“Then [Joseph’s brothers] said to one another, ‘In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us.’ And Reuben answered them, ‘Did I not tell you not to sin against the boy? But you did not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood'” (Genesis 42:21-22).
Reuben’s saying is not far from the truth. In Genesis 9:5-6, God said, “‘And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in His own image.'” Of course, unbeknownst to them, Joseph was not dead, so technically there wasn’t to be any reckoning against them. Still, as noted before, selling Joseph into slavery ensured death, so it is not surprising that they thought him dead (44:20) and, therefore, that there would be a reckoning against them for the blood of Joseph. Yet Joseph spared them. Even though they supposedly sealed his deathly fate, Joseph spares them.
In the same way, we gave Jesus over to death, yet He spared us. Sometimes people bicker and argue about who killed Jesus. “It was the Jews!” some say. “They’re the ones who demanded, ‘Crucify Him!'” Others, because they imagine this to be antisemitic, will say, “No, it was the Romans! He was crucified under Pontius Pilate! He’s the one who legally crucified Jesus! Plus, it was a Roman soldier who killed Jesus when he pierced His side!” Both are wrong, of course. Both the Jews and the Greeks are guilty for killing Jesus. Even more, so are we. One would be foolish to think they wouldn’t have crucified Jesus. It’s easy for us to say we wouldn’t have when we’re on the other side of His resurrection.
All of us are responsible for killing Jesus. Consider the deeper reason for Jesus’ death. He didn’t die just because the Jews wanted Him dead and He was killed under Roman law. He was crucified for you, which has a double meaning: (1) He was crucified because of your sins and (2) He willingly went to the cross so that you might have eternal life despite your sins, indeed, despite your killing Him (John 3:16).
Remember that ever since the Fall of Man, there has been a reckoning for blood, particularly the blood of man. Jesus paid that reckoning in full by His holy, innocent blood. The death of sinners—indeed, the death of lambs, goats, bulls, and turtledoves—were never enough because such defiled blood cannot purify (see Hebrews 10). Thus, it was necessary that someone holy, innocent, pure, perfect, and righteous shed His blood to purify humanity. This is precisely what Jesus did on the cross. The reckoning on your head was placed on Christ, and by His death and resurrection you are declared blameless.
Featured image taken by Wilfredor at Santa Barbara Church in Maracaibo, Venezuela. Wikimedia Commons.