Easter 3 – St. Luke 24:36-49
Easter 3 – St. Luke 24:36-49
Easter 2 – St. John 20:19-31
Resurrection of Our Lord – Genesis 50:15-21
Good Friday – Genesis 47:13-26
When we think of the Joseph account, particularly when it comes to the famine, we tend to think of it in only one way, and it is the way that Joseph himself thinks of it: Joseph was sent ahead to preserve many lives. And so we only think about the famine and the storing of the grain and the distribution of the grain. We only think of the family of Jacob being reunited in Egypt, and the line of decedents continuing on to Jesus.
And that is a well and good interpretation, and that in fact is actually what this whole section of Genesis is all about, setting the stage for Exodus, setting the stage for Jesus.
But then we come to this very strange addendum here in Genesis 47, and it is truly the dark underbelly of what is going on here.
The famine is severe; extremely severe in fact, and things are getting desperate.
The first year of the famine, you can assume people used their reserves, that they ate what they had available in their homes. The second year of the famine, you can assume people ate their emergency reserves, what they had stored up for a rainy day. But by the third and fourth years of the famine, the cupboard is bare, and everyone is now forced to turn to Pharaoh for food.
But what has never really been mentioned before is that Pharaoh is not just giving the grain away for free; rather he is selling it, and not just selling it to the out of towners who are passing through like the brothers who came up from Canaan with sacks full of money, but he is also selling to the people of Egypt.
Which is fair, because Pharaoh, via Joseph, likely bought the grain from the people during the seven years of plenty.
But don’t think of this as an even trade, and the people are now just giving back the money they had made, so no one is any richer or poorer when all is said and done. This is a famine, and the people are desperate, and while the supply is great, it is also limited, and needs to last throughout the famine; ergo, the price goes up as demand goes up. And both are about to go way up.
And so the first year, the people turn over all their money in order to buy grain. The next year, they turn over all their livestock, horses, cattle, donkeys, goats and sheep, in exchange for grain. The next year they turn over all their land, and even their own bodies in exchange for grain.
Now when we get to Exodus, you may ask yourself where the money came from for all these massive building programs that are being undertaken. And the answer is obviously cheap labor, but it is also the riches of the Pharaoh, who accumulated a whole lot of money during the famine via some very favorable to him dealings that Joseph made in selling grain.
You can bemoan this if you like; you can wring your hands over how Pharaoh took advantage of the people, say that these were desperate times and the people just wanted to live another day.
But this is not about Pharaoh, this is about the people; this is about you.
For how well does this resemble your own daily life?
For what does sin do? It hooks you in, and then keeps you coming back for more. Sin is a hunger that demands to be fed on a daily basis, and it demands to be satisfied. Sin also has no concern for money or riches or possessions, it is only concerned about itself.
And you start out just using a little spending money to satisfy that desire; but it soon becomes your whole paycheck. When you see you need a little more money, you start selling off the trinkets and lockets lying around the house; and then the whole house is up for sale, not to mention anything and everything else that is not nailed down.
Why? Because sin has convinced you that you cannot live without it. Sin has convinced you that you need to feed that hunger every time it comes up; and there is no escaping it.
Because even if you did escape it, guess what? One day, when you think you are free and clear, it will come out of nowhere and take a huge bite out of you.
The famine was long over by the time of the Exodus; shoot, the famine was long over before the end of Genesis; but guess what? Pharaoh was still reaping the rewards of the famine, and the people were still paying for it, turning over a fifth of their production every year.
Sin has that effect on you. It never truly lets go. It always hangs on, looming over every decision you make, and every decision that is made about you.
Sin sucks you dry; and then demands that you find some more, so it can have that too.
That’s not the part of the story of Joseph that you want to remember; that is not the story of your life that you want told to others. But it is here, the people sold themselves into slavery; future generations would rue the day that this deal was made with Joseph.
And Satan will point to this and remind you of the deals you make in sin, and how inescapable they are when you realize it is too late. Satan will point to this, point to your sins, and the receipts you have, and remind you that you are now his and his alone, and that you must do what he commands.
But remember the story of Joseph that Joseph recalls.
Joseph came, so that many lives would be preserved.
For the Lord is going to do a great thing in bringing His people out of Egypt in some 400 years, and while today the Pharaoh is built up at the command of the Lord, there will come a day when he is brought very low at the command of the same Lord.
The Lord preserves His people; He guards their going in and their coming out this day and everyday.
And for you? What of your sins? What of the consequence that you must now bear for your transgressions?
Ultimately your sins have led here, to the cross, to the death of Christ. You were so committed to your sins and your transgressions that you even betrayed and handed over to be crucified God’s own Son.
But like Joseph, Jesus has gone forth so that many lives may be preserved.
Jesus hangs on the cross, He suffers and dies, to break the bond of sin that clings so tightly to you. Jesus dies, so that you might be set free. Jesus dies, so that you might say to Satan and to his legions: Christ Jesus has paid the price for my redemption, I owe you nothing.
The dark underbelly of the Joseph account, is that the people sell themselves for bread, and Pharaoh becomes a billionaire, while everyone else was a pauper; that is the story of sin, you selling yourselves so that you might indulge in your sin a little longer.
But the story of Joseph, the story of you, is never about making Satan or anyone else rich and powerful; it is about the preservation of lives, many lives, all lives in fact, through the life, death and resurrection of Christ Jesus.
Maundy Thursday – Genesis 46:28-34
Joseph has been gone for over 20 years. You and I know that he is alive and well in Egypt, and that he has actually made quite the name for himself, interpreting the dreams of Pharaoh, and first overseeing the preparation for the famine and now overseeing the distribution of grain both to the locals and to those who come from afar, including his own brothers coming from Canaan.
You and I also know that the brothers have been lying to their father Jacob for these same 20 years, telling him that Joseph was dead, when they know good and well that they sold him to the Ishmaelites, and his current whereabouts are unknown.
You and I also know how this story will all end.
But for Jacob, who is living in the moment, all he knows is that Joseph is dead. All he knows is that the brothers came home one day with that coat of many colors soaked in blood, and that the only logical conclusion was that Joseph had been torn apart by ravenous wolves. All Jacob knows is that he will never see Joseph again.
But while you and I may know how Genesis ends, that does not mean that we do not know how Jacob feels. For how many years has it been since you have last seen your loved one, whether it be a son or a daughter, a husband or wife, a sibling, or friend? How many years have you, like the father of the prodigal son, looked out at the horizon, only to see nothing, for the one who is gone, is not coming back? How many tears have you shed with the widow of Nain, knowing that death is permanent?
Death is the starkest contrast of those who we have not seen for some time, who we of course still wish were right here. But there are other situations that fall into the same category. How long has it been since you have last seen someone in the flesh? They are alive, you know that, but they are far from here, as either you or they moved away. How much do you desire to see them once more?
Then there are those who you have never met, but only know through words and pictures, how much do you long to see them?
The world is all about separating us from each other. Sin drives us to the greatest separation in death, but that is but the final gap. Throughout life, we are driven apart by any number of things. Technology, for all its benefits, causes us to sit alone in a crowded room and stare at a screen. Pride tells us that we are right and no matter what, we will not cede even an inch of ground to anyone. And opportunity, which always tells us that the grass is always greener on the other side, regardless of the fact that the grass is perfectly good and well right here.
Now not all separation is necessarily sinful. The Lord provides technology and pride and opportunity to advance His kingdom in one way or another. But that does not make all separation excusable.
For Satan does in fact use the miles or the inches that separate us in an effort to make the body of Christ seem as far apart as possible. Satan desires to isolate you in one corner of the world, where no one else can get to you, and leave you with nothing but your own sinful thoughts and desires, even as you wish to be reunited once more.
For Satan knows that when the body of Christ is together, when the body of Christ is close, then can happen what should always happen: the body of Christ can build up and support one another. The body of Christ can join together as one and speak the words of faith together, confessing God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the face of a culture that desires that everyone live on their own island.
But the body of Christ is not an isolated island; the body of Christ is coming together to pray, praise and give thanks. The body of Christ is about reaching out to those far off, and saying you are my brother in Christ; you are my sister in Christ, no matter the miles or the inches that may separate us.
And tonight, we do just that. We come forward and we partake of the meal that unites across continents and islands; we partake of a meal that unites the Church on earth with the Church in heaven.
For here, in this meal, you eat the one body and drink the one blood that is given and shed for the forgiveness of sins.
You eat and drink tonight with those brothers and sisters in Christ who gather across the state of Kansas, across the United States, and even around the world who do the same. For tonight, and each Lord’s Day, the church, whether it be the country church, the town church, the suburb church, the big city church, the indoor church or the outdoor church, is united together in this one body and this one blood of Christ given and shed for you.
Tonight, you join in eating and drinking with all the saints who have gone before you marked with the sign of faith.
Tonight, the walls and the miles and the barriers are torn down; the desire of Satan to create a million islands in the middle of a single church is no more, for tonight, at this altar, with this body and blood, the Church is united as one, and the separation is no more.
Even for Jacob and Joseph; though they were separated by a great distance, even though the wellbeing of the other was completely unknown, they were still held together in the arms of God, who bound them together, just as though they had never separated.
Tonight, you have the reunion that is here in Genesis, where Jacob and Joseph fall on each other for joy that they are united once more.
There is no separation at the altar of our Lord, there is only the coming together as brothers and sisters in Christ; children of our heavenly Father.