Genesis 37:1-11, 23-28, 42:1-11, 45:1-5, 50:15-21, Matthew 26:47-50, Romans 5:10
When I was eight, I dressed up as Joseph for Halloween. I glued strips of construction paper to a brown paper sack, in which my mom had cut holes for my arms and head. I guess I’ve never been a very cool kid, but at least I made my Sunday school teacher proud. (My mom was my Sunday school teacher.)
We like to dress up as guys like Joseph because it’s fun to play the hero. Let me be the guy who is loved by my dad, is betrayed by my brothers, is sold into slavery, abstains from temptation, endures prison, rises to authority, saves the day, and, in the end, forgives my brothers and provides food for their hungry children. Not to mention the whole dream interpretation gig. I’ll be that guy.
That’s the temptation when reading this kind of story: we tend to self-identify with the protagonist and then extract a simple moral lesson to apply to our life. We erroneously assume the role of Joseph and then take away from the story the lesson that we should forgive those who betray us. Certainly there are lessons from Joseph’s life and character that can be applied to our own lives, but if that’s as far as we get then we are missing the point. There is more to the story and it is stunning.
The story of Joseph—the purpose of his very life—is meant to serve as a signpost, pointing us to what will come in the life of Jesus. The rescue Joseph gives his brothers foreshadows and parallels the mission of Jesus, who came to save His people.
Joseph, a shepherd, was dearly loved by his father. (Genesis 37:3)
Jesus, the Good Shepherd, was dearly loved by His Father. (Matthew 3:17)
Joseph was betrayed by his brothers and traded for silver. (Genesis 37:28)
Jesus was betrayed by Judas and traded for silver. (Matthew 26:15)
Joseph was tempted by Potiphar’s wife but did not sin. (Genesis 39:9)
Jesus was tempted by Satan but did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15)
Joseph was thrown into prison with two other prisoners, one who would go free and one who would be executed. (Genesis 40:2-3, 21-22)
Jesus was crucified on the cross with two criminals, one who would be saved and one who would not. (Luke 23:32, 43)
Joseph, though imprisoned, rose to a place of power and authority. (Genesis 41:42-44)
Jesus, though crucified on the cross, rose again and sits at the right hand of the throne of God. (Matthew 28:18)
Joseph showed mercy and forgave his betrayers, saving his family and nation. (Genesis 50:20-21)
Jesus shows mercy and forgives His betrayers, saving the world. (Colossians 1:13-14)
The story of Joseph is not about us. It is about Jesus and what He has done for us. In the same way that Joseph foreshadows Jesus, so Joseph’s brothers foreshadow us. We have betrayed and denied Christ, yet He has shown us mercy and forgiveness.
Jesus is the true and better Joseph. We wait for Him. We wait for His return. We have betrayed Him and He will forgive us. We are famished and He will sustain us. Unlike Joseph’s brothers, we will recognize our Savior at His second coming. We will know His face and we will bow before Him. We wait with hope for that day. Come, Lord Jesus.
written by Billy Jack Brawner