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“A Typical True Story of Reconciliation”

Pentecost 6 – July 11th and 12th, 2009
Genesis 45:1-15

The account of the life of Joseph is truly an extraordinary one! Let’s take some time today to refresh our
knowledge of the life of Joseph, as it will be pertinent to know to truly understand the magnitude of Genesis 45.
Here is a synopsis of Joseph leading up to this section of Scripture. He was the firstborn of Jacob’s favorite wife,
Rachel. (Recall that Jacob had two wives, Rachel and Leah, and two maidservants who also bore him children,
Bilhah and Zilpah). It was clear already at the young age of 17 that Joseph not only was Jacob’s favorite child, being
the recipient of the infamous “coat of many colors,” but also that God had given specifically to him some very
special gifts of prophecy that the other brothers did not have. He received dreams which revealed information about
the future and had the gift to interpret the dreams – something that made his brothers jealous to the point where
they actually made fun of him, “Here comes that dreamer!”
At 17 years old, Joseph told his brothers about a dream that he had, where there were 12 sheaves of grain,
one for each of the 12 sons of Jacob. In his dream the 11 others sheaves were bowing down to his, signifying that at
some point, the 11 other sons of Jacob would serve Joseph, who would be master over all of them. That dream
angered them so much that they began to plot to kill Joseph. One day, as Joseph approached his brothers in the
fields, they had every intention of killing him and throwing him into a cistern, planning to tell their father that a
wild animal had torn his favorite son to shreds. Instead of killing him, though, they simply threw him into the
empty reservoir, sold him to a caravan for 20 shekels (8 ounces) of silver, (today about $100). The caravan took
him all the way to Egypt, and there he was sold as a slave.
While in Egypt, Joseph served his master Potiphar faithfully, even to the point of refusing to accept the
proposition from Potiphar’s wife, who, in turn, had him thrown into a dark prison for a long time. While he was in
prison, Joseph listened to dreams from Pharoah’s cupbearer and baker, and was able, again by the gift of God, to
interpret them. When Pharaoh learned of Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams, he summoned Joseph from the dank
prison, where he spent several years. He listened to Joseph interpret his dreams and, when it was clear that Joseph
had special divinely-given gifts, made him the second most powerful man in the world, all by the age of 30.
From slave to superior in just 13 years...and now, in Genesis 45, the epic reunion between Joseph and the
brothers who made fun of him, who mocked him, wanted him dead, sold him into slavery for $100, and told his
father that he was dead. What is remarkable about this account is not simply all the things that happened to Joseph
throughout his life, but the way that he, in his position of power, treats his brothers, who mistreated him so badly.
And what we’ll see today is that this reconciliation between Joseph and his brothers is typical...not in the sense that
it is so ordinary, for who of us would be able to do what Joseph did? Rather it is “typical” in the sense that his
actions point forward, as a shadow, to a greater fulfillment later – the reconciliation of God to his people through
the Savior, Jesus Christ, which is our motivation to seek reconciliation with others who have done wrong to us.
Today, we will examine this typical true story of reconciliation, which reveals the heart of a loving brother, invites
sinners to draw near, and embraces sinners with unconditional love.

I. Revealing the heart of a loving brother
Who of us could ever do what Joseph did? Who of us would be able to put forth such a kind and loving
disposition? Place yourself in Joseph’s shoes just for a moment. Standing in front of you are the very people who
did the unthinkable to you – they wanted you dead, but instead “spared” you by dooming you to a life of slavery,
valuing your existence at about $100. How would you react with the tables turned in your favor, as they stand
before you in need of food to live because of the severe famine, and you have the power not only to deny them basic
necessities of life, but the power to exact your revenge in whatever cruel way you choose – maybe even sending them
to a painful death, so that they can feel for themselves the pain that they caused?
The old Adam that resides in our hearts desires revenge rather than reconciliation. It desires complete
vengeance instead of complete forgiveness. That’s why when someone says something unkind to us or about us, we
reply with unkind words because we want them to feel the pain that they caused us. That’s why when someone
does something to us that is hurtful, when they go out of their way to be cruel and ruthless and unkind, we respond
in kind – because we want them to reap what they sow – to be punished for the way that they hurt us. “An eye for
an eye,” we say, misquoting and misinterpreting the words of Scripture to serve our own selfish and sinful need for
vengeance!
Ask yourself this question, “Is that how God has treated us? With vengeance?” Ultimately in this story, not
only can we see ourselves in the position of Joseph, but ultimately are we not in the shoes of the guilt-ridden
brothers? Jesus did not treat us as our sins deserve. Like Joseph, who serves as a type of Christ here, foreshadowing
the greater reality and fulfillment to come, like Joseph in relation to his brothers, Jesus has all power and authority
to judge us for our sins, given from the Father in heaven! As we, his brothers in the flesh, stand before him, our
guilt is obvious. Our sins need not even be enumerated, although they could be. How does the Psalmist put it? “If
you, O Lord kept a record of sins, O Lord who could stand?” (Psalm 130:3)
As Joseph’s guilt-stricken brothers stood before him, they expected the worst, which is why we hear in verse
3, “His brothers were not able to answer him because they were terrified at his presence.” But instead of a vengeful heart,
Joseph revealed a loving heart of a brother who did everything necessary to mend the broken relationship with his
brothers.
In the same way, our brother Jesus, knows our sins, knows our guilt-ridden consciences, sees the affliction of
our hearts and knows what we are deserving of. But, instead of showing a vengeful heart, Jesus exhibits the heart of
a loving brother, who not only refused to visit our awful and disgraceful sins with the punishment that we deserve,
but instead did everything necessary to repair and reconcile that broken relationship between God and man. Instead
of allowing us to be condemned eternally for our sins, our Savior Jesus actually took that punishment on himself,
receiving in full the wrath of our holy and just God over our sins, willingly suffering on the cross a death he didn’t
deserve and the pain of hell that he didn’t earn so that our relationship with God, once broken because of our sins,
would be made right again through the reconciliation that he brought about with the shedding of his blood.
Thus, as people who have been in the shoes of the guilty brothers, and have been reconciled to God through
the loving heart and actions of our brother in the flesh, Jesus, we will want to always ask ourselves when we are in
the shoes of Joseph, when we are the ones who are being sinned against “How did my brother Jesus treat me? Did
he treat me with vengeance as my sins deserved, or did he treat me with the love and kindness and compassion of a
caring brother?” Colossians 3:13 reminds us: “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

II. Inviting sinners to draw near
As we look at this famous account of Joseph’s reconciliation with his brothers, there is an additional element
that we would regard as remarkable, which, again, points ahead, as a type, to the remarkable way that Jesus interacts
with us, his brothers and sisters. Often, when someone sins against another person, and forgiveness is offered and
received, the relationship changes nonetheless. Trust has been broken, and because of the offense, is hard to
reinstate. It’s hard for our hearts, which hold on to anger and frustration and hatred so easily, to forgive in such a
whole-hearted and complete way that the reconciled relationship goes back to the way it was before the sin that was
committed.
That’s partly why this reconciliation in Genesis 45 is so amazing and serves for us as a wonderful example of
forgiveness. Joseph didn’t simply offer forgiveness to his brothers and then keep them at arms-length, ready to hold
their sins over their heads whenever it might serve a vengeful purpose. Instead, he invited his brothers to come close
to him, to enjoy the brotherly relationship that they once had before they allowed their jealousy and hatred of
Joseph to manifest itself by selling him into slavery for $100. In essence when he said, “Come close to me,” he was
inviting them to have their relationship, once broken because of sin, to go back to the way it once was – both
forgiving and forgetting their sins as if they had never happened.
“Come close to me!” That is the same invitation Jesus extends to us, his brothers and sisters. As we stand
before our Savior God, our guilt is exposed for him to see. But, instead of disowning us, cutting us off from his
family, our Lord Jesus invites us to be in his family, despite our unworthiness. He invites us to enjoy the
relationship that once existed between God and man in the Garden of Eden before sin entered the world, a
relationship of perfect fellowship between God and man. To you and to me, the unworthy brothers, Jesus extends
his invitation through the gospel, where he says through action, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened
(burdened by the guilt of sin, weary from worry over the consequences of sin), and I will give you rest.” Whenever our
God speaks his absolution to us, as he has done this very day, whenever he reveals his forgiveness to us in Christ
Jesus through the gospel, in essence, he is saying: “Let’s go back to the way it was before sin – because I have not only
forgiven your sins through the shedding of holy and precious blood, I have forgotten them. They have been erased from my
memory.”

III. Embracing sinners with unconditional love

Ultimately, the gracious invitation of Joseph to draw near, which serves as a shadow of our Savior’s
invitation for all sinners to draw near to him for forgiveness and salvation, leads to the final embrace in verses 14
and 15. “Then he threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept and Benjamin embraced him weeping. And he
kissed all his brothers and wept over them.”
What a touching end to a heart-wrenching reunion! Joseph, having been mistreated, hated and scorned by
his brothers, sold into slavery and, for all practical purposes, regarded as dead by the family, invites his brothers to
come near to him and extends a brothers embrace to them, not holding their sins against them, not harping at them
for their awful deeds, but simply showing them through the loving kindred embrace that they were accepted by him
as brothers without condition, without stipulation – no strings attached!
That is exactly how our Lord Jesus treats us. Through the gospel he invites us to come near to him – and
through the same, he reaches out to us to embrace us as his own. At your baptism, you were claimed as a family
member of God, embraced by the loving arms of your heavenly Father without condition. Through the gospel in
Word and in Sacrament, the Lord God tightens that embrace, without requiring any condition to be met, without
requiring any kind of contribution from you. He simply holds you ever closer so that you will never stray again, so
that you will always remain connected to him as your God, your Savior, your brother. And what a wonderful truth,
that when the time comes for us to let go of this life, we know that we will do so in his loving arms only to embrace
him as our brother face to face in everlasting glory with all the other brothers and sisters who have been brought
near to him in faith.
What an extraordinary ending to a remarkable true story! Not just the story of Joseph – though certainly,
his saga, from beginning to end is filled with remarkable lessons for our own lives, especially here in Genesis 45,
where we learn how to forgive our enemies, even in the most difficult of circumstances. No...I’m talking about our
story, yours and mine. Our story will end the same way as it did with Joseph and his brothers – with a loving
embrace from our faithful brother Jesus. Amen.