Summary: Joseph practiced forgiveness as a means of breaking bad blood between he and his brothers.
Walter White’s story is told in the AMC series entitled Breaking Bad, and begins with Walter standing in the middle of the New Mexico desert without his pants on. It’s quite dramatic, and the viewer is wondering how in the world he got there. The next scene flashes back to three weeks earlier to tell us how Walter made it to that desert. We learn in the first episode of the first season that Walter is a high school chemistry teacher with a wife, a special needs son, and a baby on the way. He’s lived a rather non-descript life. A life we might call average. Living on a teacher’s salary is not always easy, so Walter takes a second job at the local car wash to make ends meet. One day, he begins to struggle with a nagging cough, passes out at his second job and ends up at the hospital where a battery of tests are run. The discovery is made that he has terminal cancer. Fearing that he’s made no provision for his family, he turns to making drugs to make fast money. I know, not a great story line for a sermon series, but AMC does a masterful job telling Walter’s story. Each episode of the series begins at the end of the story, and then goes back to tell the story. Oh, and the tag line for AMC? Story matters here.
With this sermon series Breaking Bad, Chris and I wondered what it would be like to follow AMC’s model. After all, the Bible is all God’s story, and it’s filled with great men and women who lived amazing lives…as amazing as they were, they were incredibly normal people. Over the next four weeks, we’re going to look at some of those lives. We’ll start at the end of the story then go back and discover how each one got to where they were. We’ll learn some valuable lessons for ourselves along the way because when it comes to the Bible, story matters here.
We begin with Joseph. The passage we read in Genesis 50 is the end of Joseph’s story. We read that Joseph’s father has died, and he is returning from the funeral with his brothers and families. His brothers are afraid that Joseph is going to take revenge on them now, but Joseph, moved by grace, forgives his brothers for all they’ve done. So, what have they done? I’m glad you asked. We go back to the beginning of the story to discover how Joseph breaks the bad blood between he and his brothers.
Joseph’s story begins in Genesis 37. Joseph is the 11th son of Jacob, the great patriarch of the Hebrew nation, but he’s the first son of Jacob’s treasured wife Rachel, and that makes Joseph very special in his father’s eyes. Not so in the eyes of his 10 older brothers. They see him as the spoiled, tattle tale younger brother. Of course, their father hasn’t helped matters much. He did give Joseph as “coat of many colors” to signify their special relationship with each other. It wasn’t necessarily the coat that sealed the deal for his brothers, but the fact that he would go out to where his brothers were working and then go back and tell his father all that is brothers were doing—both good and bad. It might also have something to do with the fact that Joseph had a couple of dreams, and he thought it necessary to share the content of the dreams with his brothers. Long story short—both dreams showed his ten brothers and his father bowing down to him. Well, that just sent them over the top.
One day, Jacob sends Joseph, who is around age 17 at this time, to check on his ten brothers. They see him coming and concoct a scheme to kill him. “Let’s take care of this day-dreaming tattle tale right now! We’ll kill him and tell dad he died, eaten by a wild animal.” His brother, Rueben, speaks up and says, “Wait. Don’t kill him. We don’t want his blood on our hands. Let’s throw him in that pit over there. He’ll die on his own.” The brothers agree and take Joseph, strip him and throw him in the pit. After a little while, they look up and see a caravan of Egyptian traders passing by. Joseph’s brother Judah speaks up and says, “Hey? Let’s sell him into slavery. Otherwise, he’ll die in that pit and we’ll still have a guilty conscience.” They cut a deal with the slavers, and Joseph is on his way to Egypt.
Fast forward to Egypt. Joseph is sold to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, who served as captain of the palace guard. That’s an important position. Throughout Genesis 37 – 50, we hear that “the Lord was with Joseph and blessed him,” and other people noticed this, too. Potiphar noticed it, and it wasn’t long until Potiphar trusted Joseph to be his chief steward. He was in charge of Potiphar’s entire household. Joseph’s story gets even more interesting as Potiphar’s wife notices how handsome Joseph is and decides she wants to sleep with him (I tell you, The Bold and the Beautiful have nothing on the Bible). Joseph repeatedly resists her advances proclaiming, “How can I do such a thing against my master and my God?” Potiphar’s wife persists until finally she captures him alone in the house, approaches him suggestively and encourages him to come to bed with her. He resists again, but this time she has his shirt in her hands. He jerks away, tearing the shirt literally off his back, and runs out. She claims he tried to rape her and Potiphar has him thrown in prison. Bummer!