Summary: The person and mission of Jesus the Messiah was foreshadowed centuries before in the person and mission of Joseph.
13th Sunday in Trinity
"Joseph Foreshadows Jesus"
The parallels between Jesus and Joseph have been cataloged many, many times by innumerable Bible teachers over the centuries. Jesus, like Joseph, grew up in a home where "his brothers did not believe in him." Both Jesus and Joseph were rejected by their own folk who made an attempt on their lives, in Jesus’ case by aiming to throw Him over a cliff rather than into a pit. Jesus was sold for thirty pieces of silver, Joseph for twenty. Jesus and Joseph, both, were taken down to Egypt. Like Joseph to his companions in prison, Jesus too "preached to spirits in prison!" (I Peter 3:19) Like Jesus, Joseph was ’highly exalted’ by God; Joseph might almost be said, in his time, to have been "given a name above every other name" save that of Pharaoh. (Genesis 41:38, 41,43 and Philippians 2:5, 10,11) Joseph, like Jesus and the thief on the cross, had a hand in the elevation of a companion who shared his condemnation with him.
The Nineteenth Century English Baptist preacher F. B. Meyer said this about Joseph:
"Rejected by his brethren (John 7:5), refused by those to whom he was sent (John 1:11), falsely accused and condemned (Matthew 28:18, 26:59-60), thrust into prison (Luke 22:63), rescuing one of his poor associates (Luke 23:43), and called to a throne (Luke 20:41-44) ... it would be possible in almost every particular to substitute the name of Jesus for that of Joseph."
That is what I propose to do today: to take a glance at Joseph in today’s Old Testament lesson, and substitute Jesus for Joseph in what we see.
The first thing to jump out of the passage from Genesis is the neediness and the vulnerability of Joseph’s brothers. They are not only needy because of the famine, they are vulnerable to the power and disposition of this Egyptian magistrate who controls their access to food. Worse yet, they have attracted this man’s attention. He has inquired about them, their father, the brother who did not accompany them into Egypt when they previously came.
But, the bigger liability these brothers face is the knowledge that on their last visit to Egypt they came away not only with the food they sought, but also the money which they were supposed used to pay for the food! So far as they know, they can be – and will be – accused of theft, fraud, and deceit when they return. In a word, their consciences are guilty with respect to this powerful Egyptian official. And, their consciences are guilty for another reason. As you can read in the previous chapter of Genesis, the old sin they committed against their brother Joseph is haunting their consciences. When it looked to them as if this powerful Egyptian official was about to destroy them, we read this:
21Then they said to one another, "We are truly guilty concerning our brother, for we saw the anguish of his soul when he pleaded with us, and we would not hear; therefore this distress has come upon us." 22And Reuben answered them, saying, "Did I not speak to you, saying, "Do not sin against the boy’; and you would not listen? Therefore behold, his blood is now required of us."
Now, this is their situation when they return again to Egypt – needy, vulnerable, guilty of an old, old crime, and even though they do not realize it, that old crime was committed against the very man whose wrath they now rightly fear.
I do not know any Christian who has not at some time – many times, usually – felt just as vulnerable and needy as these sons of Israel in Genesis 43. Paul must have felt this way when he heard a voice from heaven saying, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” The Apostle John, in 1 John 3:20, speaks of the occasion when our heart condemns us. The author of Hebrews paraphrases God to say, “If anyone draws back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” Peter must have felt this way when the cock crowed the third time. And that sting of a guilty conscience came again on the shores of Galilee after the resurrection when Jesus pointedly asked Peter three times, “Simon son of Jonah, do you love me?”
If you have never felt the way these sons of Israel feel in this passage, that time will probably come before you die. And for most of us, it has already come more often than we ever wanted, and it will come again. The SALVE for that troubled spirit is FOUND HERE in the passage before us, in the example of Joseph, who shows us centuries before the life of Jesus how Jesus even today relates to those whose consciences are troubling them.