I had a “new to me” thought today, that came to me all on its own. I’ve been living in Genesis 37-50, the story of Joseph. Next Sunday, I’ll be focusing on forgiveness, and this thought has nothing to do with forgiveness, but it is somehow captivating me.
Joseph is sold into slavery by his brothers, but God places him in charge of all Egypt as second in command, saving Egypt and Joseph’s family in the process. When everything is all said and done, Jacobâ€“a terribly flawed man whose favoritism toward his wife Rachel and her son Joseph caused the horrific rift in this family and the loss of his son for decadesâ€“Jacob travels to Egypt, and we see the moment when he is reunited with his long lost, beloved son:
Then Joseph harnessed his chariot and went up to meet Israel his father at Goshen. Then he appeared to him, fell on his neck, and wept over his neck again and again. Then Israel said to Joseph, “I am ready to die this time, now that I have seen your face, because you are still alive.”
An unhoped-for reunion between father and son after a long separation; but it was the phrase “fell on his neck” that triggered the thought, the echo of the story Jesus told in Luke 15. The lost, prodigal son who has done it all wrong returns home, to a surprising reunion with his father:
But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
Jesus told the story to show us what God was like; a loving, gracious God who welcomes and embraces us, even after our horrific choices to define ourselves and reject God. But today I wonder if Jesus also had Joseph in mind. At first, I thought of Joseph like the prodigal, and thought about God’s deep love and embrace for those who are wounded by others, not just who rebel themselves. But then I looked more carefully; it’s Joseph who falls on the neck, Joseph who weeps, Joseph who embraces father schemer, father favoritism, father broken.
Like Jesus enduring the cross, scorning its shame, to embrace our scheming, prejudiced, and broken hearts. Like Jesus entering into our suffering, so that our tired, old, decrepit, guilty souls can feel the tears of God as he falls upon our necks, weeping with the joy of reunion.