Summary: The Forgiveness and compassion of Christ
Unfathomable Forgiveness, Irrevocable Invitation,
This morning again I want to tie in all three readings with
the lesson to see how each one portrays a characteristic of Jesus and our relationship to Him.
(Genesis 45: 1-15)
In the Genesis account we see Joseph when he was second in command to Pharaoh in Egypt. He is in the palace passing out food to the famine-struck people. But do we all remember the background of how he got there?
He was his father’s favorite son prancing around in his special coat. Then his jealous brothers threw him into a pit and sold him to some Ishmaelites who sold him to Potiphar who later put him in prison. Then he was called to the palace to interpret Pharaoh’s dream. After that he was promoted to look after the distribution of grain during the 7 years of plenty and the 7 years of famine.
When the famine got so bad back home in Israel, his brothers came to Egypt to get some food. After a little more drama Joseph finally reveals himself to his brothers and tells them not to be distressed or angry with themselves. He kisses them and explains that he does not hold anything that happened to him against them.
WHAT??? This is such unfathomable forgiveness!
I mean he wouldn’t have had to suffer the pain of the pit and prison if they had not almost tried to kill him!
Certainly it was all their fault! How could he forgive them?
But Joseph says it was God’s way of getting him into the position to be able to save not only the people of Egypt, but his own family as well.
“God sent me before you to preserve your life.”
Now hold that thought and let’s go on to look at the passage in Romans a little closer….
(Romans 11: 1-2a and 29-32)
Verse 1 says:
Has God rejected his people? By no means!
Verse 29 says, “For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.”
God never revokes the gift of forgiveness nor the call to come to him.
Verse 32 explains that God has consigned all to disobedience that he might have mercy on all.
This does not mean universal salvation (that everyone will be saved) but that there is a universal NEED for salvation.
He gave us over (that’s what “consigned” means) to our freewill to obey or not to obey and we all chose the way of disobedience.
Both Jews and Gentiles sinned, missed opportunities, and perverted God’s gifts.
So even though the Jews may have thought they got mercy because they were God’s favorite they actually got effectively “sent to Egypt” and forgotten about for a while to prepare the way for other nations to receive God’s word and accept Him.
Paul says even their rejection of Jesus turned out well because it gave the Gentiles an opportunity to respond to God’s mercy.
Now doesn’t that sound like a New Testament parallel to Joseph’s plight?
And doesn’t that sound like what Christ has done for us?
For a while he was the favored one.
Then he was the rejected one,
and finally he was the one by which God saves many.
God’s purpose is always to save and restore.
Our unfaithfulness never nullifies the faithfulness of God.
His invitation is irrevocable!
His grace is never withdrawn based upon what we do.
But our response is what makes the difference in whether we receive mercy.
If Joseph’s brothers had heard about the provision available in Egypt but had never gone there to ask Joseph for it, they would have died.
Have you responded to God’s invitation of mercy and pardon?
He isn’t holding any fault against you.
He sent Jesus before you to preserve your life!
Now on to our focal passage in the gospel of Matthew.
(Matthew 15: 10-28)
At the beginning of chapter 15, Jesus has just been asked (rather indignantly, I am sure) why his disciples break tradition and eat with unwashed hands.
The Pharisees had compiled many extra rules and regulations that they said were interpretations of the first five books of the law. This was the “tradition” of the elders which was handed down orally and was considered just as important as the written law.
The handwashing in question had little to do with hygiene.
It was strictly ritual for the purpose of symbolically taking away the defilement of the world in case they had come into contact with an “unclean” person such as a Gentile.
They poured water on their hands with palms and fingers up, then poured water on the back of the hands with fingers down and finally poured more water so they could use the fists to wash each hand further.
Its kind of like we have become obsessed with using hand sanitizer everywhere, not just after public bathroom use when we use another paper towel to open the door, (*demo this motion for a laugh) but also in the grocery stores and Wal-Mart before touching the shopping carts. And we teach our children they haven’t really washed their hands unless they stood at the sink singing the Happy Birthday song twice through before rinsing off the suds.