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  • Writer's picturePastor Chris

March 4, 2020

"Then Jacob tore his garments, and put sackcloth on his loins, and mourned for his son many days. All his sons and all his daughters sought to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted" (Genesis 37:34-35). Today's Old Testament reading recounts how Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt and how their father Jacob responded to the loss of Joseph. It's a fitting narrative for this Lenten season, portraying the depth of humanity's sin and brokenness. From one perspective, we might be convicted of our similarity to Joseph's brothers. Where do hatred, jealousy, and greed have footholds in our hearts? In what ways have we not only failed to care for our brothers and sisters, but even betrayed them or caused their harm? From another perspective, some of us might identify with Jacob. Here he seems an innocent victim of circumstances and systems beyond his control. We may not be literally enslaved, as Joseph was, but we might feel unfairly trapped by other situations. Perhaps we've had other relationships end in betrayal or rejection. Perhaps illness, debt, and addiction are our Midianite slave-traders.

And then there is Jacob, the father who responds with unquenchable grief to his son Joseph's disappearance. Yet it is in Jacob's reaction here that I glimpse the hope of redemption in Jesus Christ breaking through. Centuries later, the prophet Zechariah foreshadowed the crucifixion of Jesus with words that evoke the image of Jacob's grief: "When they look on the one whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn" (Zechariah 12:10). Like Joseph being sold into slavery for twenty pieces of silver (Genesis 37:28), Jesus was betrayed for thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 26:15). Like Joseph, who later saw that what his brothers "intended for harm, God intended for good" (Genesis 50:20), Jesus' death and resurrection showed that God can can make all things work together for good (Romans 8:28). Jacob may have proclaimed "I shall go down to Sheol mourning" (Genesis 37:35), but Jesus descended to the dead in order to proclaim the gospel of new life (1 Peter 3:19, 4:6). When we read Joseph's story from this perspective, we see not just an honest picture of human sin and brokenness, but also the power of Christ to heal, save, and redeem.

As we look to the cross this Lent, let us remember that Jesus knows and understands our deepest grief, Jesus stands beside us in our suffering, and Jesus can forgive and transform even our most offensive sins.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Chris

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