Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Joseph & Jesus (part 3 of 3)

Returning to the book of Genesis, we find that “Joseph was thirty years old when he began serving Pharaoh” (41:46a).  Likewise, Jesus was presumed to have been about thirty years old (Luke 3:23), when He begins to make His presence felt among His people in service of the kingdom of the Creator God.  It is written that “Joseph was commissioned by Pharaoh and was in charge of all the land of Egypt” (41:46b).  When Jesus appeared, He did so with the announcement that “the kingdom of God is near” (Mark 1:15b).  To this, Jesus added that it was time to “Repent and believe the Gospel” (1:15c). 

In His day, the people would have known that word “gospel” to refer to proclamations concerning the Caesar, concerning the one who was then considered to be the ruler of the world, concerning the one called lord and savior, and concerning the one known as the son of god.  For Jesus’ people, the connection of “gospel” with the “kingdom of God” was an unmistakable reference to the time of their God’s action on behalf of His people, to restore national Israel to sovereignty and independence, and to set Israel and its messiah-king over all nations.  The call to believe the Gospel was to believe in the Lordship of the messiah, in complete trust that their God was fulfilling His covenant promises through that messiah; and that this messiah, as ruler of the people and nation that was destined to rule all peoples, had now been given charge of all the land.  A natural corollary to this was that any foreign power that happened to be ruling over Israel at that time would be defeated and cast off. 

Looking again at the life of Joseph, we see that “While the famine was over all the earth, Joseph opened the storehouses and sold grain to the Egyptians.  The famine was severe throughout the land of Egypt” (41:56).  Joseph limited the provision of grain to the land of Egypt only.  This is a story of an intra-Egypt exile (famine) turning to something like an exodus (provision for all).  Turning to Jesus, we think about the fact that even though the entire world was gripped in the famine of the effects of death (exile), and that even though all the world was clearly in need of His touch and His healing presence, in the Gospels we find Jesus confining His ministry to the area of the land of Israel (Israel alone, with minor exceptions, is able to experience the exodus to be provided by Jesus.  However, returning to Genesis, we go on to see that “People from every country came to Joseph in Egypt to buy grain because the famine was severe throughout the earth” (41:57).  Similarly, though Jesus first instructed His disciples to direct their own ministries to the house of Israel, His parting commandment was to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19a), and that they were to be His “witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth” (Acts 1:8b).

Because Egypt was the one place in the region that had food (as indicated by people from every country coming to Egypt to buy grain), Egypt would have ascended in its might and power.  Just as we are able to read that the people of Egypt sold their livestock, their lands, and even themselves in order to obtain food from Joseph’s hand, so too could we expect the people from other countries to be doing the same types of things.  Because Joseph held such great power, being a ruler of Egypt and second only to Pharaoh, when the people would come to buy grain, they would bow down to him.  We know this to be the case because, though they were sons of a wealthy and powerful man, “Joseph’s brothers came and bowed down before him with their faces to the ground” (42:6b).  Though his brothers attempted to strip him of his honor, Joseph accrued more honor than anyone could possibly have imagined. 

Not only do we see this administration of grain to many nations at the hands of Joseph as something of a fulfillment of the Creator God’s covenant to bless the families of the earth through Abraham’s family, but more importantly, we can use this so as to be pointed to Jesus, as “the bread of life” (John 6:35a).  As we can see in the case of Joseph’s brothers, throughout the duration of the famine, people had to come to Egypt multiple times to obtain their sustenance; but Jesus said “The one whom comes to Me will never go hungry” (6:35b).  Additionally, and again joining with the early Christian community in reflection on the life of Jesus, and doing so within and alongside the story of Israel (our minds shaped by that narrative tradition), we are directed to the letter to the Philippians, where it is said “that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow---in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (2:10).  Not only will they bow, but all will acknowledge His power and His rule---just as many did before Joseph in acknowledgment of the power and growing rule of Pharaoh and of Egypt---and submit to the authority of His kingdom, when all are made to hear “every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (2:11).   

No comments:

Post a Comment