Vicar Matt Doebler
Matins Devotion: March 23, 2023
Today we read the climax of the Joseph story. The big reveal has happened. The masked Egyptian has unmasked himself in order to show his brothers that he is, indeed, the very brother that they once despised, attacked, and sold for a few pieces of silver. For so many years they had probably presumed that he was dead—his flesh rotting in some unmarked, Egyptian grave, but now Joseph was standing before them, speaking to them in the flesh, very much alive.
The text says that when his brothers heard Joseph speak they could only respond with stunned silence. The ESV, I think, tries to soften the moment a bit. It states that the brothers were “dismayed” when they realized this was really Joseph. For us, the word “dismayed” usually connotes some general feeling of unhappiness—perhaps even annoyance over life’s circumstances. But the actual sense of the word used here in the text to describe what Joseph’s brothers are feeling is closer to the terror and panic that a soldier feels when he’s on the front line, facing the enemy, and he realizes for the first time that the enemy’s forces outnumber his army by 10-to-1. It’s also the same word that the prophets will later use to describe the urge to run and hide that will grip the Lord’s enemies on the Last Day when he comes in judgment of all who rejected him. It’s the feeling of staring death and condemnation and judgment right in the face and knowing that you’re finished—done for.
But Joseph doesn’t destroy them. He doesn’t call for Pharoah’s royal guard to rush in and seize these men so that they can be executed for their treachery. He doesn’t take revenge that his power and position would certainly have entitled him to.
Instead, Joseph comforts his brothers.
“Come near,” Joseph says to them. Have no fear of me. God did not send me here to endure all this suffering so that now I could exact my pound of flesh from each of you. Rather, “God sent me here before you—to give you life.” Everything that happened…everything…was all for you—to save you—to give you a future and a hope.
Many years later, a similar scene would unfold in a locked upper room. Where a terrified group of men would suddenly be confronted by their brother—the one who they abandoned in his hour of need, the one who they betrayed, the one who they denied. There in that room, their brother who was sold for the price of a slave and who was presumed to be dead would reveal himself to them and show them that he was very much alive. They would initially shrink back in terror, perhaps thinking the same question as Joseph’s brothers, “How will he punish us for what we have done?”
But Jesus doesn’t condemn his brothers. He doesn’t call for his Father to send legions of angels to cast these cowardly and disloyal men into the flames of hell. He doesn’t seek the vengeance that his power and authority would entitle him to.
Instead, Jesus—like Joseph—comforts his brothers.
“Peace be with you,” he tells them. Have no fear of me. Come near. God did not send me here to endure all this suffering on so that now I could exact my pound of flesh from each of you. Rather, God sent me into the heart of the earth ahead of you—so that I, being now raised from the dead, might also raise you up out of the tomb that your evil, and treachery, and disloyalty have earned—and give you life.
Have no fear. Draw near. It was all for you—to save you, to give you a future and a hope.