Why did Joseph do all those confusing things to his ten brothers? So far as they were concerned, the heinous sin of their earlier years was a prank of immaturity, a mere peccadillo of youth.
It was a long way away from where they were at now, they had grown up and had become model citizens. They had got over the sibling rivalry habit, the murder habit and the slave-selling habit against Joseph. They had moved on with their lives.
Isn’t that the mark of a mature, balanced adult – to improve one’s life and move on?
It is the same healthy-attitude habit that is taught today, that we should overcome bad habits and live a model life from here on so that God will overlook the past. He will recognise it for immaturity, but we are grown up now and can play happy families.
Being good is interpreted as the passport to heaven.
The only snag is that it doesn’t work. Joseph knew it doesn’t work and Jesus said it doesn’t. It doesn’t work even for the very best of dedicated, pious people.
Just listen to what Jesus said about them as they seek to enter heaven: they said to him, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in your name, drive out demons in your name, and in your name perform many miracles?”
These were not only good people, these were very good people!
And Jesus does not ignore them. He replies, “Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Out of my sight; your deeds are evil!’”
Joseph knew, too, that getting over bad habits doesn’t wipe out the past.
This is why he invested so much emotional pain in dragging his brothers backward into the future. He refused himself the luxury of offering them cheap grace and easy kinship by forcing them to bring the darling of the family to him, their youngest brother, Benjamin.
They must yield the whole family basis to him and Joseph would spend however long it took to bring them to that realisation. He would deprive himself of their kinship, deprive himself of being reconciled with his father, until it was done on a basis that would stand to eternity.
Likewise, Jesus, our Joseph, does the same with us. He knows we are sinners but to have a right relationship with him, we must have peace with our Father. Relationship is never on the basis of how good we are, we surrender good and bad, as Joseph’s brothers did, because our eternity is based on Jesus’ goodness, not ours.
Two thousand years ago, Jesus deprived himself of heaven so that he could put his whole family on a footing that will stand to eternity.
When we put everything in his hands, we feel our Brother’s arms around us as Joseph’s brothers felt his arms around them, and he unites us with the Father.
‘First go and make peace with your brother,’ said Jesus. And he doesn’t say which Brother.
Genesis, chapters 42 and 43
Matthew 7:21-2223. 5:27,28 and 24.
(To access the entire “Reflections on Joseph” mini-series, please click here.)