In our story this week, Joseph is ruling Egypt under Pharaoh and the famine promised 7 years earlier has arrived. All of the Mediterranean basin is struggling under these conditions. Even Jacob in Canaan, the one blessed by God, and his family are not immune to the conditions. So what happens, Jacob sends his sons to Egypt in order to find sustenance. At that time, the truth is only one man in the area has the ability to save life or condemn it and Joseph is that man.
The brothers approach him and because Joseph knows their sin he sets up a condition for helping them. They must prove they are who they say they are:
We are all the sons of one man. Your servants are honest men, not spies. (Genesis 42:11)
Then they are sent away, fretting under the conditions imposed upon them,
If you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here in prison, while the rest of you go and take grain back for your starving households. But you must bring your youngest brother to me, so that your words may be verified and that you may not die. (Genesis 42:19-20)
Last week we saw that Jesus is like the Joseph figure in the story. That comparison continues to play out today. There is only one man in all the universe able to save humanity from the ravage that sin brings upon the land. Sin brings a famine of destruction, removing all that is good and bountiful and lush in the land, and only Jesus can sustain people through this carnage. But what conditions does Jesus place on those who come to him? Repentance. Like Joseph’s brothers who claimed that they were honest men, but whose sin had found them out (Numbers 32:23), Jesus knows our sins when we approach his throne. No amount of wiggling, pretending or shielding can hide it from him. He is keenly aware, for he suffered our sin as he hung on the cross. He was sold into hell while we went about our mischief and selfishness.
So the condition for salvation is repentance, show me you are different, go back and live life loving your brother, not hating him. Serving your brother, not despising him, sacrificing for your brother, not sacrificing him. This is Jesus’ call: repent and believe that I am he who brings life and truth, health and peace. And frankly that reality can be terrifying. For when we look at all we brought, all the pretense, all the promises, all the stories and then open our bag to find that it has all been returned to us, we realize all that matters to the king is proof of a changed person, a person bearing fruit.
Hence, we are called to abide in the vine (John 15), to live under the care of the Savior, to return in repentance showing our Lord what he has done in our lives by granting us great grace and mercy. And when we do, the reunion and the celebration that occurs is marvelous, as we shall see in the coming chapters. Yes, Jesus is present in our story this week calling us to repent and believe the good news (Mark 1:15) and consequently to go and sin no more (John 8:11).