Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence” (Genesis 45:3).
They were afraid of him as a stranger, terrified when they learned he was their brother. At his word, thousands bowed and obeyed. They were foreigners in his land and helpless before his power. He had kept their older brother as a hostage when they faced him before. He demanded they bring him their youngest brother if they ever came back.
And, they had to come back. There was a famine, and their families would starve without his help. They had no choice but to do what he said and hope he would treat them with kindness.
But they were already afraid of him—this strange ruler in a strange land.
The words, “I am Joseph!” scared them speechless.
They expected he was dead. They had sold him into slavery when he was hardly more than a boy. They watched him being led away in bonds. That sight was burned into their memory. They had told their father a wild animal had killed him. They would never forget his cry of anguish. They would never outlive their guilt and regret.
Now they were face to face with him again. The tables had turned. They were at his mercy—and they were terrified. But it was good news that he was Joseph. He loved them in spite of their crime. He forgave them. And he would use his power to protect them. In that foreign land, they would be able to point to the one with such great power and say: “That’s my brother!”
Would that we had a brother like that! Think of how good that would be! Think of what a blessing it would be to have someone like that watching out for us. Good thing we already have someone like that! Jesus is greater than any pharaoh, any king—greater than anyone. And, he is our brother.
We learn it had been planned this way already from eternity. “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:29).
We have a brother who is the all-powerful Son of God. That can be a scary thought. Like those Judean brothers, we have treated our blood-relative rather shabbily. At times, we have turned our back on him; put our envy and greed above his desires, and with words and actions showed we cared little for him. We were willing to leave him behind if it was to our advantage. When challenged to acknowledge our relationship to him, at times we joined a Peter in saying, “I know not the man!”
We should be ashamed. He should be ashamed of us. But like Joseph of old, he forgives. He offers the hand of fellowship and brotherhood. Listen to the words: “Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers” (Hebrews 2:11).
Like Isaac and Rueben and the rest, we sometimes are afraid of our brother. We fear he will treat us the way we deserve. We expect that, in the end, he will turn on us.
Think of the times when the disciples were filled with terror at the glimpse of the power of Jesus. When he calmed the raging storm, or walked on water, or raised the dead, or shone forth in his glory, they asked themselves, “Who is this?”
But they need not have feared when they were struck by their failure and his power. Nor should we.
With them, we can say, “This is Jesus.”
This is my brother.
We pray: Lord Jesus, King of glory and righteous Judge of all the living, like Joseph’s brothers, we too carry guilty consciences and memories of betrayal. We, too, deserve only rejection and punishment. But you who are greater than a Joseph, you have not only forgiven us, you have given your holiness to cover our crimes against you. You were rejected, you were despised, you were killed that we might live with you as children of the heavenly Father. For this, we thank you always and forever. Amen.
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida-Provided by WELS Ministry to the Military