Beckett: Pastoral Thoughts – The “Resurrection” of Joseph (Genesis 42)

Jacob thought his son, Joseph, dead. So did Joseph’s brothers (Genesis 44:20). After all, when you sold a person into slavery in ancient Israel, they might as well be dead. Joseph’s brothers don’t recognise him because of the many years that passed, and also probably because Joseph was in royal clothing rather than the humble garments of a shepherd and peasant. Before Joseph reveals who he is to his brothers, he messes with them. Once he reveals to them who he is, Joseph is “raised from the dead” in a sense. Everyone, Jacob especially, were so certain that Joseph was dead, so he might as well have risen from the dead.

Naturally, Joseph’s “resurrection” prefigures the resurrection of Christ. Whereas Joseph’s brothers don’t recognise him, Mary Magdalene didn’t recognise the risen Jesus (John 10:11-18), nor the disciples at first (21:1-14), nor the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). Jesus sort of “messes” with them before He reveals Himself. Of course, what makes Jesus greater than Joseph is that He did all this without sin, for Joseph “spoke roughly to them” (Genesis 42:7). Whereas Joseph’s original intention was deception before his heart moved him to be honest with his brothers, Jesus’ motive was not deception but grace. Joseph revealed who he is out of grief. Jesus revealed who He is through His Word of grace.

Furthermore, Jesus is fully revealed in His resurrection. If you want to know who Jesus is—what kind of God He is—look no further than the cross, that is, the event of His death and resurrection. When we speak of the cross, though the crucifixion itself was a singular event, we speak of it in terms of a dual event—His death and resurrection, for we cannot have one without the other. We cannot—or should not—speak of Jesus’ crucifixion without His resurrection and we cannot speak of His resurrection without His crucifixion. When Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), He reveals that the way of the cross is both suffering and life, that is, resurrection.

While God is indeed revealed in the flesh of Christ, there was still a hiddenness in His salvific work. There were many things the disciples did not understand until His resurrection (John 12:16). Who is Jesus? That is, who is God? He is crucified and risen for you. God has long been a mystery, and His mystery has been fully revealed in the person and work of Christ, crucified and risen (Ephesians 3:1-13; Colossians 1:26-27). God’s salvation was not fully realised until Christ was crucified and risen. And He is not just crucified and risen; He is crucified and risen for you.

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