This past Sunday we were introduced yet again to an astounding truth from the life of Joseph that we can apply to our own lives right now. And this time — as Joseph finally reveals his identity to his brothers — we encountered the jaw-dropping parallels between circumstances in Joseph’s life and in the life of Jesus.
Certainly, the prophets of the Old Testament — Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, to name a few — point to facts and circumstances in the life of Christ so that his divinity and lordship may be known and verified. But in addition to the traditional prophets, God drops in many more clues and hints and downright poetic parallels in the full narrative of the Old Testament that can be seen in the life of Jesus.
We’ve already encountered some of them in our study of Genesis — in chapter 3, for example, after the fall of man, God tells the serpent who tempted Adam and Eve that “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” And we know the “he” the Lord refers to is Jesus.
And we’ve also seen a number of parallels between things that happened to Joseph and circumstances in the life of Jesus:
- Joseph’s brothers plotted to kill him; Jesus’ brothers — the Jewish leaders — also plotted to kill him.
- Joseph found himself talking to a pair of criminals in jail, the cupbearer (who found life) and the baker (who was executed); Jesus was on the cross between two criminals, one who believed in him and found life, and the other who did not.
- Joseph’s brothers who betrayed him ended up bowing to him and acknowledging his superior office; the New Testament tells us that one day all people will bow before Jesus Christ and confess him as Lord.
But we’re just getting warmed up!
At this point in the drama that’s unfolding in chapter 43, Joseph has been testing the integrity of his brothers to see if their morals have changed for the better. And they have — and Joseph is moved by this. He’s also overcome with emotion having seen his youngest brother Benjamin in the flesh — so much so that he retreats to a chamber to weep in private.
Then Joseph has a silver cup of his placed in Benjamin’s sack to see how his brothers will react when they’re accused of stealing it. And lo and behold, one of Joseph’s brothers — Judah — does something similar to that of a New Testament figure with a name that’s almost the same: Judas.
“Oh, my lord, please let your servant speak a word in my lord’s ears …” Judah said to Joseph amid this moment of crisis. Not unlike what Judas did in the Garden of Gethsemane — a moment of complete betrayal, as Judas’ kiss identified Jesus, and the temple guards arrested him. But then the parallels end — because Judah does something sacrificial and offers his life in exchange for the life of his brother Benjamin!
Judah. The brother whose idea it was to sell Joseph into slavery in chapter 37; the brother who in chapter 38 left his family and one day thought he was having sexual relations with a prostitute, and it ended up being his daughter-in-law. This same Judah was a changed man by chapter 44 — and Joseph recognized this.
In chapter 45, Joseph’s weeping reaches a breaking point: His brothers don’t know who he is, they don’t see him — and they are missing out on so much in life after betraying him, suffering in the aftermath, and now failing to recognize him.
And as Pastor Scott pointed out, this closely parallels Jesus’ weeping for Jerusalem in the New Testament: “And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.’” (Luke 19:41-44)
So, Joseph tells his brothers who he is. And this moment of truth is difficult for them to digest. They don’t recognize Joseph. Much like — yes, another life of Jesus parallel! — the disciples who encountered the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus and didn’t recognize him until the very end of their time together.
And Joseph speaks to his brothers in such a comforting and compassionate and merciful manner: “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.” Wow! Indeed, Joseph shares with his brothers that God had a bigger picture in mind all along — and his brothers are part of that intricately woven tapestry.
In fact, we see later in Joseph’s big reveal to his brothers that he has a place for them and their families right there with him, a place where he will be their provider amid the famine, where they will be safe and have life. Much like Jesus telling his disciples that he is preparing a place for them in his Father’s house — a mansion with many rooms!
How cool is it that the Lord worked all this out in Joseph’s life and then put so many similarities in the life of Jesus — which acts as a sign to all of us that God’s eternal words are true and trustworthy.
So, let us ask ourselves this week: What are we not getting or seeing or understanding about what God is doing at this moment in our own lives? What truths is God trying to reveal to us that we may not be perceiving? Are there things that are our eyes closed to?
May the Lord open them up.