One of the great tragedies of life is that of “waiting too long.” Waiting too long to let another know you care. Waiting too long to apologize. Waiting too long to make amends. Waiting too long to do the right thing.
How sad it is to sit by a casket of a friend or a family member and come to the realization that time has run out. Maybe it ran out for you, and you will never get the chance to tell them those things you wanted to tell them. Or maybe it ran out for them, and too many things were left unsaid, or undone.
In the Bible, one individual who probably thought he had waited too long, was Joseph of Arimathea. Joseph, the Bible tells us was a disciple of Jesus, and a respected member of the Jewish council. (cf. Matthew 27:57; Mark 15:43) He had not been involved in the decision to have Jesus crucified (cf. Luke 23:50-51), but he had also not been brave enough to make his faith known.
John, in his Gospel tells us, that after Jesus had been killed upon the cross, “Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body.” (John 19:38; ESV) It is Joseph who buries Jesus, laying Jesus in his own private tomb, and placing the stone in front of the tomb.
One must wonder what was going through the mind of Joseph at that time. Joseph had been a respected member of the council, but he had been afraid to speak up concerning his faith in Jesus. If he had spoken up, might things have taken a different course? He had believed in Jesus, but had he made sure that Jesus knew of his faith? Why had he waited until Jesus was dead in order to take a stand and let his own convictions be known? Thoughts such as these must surely have gone through his mind as he carried the lifeless body of his Lord, and laid it in the new tomb.
But, for Joseph it was not too late. For Jesus, though dead, yet lived, and though Jesus was laid in the tomb, His resurrection three days later meant a second chance; a second chance not only for Joseph, but for each of the disciples of Jesus who had fled, denied Him, or otherwise shown a weakness of faith. Joseph did not run out of time, because, for Jesus, death was not the end of the Story.
This is not to say that death, relative to Christianity is not a factor in these things. The Scriptures teach, “it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27) There can come a time when it is too late to make changes.
There is another man we read about in the Scriptures who put off Christ. Felix, governor of Judea, who had opportunity to hear the apostle Paul preach, Fearful of what he had heard, but unwilling to make changes in his life, he stops listening, telling Paul that he will come again when it is more convenient. (cf. Acts 24:24-25) That day seemingly never came, Felix left the area, and died, so far as we know, never having made the choices he should have. Eventually, he did run out of opportunities.
But, returning to Joseph, how thankful that disciple must have been to have the opportunity to tell the risen Christ of his faith, and then later to tell the world. How joyful to realize it was not too late.
Concerning Jesus, the Bible says, “he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25; ESV)
Some may sometimes wonder if they have waited too long to get their life right with God. But if they are alive to ponder the question, the Bible presents a clear answer: no matter what mistakes we might have made, if we still have breath, it’s not too late to come to Christ, and draw near to God through Him. He is alive and we are alive. We don’t know that we will have tomorrow, but we do have today. Let’s make the most of it while we still have the chance.
If you would like to learn more about Christ, and how to draw near to Him, the church of Christ invites you to study and worship with us at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio. Likewise, if you have any questions, please share them with us through our website: chapelhillchurchofchrist.org
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.