangers’ tables and releasing the doves. Then He turned to teach with authority of some kind almost as though He was God, saying, ‘My house is to be a house of prayer for the nations. But you make it a den of thieves.”

Mordecai says, “What do we do here? This man executes many signs and wonders. If we allow him to continue like this, all the people will believe in him. Then the Romans will take away our place and our nation.”

Caiaphas says, “You men don’t know anything whatsoever! You don’t know that it is better for one man to die in place of the people, rather than have the whole nation fade into the mist of history.”

Just then, Kolonomus says, “It appears one of Jesus’ disciples has been spying on us right here at this meeting.”

Caiaphas looks toward the door and confirms, “I see that you are one of the disciples of Jesus. What can we do for you?”

“I am Judas Iscariot. I want to know what you will give me in return for delivering Jesus to the council.”

Caiaphas says, “We will give you 30 pieces of silver for this.” Then he turns back to the council and says, “Now we need a reason to put Him to death.”

Joseph decides he must leave the meeting to see if he can find Jesus and warn him about Judas’ betrayal. However, Caiaphas closes the meeting before he has a chance to leave, so not even Nicodemus notices him leave.

Out on the streets of Jerusalem, Joseph thinks, Judas is going to hand Jesus over to the council and they are going to justify putting Him to death. I believe I must take a walk. I don’t believe this is His time to die. He heads out of the city through the Kidron Valley.

He sees Jesus a short distance away talking to His closest disciples near a withered fig tree. He can just hear Him saying, “Have faith in God. Truthfully, I say to you. Whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be destroyed and thrown into the sea,’ without doubt in his heart, believing that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

Joseph thinks, That tree was healthy a day ago. Did Jesus curse the tree earlier in the day before He went into Jerusalem on the donkey? Was it after? I cannot tell. I was not here. Anyhow, if Jesus cursed the fig tree, it surely means that He considers the people of Israel to be in an unfruitful season.

After walking back into the city, he realizes, I may have been wrong about the cursing of the fig tree. Perhaps He cursed it as a reminder to all His disciples that it is a curse to be unfruitful. That must be it.

***

Early Thursday evening, as Joseph sits for a quiet reflection time in the Temple, he overhears Judas telling Caiaphas, “Jesus and the other disciples have just eaten the Passover meal and they are headed to the garden of Gethsemane at the Mount of Olives. I will lead you there when you are ready. He will be the one I greet with a kiss.”

Joseph turns, rises and looks for Nicodemus where he usually sits for his quiet time, finding him half-asleep. He says, “Nicodemus, Judas just told Caiaphas that he will deliver Jesus to him tonight! It’s happening too quickly!”

Nicodemus responds, “If that is so, we must honor Jesus by making preparations for His burial soon. We must be ready to give him the most honored burial in Israel.”

Joseph says, “I have a tomb that I just had hewn in the garden near the Brook Kidron that we can use. I will have to find another one for when I die myself, because I want to be buried in Jerusalem.”

***

The following morning, Joseph and Nicodemus go to a shop near the Damascus Gate. As they enter the shop, the owner asks, “How can I be of assistance to you?”

Joseph says, “The Messiah is about to be crucified today, and we need burial spices and linens in case He dies before the Sabbath begins tonight.”

“I have the best burial supplies in all of Jerusalem right here for nine shekels of silver,” says the owner.

Joseph pays the price without haggling, having prayed the night before that it would be part of his sacrifice to the Lord for the occasion.

As they walk back toward the Temple, Joseph and Nicodemus see the commotion going on in front of the palace of the prefect Pontius Pilate who asks the escalated crowd, “Do you want me to release this criminal named Barabbas or Jesus whom you have named the King of the Jews?”

They shout, “Barabbas!”

Pilate asks, “Then what will I do with Jesus?”

The crowd responds louder, “Crucify!”

Pilate says, “For what crime?”

“Crucify! Crucify!”

Pilate declares, “I am innocent of this Man’s blood.” He waves off the crowd, washes his hands in a basin and walks back into his quarters.

The next time Joseph and Nicodemus see Jesus, he wears a crown of thorns and has several lacerations on his face and hands. He looks so exhausted, beaten and flogged it is hard to believe He is alive. Yet He carries His cross until it becomes obvious He can carry it no further. The Roman guards force a man Joseph recognizes as Simon of Cyrene to help Jesus carry the cross to Golgotha, where the two disciple Pharisees witness His crucifixion with two criminals.

Joseph sees Jesus look upward and exclaims, “Father, forgive them as they do not know what they do,” and a few moments later in Aramaic He cries out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

Joseph can now see that Jesus is within minutes of death and returns to the Pilate’s palace. He asks to see the prefect to make a special request. Pilate gives the Pharisee an audience, and Joseph bows before the prefect and asks, “Would you please allow me to take Jesus’ body as He will die soon if He has not already.”

Pilate replies, “How can Jesus die so soon?”

Joseph says, “I have just returned from the hill. He has very little breath in Him, and I saw that He has shed so much blood that He cannot live much longer.”

“If that is the case, then I give you the permission to take the body of Jesus and manage the burial. I will send a soldier with you to deliver my order.” says Pilate.

“Thank you,” says Joseph with a bow and leaves.

By the time Joseph returns to the cross, Jesus has already breathed his last, and Mary Magdalene stands there crying in the comforting arms of Nicodemus. After the Roman soldiers take down the body of the Messiah, they allow Joseph and Nicodemus to wrap the body in the linens. They carry Jesus to Joseph’s tomb and lay Him there. They unwrap Him and apply the spices Nicodemus carried from the shop and wrap Him again.

Joseph leaves the tomb, returning to the city where he locates his mule and heads back home to Arimathea as he prays, “Lord God, thank You for Your Son and the gift of His salvation. I know He will rise on the Third Day, for that is what You have told us through Your Son.”


Stephen D. Edwards began writing while in high school, but lost the passion for it in his late 20s. In that past writing life, he had poetry and short stories published in literary magazines such as Going Down Swinging, Event and Whetstone. He is the author of a memoir titled The Branch and the Vine about freedom from depression, available at Amazon and Kobo. He is also the co-author of Wisdom for Growing Leaders for the Marble Leaders ministry in Nigeria. His passion reignited, he now writes Christian fiction that encourages and uplifts in ways that non-fiction cannot do. 

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