In our readings for today, we find an excellent pairing of related stories. Both speak of betrayal – the first by brothers, the second by tenants. In each narrative we find the beloved son of the father being assaulted. In the first story, the son is sold into slavery. In the second story, the son is murdered. In each account, God’s redemptive plan is furthered, despite the evil plot of those perpetrating such heinous acts of evil. As we read today, remember the words of Joseph to his brothers as found in Genesis 50:20. “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” As you meditate on God’s Word, be alert for God’s Providential hand at work. Read on…
Read Genesis 37:3-4, 12-13a, 17b-28a – Brothers and a Cistern
Joseph is the beloved son of his father, Israel (Jacob). In honor of Joseph’s favored status, Israel made a special tunic for his son. This preferential treatment infuriated his brothers. Their hatred raged within them, to the point they would not even greet Joseph. He was despised and utterly rejected. One day, when Joseph’s brothers had gone out to feed the sheep in the pasture, Israel sent Joseph out to meet them. When the brothers spotted Joseph, they began to plot his demise. They had only words of disdain and mockery for their younger sibling. “Here comes the master dreamer, now! Why don’t we just kill him and throw him into the cistern here?” They could kill him and claim that a wild beast had slain him and devoured his body. They surmised that his death would stop all of the non-sense, the special privileges and those horrible dreams. How they hated his abhorrent self-serving visions where all of them where bowing down to him – like wheat in the wind. Or another dream where all of the heavenly hosts were bowing to him. His dreams drove them crazy with jealousy. To kill Joseph would end his arrogant displays and vile visions.
Reuben, one of the brothers, didn’t approve of their plot. Instead, he proposed that they throw him into the cistern but not kill him. Reuben intended to save his brother and return the favored son to the loving arms of his father. So, upon Joseph’s arrival, the brothers stripped him of his tunic and threw him into the cistern. Of course, dispensing with your younger sibling can make a brother hungry. So, as they sat down to eat, a caravan of Ishmaelites was passing by on the way to Egypt. Judah came up with a novel idea. Rather than killing Joseph, let’s sell him to these passing by. In love and grace typical of many brothers, Judah said, “After all, he is our brother, our own flesh.” They all agreed and Joseph was sold to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver.
The children of Israel betraying a favored son…plotting to kill him…selling him out for pieces of silver. This is all sounding strangely familiar. Read on…
Read Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46 – Grapes and Wrath
Jesus shares another parable with the Pharisees and the elders. In his story, a landowner plants a vineyard, places a hedge around it, digs a wine press and builds a tower. This is a clear reference to God establishing Jerusalem (See Psalm 80).
The Master leased his vineyard to tenants and went on a journey. When time came to harvest the grapes, the owner sent his servants to bring in the harvest. The tenants attacked the servants. They beat one, killed one and another they stoned. The Master, undeterred, sent other servants. In fact, he sent more servants than the first time. They were treated identically to the first servants.
This refers to God entrusting His Kingdom to Israel, His chosen people. He had given them a charge to bring all nations to worship in Jerusalem. They were to be a “light unto the Gentiles.” But, when the time came for the fruit to be harvested, the servants sent to represent the Master, namely, His prophets, were rejected and abused.
Jesus continues the story. The Master, after two rounds of servants have been dispatched and dealt with harshly, he sends his own beloved son. What do the tenants do? They plot to kill the son and take his inheritance. So, they throw the son out of the vineyard and killed him. What would be the response of the Master. He would kill the unfaithful tenants, entrust the vineyard to new tenants and receive the harvest that was his.
How clearly can we see God the Father sending His Son. Rather than respect and receive Jesus, the Son of God, he is betrayed by Judas and by Peter – two of his “brothers”. Then, the religious leaders and the children of Israel reject Him, accuse Him falsely, have him condemned, take him outside the city gates to Calvary and they crucify Him on an old rugged cross. As the son was thrown outside the vineyard, so Jesus is killed outside Jerusalem. Jesus goes on to say that the Kingdom will be taken away from those who reject the servants of God and killed His Son. The wrath of God would fall on those who slew his servants and His Son, rather than tread grapes into wine! Indeed, in 70 AD, Jerusalem was laid waste by the Romans. From the smoldering embers of their rejection emerged a New Covenant people who would produce the fruit of the Father.
As we reflect on the echoes from the past – the story of Joseph and its typological fulfillment in the Gospel of Jesus – may we be encouraged by the fact that God is working all of this out for good (Romans 8:28). He is not caught unaware. Despite the seeming injustice, God is bringing to pass His Providential plan for the salvation of His covenant family. “What man has meant for evil, God meant for good,” to bring about His purposes. From a band of brothers and a cistern, to the grapes and wrath, and from well water to wine, God’s will is being done. May we walk this pathway with the assurance that gives us!